I want to begin by acknowledging your valuable work as former national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Although I don’t always agree with the A.D.L.’s positions on current events, I think that on balance that organization has had a positive influence.
I am, nevertheless, not at all enthusiastic about your recent featured blog in the ToI, which is headed: “Trump is bad for America and bad for the Jews.” You say that Pres. Trump’s leadership “endangers our democracy, and therefore our community.” The very first piece of evidence you cite in support of that dire conclusion is that “Trump’s presidency — in spirit and in deed — has given succor to bigots, supremacists, and those seeking to divide our society.”
I have to assume that, in alleging that Trump has supported “bigots” and “supremacists,” you are alluding to the remarks he made after the disturbances in 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., when he referred to “very fine people on both sides.” I assume this because, in April of 2018, in another ToI blog, you cited those exact words and instructed the president as follows: “Mr. President, there are not and never have been any good Nazis. None of them were very fine people. You have to say that publicly to the American people.”
Your claim that Pres. Trump “has given succor to bigots [and] supremacists” is grounded on a falsehood—Trump never said what you and innumerable other never-Trumpers on the left have claimed he said. You can read, for example, one of my own blogs on ToI, where I review the actual transcript of Trump’s remarks; that transcript reveals that Trump explicitly stated that he was not referring to neo-Nazis when he said that there were “very fine people on both sides.” Rather, he was asserting that there were very fine people on both sides of the issue of removing Robert E. Lee’s name and statue from a public park. If I want to honor Lee, does that make me a Nazi?
You apparently have never ascertained the readily-ascertainable truth about Trump’s post-Charlottesville remarks; this suggests that your anti-Trump stance lacks a solid factual base. Everyone knows that this president can be crude, cruel and vindictive. But I don’t believe that those qualities, as unattractive as they are, make him a danger to democracy and America’s Jewish community.
Former Pres. Barack Obama typically conducted himself with perfect propriety. But the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel’s democratically-elected government strenuously opposed, was nevertheless approved by the Obama/Biden administration. And that same administration also refused to veto U.N. Security Council Res. 2334, which was entirely one-sided in blaming only Israel for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. That resolution will plague Israeli international diplomacy for the foreseeable future. American Jews who value Israel should not forget these facts. Politesse takes you only so far.
Here is your second substantial complaint about the Trump administration: “American Jews look beyond our own parochial interests…. Promoting tolerance, inclusion, and equality is non-negotiable. Defending immigrants and refugees is an inseparable part of our collective story[.]” The implication, of course, is that Pres. Trump promotes intolerance and does not defend immigrants and refugees.
But your formulation makes no reference to an important distinction, namely, the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. When someone in Mexico decides to wade across the Rio Grande River into the U.S.A., that person has illegally migrated to the U.S.A. Pres. Trump thinks that illegal immigration should be minimized. Do you disagree? Are you in favor of illegal immigration?
Like you, and like almost every American, I am the descendant of immigrants. But my forbears were legal immigrants to this country; they did not enter illegally. I assume the same is true of your forebears and that of the great majority of American citizens. It is a mystery why you think enforcing the rule of law by discouraging illegal immigration, as the Trump administration has sought to do, is somehow inconsistent with promoting tolerance, inclusion and equality. Are those latter principles inconsistent with the rule of law? If they are, we’re in even deeper trouble than you imagine.
You say your anti-Trump position is supported by the fact that, “[a]fter decades of progress, following successive generations of rising metrics of safety and security, Jews are filled with fear and anxiety. President Trump shoulders a good measure of the blame.” I don’t agree that Trump is to blame for such fear and anxiety.
First, the “very fine people on both sides” remark has been completely distorted, as I’ve said, by those on the left. Secondly, it is the “woke” Democratic Party that threatens the security of American Jews. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi puts Ilhan Omar on the Foreign Relations Committee. Omar makes blatantly anti-Semitic remarks, and a resolution which was originally supposed to censure her ends up not mentioning her at all—in fact, she voted in favor of the resolution. Members of the Black Congressional Caucus have literally embraced Louis Farrakhan (see Rep. Maxine Waters at 3:47 of this video), but all that happened, of course, when they did not know that Farrakhan was a proud Jew-hater. Yes, of course.
Trump, on the other hand, has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has moved our embassy to Jerusalem, and has, most recently, helped to negotiate formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the U.A.E., and seems poised to expand that agreement to other Arab nations. So, obviously, Democrats are good for Israel and Republicans are bad.
Mr. Foxman, you are of course entitled to cast you vote for anyone you choose. But, if you’re going to go on record advising others how they should cast their votes, you ought to be a tad bit more rigorous in verifying the truth of your factual allegations.