As President Trump serves up one classic anti-Semitic trope after another, he’s also been vigorously trying to prop up a skewed Democratic record on Israel.
He’s been able to get away with it because two of the hundreds of Democrats in Congress, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are conspicuously anti-Israel. Trump also knows that Barack Obama is stuck in the heads of some Americans as egregiously as he has been in Trump’s.
When it comes to painting Democrats as anti-Israel in an age where facts take a back seat to xenophobia, a black man with a Muslim sounding name has been as utile as it gets. It’s so useful that Trump’s exuberant stupidity about Obama’s birthplace never backfired.
But is Trump right about Democrats and Israel? Are American Jews who vote for Democratic candidates “disloyal” to Israel?
Many Israelis and Americans first trusted Obama as far as they could throw him. And the name itself — Barack Hussein Obama — did not inspire confidence in those who, like me, care deeply about Israel. So, I was suspicious too.
Like most people, I hate being wrong. But unlike most people I hate staying wrong more. That’s when I remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous comment from his essay Self Reliance: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
Inspired by Emerson’s observation, this has become my sequence, and it seems to work pretty well.
I’ll learn out all the facts germane to the issue, determine what these facts mean, and permit myself an opinion based on the first two steps. But if they aren’t adequate, then I don’t lock on to an opinion. I just keep digging.
Here is some of the fruit from my efforts at step one and a bit of step two.
Each year, Obama provided Israel with the largest amount of American military aid in US history, including over $3 billion per year to assist Israel’s military to ensure it has the latest and most efficient technologies and weapons available.
And in his last year, Obama backed the greatest aid package ever for Israel.
His administration also provided $275 million in supplemental funding to develop the Iron Dome missile system, and an additional $250 million for Iron Dome two years later.
He also ordered supplemental funding for the Arrow and David’s Sling missile systems, bringing the total annual funding for missile defense alone to nearly $3 billion, double the amount spent by the Bush Administration.
His administration restored Israel’s QME (Qualitative Military Edge) with advanced weaponry by signing the Enhanced Security Act, and F-35 fighter planes, all while fast-tracking those arms sales.
Obama committed American troops to the 2009 Juniper Cobra and 2012 Austere Challenge joint military exercises — the largest and most extensive exercises ever with Israel.
He is also the first president to authorize Israel to use American weapons stored in Israel during an emergency.
Obama personally came to Israel’s aid immediately when it needed it most by answering the now-famous 3:00 a.m. phone call and personally intervened to rescue Israel’s diplomats in Cairo and personally ordered that Israel receive “whatever it need[ed]” to put out the Mount Carmel forest fire.
Ehud Barak said. “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”
As for John Kerry, don’t let his rhetorical blunders define for you his stand on Israel. Examine his voting record on Israel while he was a senator. (It can be found online at Jewish Virtual Library.) After you’ve done that, try to find a senator who voted with Israel more often, and good luck with that.)
In spite of Obama’s infamous Security Council abstention over Bibi’s settlement expansion, Obama’s was the only administration since Truman’s that never voted against Israel in the UN. Not in the General Assembly. Not in the Security Council.
Also, no other American president ever had to deal with such a confrontational Israeli prime minister.
After I scoped out the Obama administration, I then looked carefully at how Republican presidents treated Israel, starting with Obama’s predecessor.
George W. Bush pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections despite the objections of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, thus granting Hamas a diplomatic coup and a legitimacy it otherwise could never have attained. Former secretary of state Condi Rice has been forthright about this policy blunder.
No Democratic administration ever twisted Israel’s national arm into such a self-destructive policy.
George H. W. Bush opposed loan guarantees because of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza. He also opposed all new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
No Democratic administration’s displeasure with the Likud government’s settlement policies, actions and inactions have been expressed as threats.
The culture in the GHWB White House is exemplified by his anti-Semitic secretary of state James Baker who was outed for uttering remarks like “F*** the Jews; they didn’t vote for us anyway.” And “Jews remember the Holocaust, but they forget insults as soon as they smell cash.” Baker was also Reagan’s chief of staff during RWR’s first term.
There is no record of anyone in any Democratic administration uttering anything so anti-Semitic.
Speaking of Ronald Reagan, he sold AWACs to Saudi Arabia despite intense opposition from the pro-Israel community. This occurred during the era Saudi Arabia was the main financier of terrorism directed at Israel.
Reagan also supported a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel after it destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirik in 1981.
He then suspended delivery of desperately needed F-16s because Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear program out of existence.
Much was made of Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan annexation. But it changed nothing. The Golan is Israel and has been since 1981. Trump didn’t create this reality. But by making it a flashpoint, he resurrected something that hadn’t been a problem since the last time Republicans made annexing the Golan a nightmare for Israel.
Reagan responded to it by suspending the SCA [Strategic Cooperation Agreement] between the US and Israel, prompting Begin to accuse Reagan of treating Israel like a “banana republic.” (The letter the prime minister sent to Reagan is a must read. There are several words one could use to describe it. “Cordial” is not one of them.)
With the end of the SCA came the end of the United States sharing information vital to Israel’s security in the region. After Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard was caught continuing to pass on this previously shared intelligence, the Reagan administration spun Pollard as a spy working against America.
When the administration (mostly Caspar Weinberger) passed Pollard off as a traitor, someone who gave aid and comfort to an enemy, they also framed Israel as unfriendly.
The Reagan administration broke the agreement, putting Israel’s existence in peril and destroying someone for trying to protect Israel.
Getting back to everyone’s favorite gun grabbing [never happened] Muslim [not a Muslim] from Kenya [born in Hawaii] for a moment, remember the flap about Obama not going to Poland for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz?
Fox News reported copiously on this, but never mentioned that he had to miss that photo op because of a previously scheduled trip to India, the world’s largest democracy, where he met with Indian Congress Party Leaders, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and newly elected Prime Minister Modi.
In fairness, Reagan did go to Europe to remember WWII. But it wasn’t for the 40th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation.
When Reagan visited Germany, he went to Bitburg Cemetery and placed a wreath on a memorial for members of the Waffen SS.
Going back to 1975, Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger announced their intention to “reassess” relations with Israel to coerce Israel into signing an agreement with Egypt that at the time was heavily tilted toward Egypt.
And even Dwight Eisenhower forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai in 1956 at a difficult time in its war with Egypt.
One confounding Republican exception was Richard Nixon, a crook and irredeemable Jew hater who quickly and effectively came to Israel’s aid during the Yom Kippur War. (Go figure…)
Considering this history, criticisms of Democrats, real and imagined, pale in comparison to the records of these previous Republican presidents, who consistently got a free pass for their anti-Israel fiascos even before Trump cranked up volume.
So, if someone claims that Obama is the most pro-Israel president ever, he is standing on some pretty solid factual ground. And those who insist he is anti-Israel don’t seem to have checked their premises or are driven by something more sinister.
What makes unbridled Jewish pro-Trump sentiment distressing is that we Jews are supposed to be the smart ones, the ones who KNOW what they’re talking about, and not intellectual sheep just passing on what someone tells us. And when one locks onto an opinion before having all the facts to justify it, an informed opinion becomes impossible.
Today, when one can find out all the facts about any subject at any time of the day in a matter of seconds, there’s no excuse for anyone interested in Israel not knowing all of this.
The question my fellow Jewish Americans, Israelis and other supporters of Israel must ask ourselves is simple: “Do I love Israel more than I hate the awkward task of checking my premises?”
Based on an honest and complete assessment of Democrats’ interaction with Israel and the rhetoric served up to bash them, the answer thus far to both is no.
It’s time to replace fixating on media and political personalities with serious analysis of the issues. Fox News won’t help with that. MSNBC personalities won’t help with that. None of your favorite media demagogues will help with that. Forget Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow and or all the opinion mongers. Some are liars. Some offer informed opinions. But none of them are performing the duties of a journalist.
Be skeptical. Check every assertion. That’s the only way you’ll know for sure that I’m not doing what Breitbart, Limbaugh, MSNBC or Fox News, etc. try to do to Americans each day. Nothing beats knowing what you’re talking about. And in an age where one can touch pretty much all human knowledge with a few keystrokes all it takes is the will to do so.
The truth is out there.