President Donald Trump has arguably been the best friend Jews have ever had in the White House.
Aside from all he has done for Israel — moving the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, ending the awful Iran deal, defunding Palestinian terrorism, leaving the corrupt UN Human Rights Council — there are also the things he has done specifically for Jews, like pushing the FBI to solve bomb threats against Jewish community centers, something Obama neglected. (The threats had gone on for two years before Trump took office.)
The response of many (not all) Jewish Democratic leaders has been to treat Trump like the second coming of Hitler. Jewish institutions like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) defame Trump as a racist, blaming him for extremism that began long before he arrived. Not one elected Democrat, Jewish or otherwise, showed up to the embassy opening in Jerusalem — or the Israeli embassy’s party in Washington, DC, to celebrate the occasion. They offer only muted criticism of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, whose hatred of Israel is obsessive and who openly disdain Jews.
It is difficult to explain why Jewish Democrats do this, until you realize linking Republicans to Nazis is a partisan tactic that Jewish Democrats use almost every time. In 2008, when John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, then-Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) tried linking her to Nazis via Pat Buchanan, described as “a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel.” But Palin never supported Buchanan. The story was fake news to scare Jews. Jewish leaders defended Obama from charges that he was a Muslim, but never defended Palin.
In the 2016 campaign, Trump’s opponents — both Republican and Democrat — sought to link him to an army of online trolls who trafficked in antisemitic propaganda. Some of those seemed to like Trump because he stood up against the media. But they had a common enemy, not a common cause. Trump denounced the far-right countless times. To those determined to smear him, it was never enough. And Hillary Clinton made it a key attack line in her campaign, falsely claiming that Trump initially refused to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
When Trump took office, Democrats kept up the lies, assisted by the media. They hyped the hoax bomb threats as evidence of a rise in Trump-inspired antisemitism, though the prime culprit was a troubled Jewish-American teen in Israel. They promoted a phony group called the “Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect,” which exploited the name of the world’s most famous Holocaust victim to denounce Trump as an antisemite to any hack who would listen. They twisted statistics to hide the fact that there was a decline in ideologically-motivated killings under Trump.
Trump became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. He opened his first address to Congress by denouncing antisemitism — and celebrating Black History Month.
No matter. When neo-Nazis hijacked a march about a statue in Charlottesville in August 2017, the media told America that Trump had called them “very fine people,” even though what he actually said was that they “should be condemned totally.” (The “very fine people” were the non-violent protesters, both left and right, on either side of the statue question.)
Not all of that is Jewish Democrats’ fault. They, too, are victims of fake news. But some Jewish Democrats have been telling politically conservative Jews if we support Trump, we are supporting antisemitism, and betraying our people. (When Obama ran for president in 2008, liberal Jews like Sarah Silverman told Jews we were racist if we did not vote for him.) Likewise, as Democrats have become more anti-Israel, even tolerating antisemitism in their midst, some Republican Jews have wondered openly whether Jewish liberals have lost a sense of self-preservation.
Among Jews, the accusation of “disloyalty” has, tragically, become common — on both sides. The most charitable way to explain that is to note that that we are, collectively, anxious about Jewish continuity. But we have different ways of addressing that problem.
For some Jews, Jewish continuity is a matter of practicing religious observance, providing Jewish education for our children, and making sure the State of Israel remains strong. We do not live as victims or allow antisemities to define us. We have taken our destiny in our own hands. It is hard work, but worth it.
To other Jews, perhaps those less inclined to keeping the Sabbath or visiting Israel, Jewish continuity is less about cultivating our own institutions and more about removing external threats. Rather than stand up for our own faith, some Jews have insisted the public sphere be secularized so that we will not be proselytized by others. Rather than stand up for the civilization we helped to build, many of us champion left-wing causes lest we, too, be swamped by the “woke” wave. There is altruism there, too — but there is also a desire to avoid being among the “privileged.”
Still, support for Israel was a consensus view in the American Jewish community until recently, especially because it was easy to point out the many ways Israel conformed to liberal ideals. Israel is a liberal democracy with freedom of speech, religious tolerance, gay rights, transgender soldiers, and so on.
What changed, especially after the start of the second intifada in 2000, was the global left decided support for Israel was incompatible with support for the struggle of the oppressed. That created a crisis for left-wing Jews — some of whom, like myself, left the left behind.
Even then, support for Israel remained bipartisan for a while. What made Israel a “wedge” issue was not Benjamin Netanyahu or Donald Trump.
What made Israel a “wedge” issue was the Democrats’ embrace of anti-Israel policies, thanks largely to President Barack Obama. He sought to create “distance” with Israel — with help from former vice president Joe Biden. He also ignored Israeli fears about the nuclear deal with Iran. And on his way out, Obama even allowed the Jewish presence in Jerusalem’s Old City to be declared illegal by the decrepit UN Security Council.
The “wedge” has a name: J Street. Obama boosted the new, George Soros-backed organization, whose sole purpose was to support far-left critics of Israel within the Jewish community and create an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Obama and Soros — who compared President George W. Bush, too, to Hitler, — knew that a divided Jewish community would be less capable of backing pro-Israel policies or speaking out against the appeasement of Palestinian terror or the antisemitic Iranian regime. J Street would shatter pro-Israel unity.
J Street also had a domestic political purpose, which was to prevent Jews from defecting from the Democratic Party. The organization’s first major action was not directed at Israel, but the Jewish community, pressuring Jewish leaders to disinvite Gov. Palin from a planned rally against Iran in New York in September 2008. Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was to have spoken, too, but pulled out lest she undermine Obama by appearing with the Alaska governor, at a time when Democrats feared the first female on the Republican ticket might draw women voters to the GOP.
Democrat leaders told the organizers of the event, most of whom represented non-profit organizations, that they would be risking their tax-exempt status if they went ahead with Palin alone. Rather than telling those bullies to get lost, the organizers buckled — “under heavy pressure from Jewish Democrats,” Politico reported at the time — and disinvited her. J Street celebrated its great “victory” in shutting up a pro-Israel Republican. Meanwhile, the rally was a failure. It was the beginning of the end of strong support for Israel among Democrats. That was the “wedge.”
J Street only grew stronger throughout the course of the Obama administration. It opposed every attempt by Israel to defend itself from Palestinian terrorism, protesting the Gaza wars of 2008-9 and 2014, though even Arab states tacitly backed Israel. When Netanyahu dared to object openly to Obama’s policy on Iran, some Jewish members of Congress chose party over principles, boycotting Netanyahu’s speech rather than hearing criticism of their leader. J Street urged the speech be postponed, reassuring the boycotters that their stance was still somehow “pro-Israel.”
Trump has not only repaired relations with Israel, but has earned the love and trust of Israeli Jews. The Netanyahu government even named a town in the Golan Heights after him. Some Jewish Democrats will grudgingly admit he has been good for Israel, but many of those argue that he is just pandering to evangelical Christians who want to convert Jews, or that his pro-Israel stance is a fig leaf for his supposed antisemitism. Those arguing the latter are like critics of Israel who say Israel’s support for LGBT rights is just “pinkwashing” for crimes against Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the real antisemites in the Democratic Party go unpunished. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi even appointed Omar to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, despite a long track record of anti-Israel and antisemitic statements. In the months since, she has bent over backwards to protect Omar from any consequences for her words and actions, passing a watered-down resolution that failed to single out antisemitism or to mention Omar by name. Now Democrats are considering action against the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors — but not against Omar or Tlaib.
Trump stands up to Omar, Tlaib, and the rest. For his trouble, he gets little but grief from Jewish Democrats, with rare exceptions like Alan Dershowitz. Were it not for examples like Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who called Trump a “healer” for reaching out to him after the mass shooting in Poway, California, the image of American Jews would be one of shocking ingratitude.
Those who care about antisemitism should consider the impression that ingratitude may leave in the minds of our fellow Americans. Criticize Trump where necessary, but say “thank you.” He’s earned it.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.