Amid the never-ending fusillade of Trumpifications, it is hard to keep up with the outrage of the moment that requires comment. Perhaps most upsetting to me is the tumulter-in-chief’s assertion that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats—in other words, any Jew who doesn’t vote for him—are dumb and guilty of disloyalty to America, to Jewish people and to Israel.
For the better part of a year several high school chums and I have engaged in email debate on Trump, Israel, which party to support, and social values in general. It has gotten so intense, at times, that one of the group no longer wants to read my blog or my responses to what I consider some of his outlandish beliefs.
Recently another fellow theorized that secularism has become the new religion of American Jews who vote Democratic. To which the first one piled on by stating, “Their parents raised their children to be just like any American child. They (many, not all), made sure to speak English at home so the children would not talk like “greenery”. They wanted their children to assimilate into the American culture. Just like the Israelis stoke (sic) the Yemenite children from their parents, the European-born Americans removed their Judaism from their children. Since the parents worshipped FDR, who actually sold out that generation and refused to help the Jews fleeing extermination, the next generation felt they had to uphold their parents’ decision. Many of us woke up and went right; many have remained with the same mindset.
“Trump was right in what he said; the problem was HOW he said it.”
No way I could remain silent after that broadside. I started to type a response: “Secularism seems to be the reason given for Jewish support of Democrats. I guess they identify with civil rights. With labor and union rights. With voting rights. With environmental rights. Not too many Republicans favor those initiatives these days. I guess it didn’t hurt that Truman, a Democrat, recognized Israel. Maybe they didn’t like the fact Eisenhower forced Israel to give back the Sinai in 1956.”
As for blaming FDR for slamming the door on Jewish refugees, it behooves us to look to the proponents of the 1924 immigration bill that restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe. The sponsors were Congressman Albert Johnson and Senator David Reed. Both were Republicans! Who fought against it? Rep. Emanuel Celler, a Democrat!
I was about to continue when another high school buddy asked for comments about an article in Tablet magazine on American Jews and whether the Democratic Party is becoming unsalvageable (https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/289871/democratic-party-becoming-unsalvageable?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=ed6da33e59-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_08_22_04_40&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-ed6da33e59-207772409).
Here’s what I wrote:
It is unacceptable what some—some—Democrats are saying and the failure of leadership to strongly admonish them, including removing them from committee assignments.
That said, a few bad apples will not destroy the Democratic party. Just as McCarthy and Goldwater and Nixon and Agnew and Bush II didnt destroy the Republican party.
The Israel of today is not the Israel Democrats embraced. As I think about it, it increasingly resembles Republican traits—discrimination against segments of Jewish society (Ethiopians), discrimination against Israeli Arabs, forced expulsion of foreign workers, repression of Palestinians (we can argue if that is justified at least part of the time), efforts by the government (of Bibi Natanyahu) to fear monger votes based on Arab-Israeli voting, actions by Bibi to try to curtail the rule of law by reducing the power of the Supreme Court, cozying up to autocrats and despots. The list could probably be expanded but that’s enough for starters.
So without denying that Palestinian intransigence is the reason no peace has broken out between the two groups, let’s keep in mind that the Camp David accords were signed when Carter was president. The Oslo accords when Clinton was president. Clinton again for the Camp David summit which Arafat sabotaged. The point is, Democrats have labored hard to broker a deal.
Trump and before him Bush II unchained Sharon and then Bibi to do as they please.
Israel today has a public relations problem. It needs to transmit to the world, daily or at least weekly, the following statistics:
*How much food is sent into Gaza assuring no one is starving.
*How much medical supplies are provided Gaza residents.
*How many Palestinians are treated in Israeli hospitals and doctors’ offices.
*How many Palestinian workers from Gaza and West Bank work in Israel.
*How many Palestinians attend universities in Israel, Gaza and West Bank.
*Examples of the anti Jewish curriculum taught in Palestinian elementary schools and beyond.
*How many acts of terrorism are perpetrated throughout Israel daily/weekly/monthly.
*How many times Palestinians rejected specific peace proposals.
*How speeches in Arabic are different than what Palestinian leaders say in other languages.
*How Palestinian newspapers and radio/TV/internet sites portray Israel and Israelis.
*How the standard of living and employment and education in the West Bank and Gaza compare to those in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
I am sure there are other statistics that would all but eliminate the impression that Israel has been a repressive ruler. To change perceptions this data must be constantly transmitted. Letting the world know about its high tech industry, its agricultural and ecological gains, its scientific and medical advances, etc., will not change the trajectory of opinion on Israel as long as it has the image of a cruel oppressor. Congressional visits must be targeted at Palestinian actions to show that they live better than under Arab leaders and that it is not Israel that holds them back.
The American people time and again have supported freedom fighters around the world. The challenge Israel faces is to flip the narrative that the Palestinians seek freedom and Israel doesn't.
Congresswoman Tlaib and other Democrats are winning the pr war because Israel is losing it by failing to tell its side and because Bibi is doing all he can to stay in office including embracing actions that turn off non orthodox Jews around the world. He is drying up the reservoir of good will Israel has among tribe members.
So, in short, Democrats don’t want to abandon Israel. They want Israel to live up to the ideals of its founders and the early pr success it had as a country of limitless possibilities for all.