Flag Ship or a Sunken Boat ?

There are not many issues that cause controversy between American Jewry and Jews in Israel quite like President Trump. While 99% of my Jewish friends from the United States move between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, I, like most Israelis, from the right to even the moderate left, recognize President Trump’s achievements for our people and thank Trump for the ground breaking peace agreements with numerous Arab countries, the halting of the Iranian nuclear program, the recognition of the Golan Heights, the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem, the appointment of Nicki Haley (and later Kelly Kraft) to the UN, and the reduction of funds directed towards anti-Israel activities, including stopping money for terrorism. 

It is clear to me that American Jewry has different considerations from the considerations of the Jews in Israel. I am well aware of the differences between the right and left wing in both America and Israel. One example of this is that while the far right in the United States is skeptical about COVID-19 and thinks it is a Biden conspiracy, in Israel this contemptuous attitude comes from the extreme left, which similarly claims that Netanyahu invented the dangers of the virus to gain some political advantage. There are certainly many other differences and I can understand that what is important to me is less relevant for American Jewry which, for the most part, strongly opposes Trump.

However, I think that anyone who compares Trump to Hitler is at best ignorant and at worse, deliberately distorting history or current affairs. This dichotomous discourse has made engaging in any sort of debate toxic and nonsensical. More than once it has made me suffer online attacks from ‘progressive’ Jews, who think that all evil, violence and stupidity come from one side – namely, anyone who does not fit their narrowly defined worldview. Their stance can be summed up fairly simply: “either you are with me or you are against me”. If I dared to point out that the American left also acted violently – I am the object of ridicule. If I asked why Trump was considered so disgusting in their eyes compared to Biden – I am a racist.

Despite this, I am not offended. In fact, I feel sorry for them. They are surrendering the core values of American liberalism in order to gain short-term political capital. Indeed, it is so ridiculous that it is even within the sphere of liberal opinions that I would be subjected to attacks. For example, if I do not have a solid opinion about same-sex surrogacy for men because I recognize the desire of a gay couple to have a child on the one hand, and on the other, find it difficult to accept the objectification of women, I immediately become labelled as either homophobic or misogynist. It is completely irrelevant that I am interested in hearing all opinions – for them, the discussion is over. It is impossible to have important discussions like this. When opinions cannot be exchanged, it is impossible to run a democratic and liberal society.

This obscene phenomenon has some very real implications that are vitally relevant to American Jewry and Jews in Israel. This gap between the two groups will widen if both are unwilling to hold inclusive and open dialogue. It is not that there are no complaints against the State of Israel, but if the discourse culture is that there is no discussion, it will corrode the will to have dialogue to a point of no return, and, in my opinion, both sides will lose from it. Furthermore, the implications for this dichotomous discourse, which is neither respectful nor inclusive, and is unwilling to deal with the content of a claim but rather focuses exclusively on the body of the claimant, extends far beyond the relationship between American Jewry and Israeli Jews. This will surely slowly seep into Israeli society. The United States, the flagship of democracy in the world, should serve as a role model. It should not be a ship that sinks into a shallow discourse that belongs to regimes in third world countries.

About the Author
Attorney Ran Bar-Yoshafat is an author, international speak, PhD candidate in American Jewish History.
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