One can argue whether Israel is or isn’t a light unto the nations, but it has certainly served as role model for Donald Trump in recent weeks. On Monday, Trump cited Israel’s “success” as a reason for American to rethink its attitude towards racial profiling. In the past, he has praised the efficacy of Israeli barriers in keeping out terrorists and illegal immigrants as an inspiration for the controversial wall he wants to build along the U.S. border with Mexico. “If you think walls don’t work, just ask Israel,” he says.
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Mike Huckabee, one of Trump’s few vocal supporters in the GOP, told Fox News this week why, when it comes to Muslims, Israel was a paragon of virtue. “In Israel, they don’t play the political correct game,” Huckabee noted. “When everybody acts like ‘Oh what Trump has said is so amazing,’ it’s not that amazing in Israel.”
Many Israelis will be proud to serve as a kosher certificate for Trump’s declarations. And one can understand why Trump, for his part, would feel the need to cite Israel as an authority for some of his controversial statements, especially when his campaign is faltering and still trying to win over hesitant conservative and Evangelical voters. Citing Israel as paragon would certainly please Sheldon Adelson who, like Huckabee, remains rather lonely as one of the few big donors to openly declare support for Trump.
But as for the rest of the world, allow me to quote my late father, who, in such circumstances, would have muttered “moykhl toyves”, which, loosely translated, means don’t do me any favors. Trump’s compliments damage Israel’s name in the very places where it isn’t all that great in the first place, such as liberal Democrats. The rarely highlighted “racial profiling” that Israel employs at Ben Gurion Airport and other security bottlenecks is simply adding insult to the many injuries that Israel’s critics already discern.
But the negative impact of the close identification that Trump is trying to forge between Israel and his policies could spread much wider. Even with increased criticism from the left, Israel remains much more popular in American public opinion than the presumptive Republican nominee. His reputation is still far worse than ours. In the eyes of Trump’s detractors, his tributes are a stain. His compliments damn Israel with loud praise and drag it into the mud, where he currently finds himself.
This didn’t seem to bother Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transportation minister, who was eager to own “racial profiling” in a meeting with foreign correspondents on Tuesday. Katz was careful not to relate to Trump or the presidential race, but headlines in the U.S. nonetheless cited him as endorsing the GOP candidate’s suggestions. Profiling is necessary and effective, Katz said, when asked about Trump’s statement. When there is Islamic terror, he noted, “You can only look for it among Muslims.”
But even if one accepts that singling out Muslims in general and Israeli Arabs in particular is a necessary evil, as Israel’s High Court of Justice decided last year, and even if one views the profiling as a main ingredient in the high level of security achieved at Ben Gurion Airport - there’s no reason to be boasting about it in public. Israel, with its unique challenges and singular solutions, is not America. It doesn’t even speak the same language.
The United States, unlike Israel, has a constitution, which seems to frown on racial profiling, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, according to most interpretations, in a 2012 case involving illegal immigrants in Arizona. Moreover, America has other issues to contend with, besides terror, and other minorities to consider, besides Muslims. Latino Americans despise racial profiling when they are automatically stopped as illegal immigrants. African Americans fight racial profiling when it gets them arrested for standing innocently on a street corner. Now with the help of Trump and his endorsers, they will know that Israel is the source of inspiration for the practice that they detest.
Many Israelis will agree with Trump and Huckabee’s diagnosis of politically correct as the mother of all evils. Many seem to associate the term with the unpopular President Obama. Of course, Israelis and other PC-critics seem to ignore the fact that politically correct discourse does not apply only to Muslims. In America it prevents politicians from stereotyping Hispanics, African Americans, Asians and, of course, Jews as well. In Israel, where it doesn’t seem to apply to Arabs, leftists and intellectual elites, PC nonetheless inhibits generalizations about Mizrahi Jews, Ethiopians, Hareidim, settlers and run of the mill Likud voters. The Startup Nation’s solution, therefore, is selective PC. Like the queue for security clearance at Ben Gurion, everyone is included, except for Muslims.