Opposing hatred should not be a menu à la carte

Hatred of those who are different is the cause or at least the catalyst of most if not all violent group conflicts on earth. Whether it is race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or a host of other attributes, these differences are exploited by the merchants of hate everywhere.

In the Israel-Arab conflict, peace will occur when enough people accept that the main catalyst of that conflict is Arab hatred towards Jews. Ironically, many of those who encourage hatred against the Jewish state also claim to battle racism and Islamophobia. People from all political persuasions denounce some hatreds while they ignore or encourage others. Opposing hatred should not be a menu à la carte. Every hatred directed indiscriminately at a whole group is wrong, regardless of whether the group is blacks, Hispanics, Jews, gays, Christians, whites, Asians, aboriginals, women, Muslims, or any other.

The Trump effect

In the recent U.S. election campaign, one candidate chose to build his campaign on hatred, fear, and bigotry, and it was revealed during the campaign that he had bragged about his ability to sexually assault women at will. Two of Donald Trump’s better known promises were to close the borders to Muslims and to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Trump made numerous comments that exploited racism and bigotry, such as insulting the parents of a slain U.S. soldier for the simple reason that they are Muslim.

Some of the support that Trump received was a direct result of his bigoted campaign; the Klu Klux Klan openly supported him and celebrated his victory. Others supported him for other reasons while hoping that his bigoted campaign would not impact his policies; however, even if Trump does not deliver the bigoted policies that some of his followers expect, he has already delivered by making hatred acceptable again. He won on a campaign of hatred, fear, and bigotry and despite his blatant lack of respect for women. This has sent a powerful signal across America and the world.

The hatred that Trump exploited in the U.S. also exists everywhere else, and now many haters around the globe feel emboldened and validated. In the U.S., the number of hate crimes spiked quickly after the election. The Washington Post reported that only three days after Trump’s victory, “The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation nationwide”. Other incidents around the world also appear to be linked to Trump’s election, including an incident in my own city of Ottawa, Canada, where a swastika was painted on the door of a local rabbi.

With Trump’s victory, politicians who thrive on hatred, fear, and bigotry, such as France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn have learned that extremism pays, and their supporters will more than ever expect that from them. There is no longer a reason to appear moderate or tolerant. Trump has destroyed the belief that those attributes are needed to win an election.

If I am only for myself…

Jews understand the danger of hatred as well if not better than any other group, and the vast majority of Americans Jews voted against Trump. Whereas in 2012 Jews voted at a rate of 69 to 30 for Obama over Romney, in 2016, the rate was even higher at 70 to 25 for Clinton over Trump despite Trump’s promises to cancel the Iran deal and to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, based on Zionist groups in social media, among the most active Zionists, support for Trump was high. It seems that many of those activists are so fixated on defending Israel against hatred that they forgot about other forms of hatred. Zionists themselves are the victims of pro-Palestinian groups who promote anti-Semitic campaigns such as BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement directed at Israel). The clamor for human rights is often no more than a thin disguise for the “me me me” syndrome.

If a female candidate for the U.S. presidential election had bragged about grabbing random men’s penises, there is no doubt that her campaign would have ended within hours. If a candidate had promised to block entry into the U.S. to all Christians, there is no doubt that such a candidate would equally have become unelectable. Yet the Republican Party and Trump’s supporters let every attack on Muslims, women, and Hispanics slide, one after the other. When Trump won, the ultimate victors of the election were hatred, fear, and bigotry.

Whenever a group is cast out as different, respect for all groups is undermined, even when the discrimination is well-intentioned. Affirmative action programs send the message that the favored group is not as competent as others, and they foster resentment. Banning Christmas carols in public schools fosters resentment of minority religious groups, especially when at the same time accommodations are made for Muslim prayers. Equal respect for all groups means equal respect for all groups, without any exceptions.

Rabbi Hillel asked, “If I am only for myself, then what am I”? Those who voted for Trump hide behind the claim that they do not support his bigotry, but is there really a difference between those who support a politician BECAUSE of his bigoted campaign and those who support him DESPITE it? Ignoring bigotry against a group indicates that in the eyes of the beholder, the group has less value, which by definition is bigotry. The answer to Rabbi Hillel’s question is clear. If I am only for myself, then I am a bigot.

Those who did not vote for Trump should not feel too smug however because they may be bigots too. If they oppose Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, they are bigots. If they complain about discrimination against Muslims and blacks but not about discrimination against Christians and whites, they are bigots. If they discipline an incompetent straight employee but refuse to discipline an incompetent gay employee, they are bigots. Either one believes in treating all groups equally or one does not.

One tiny ray of hope

After Trump was elected, the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America formed the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. If Trump’s election spurs groups to work together rather than against each other, then something positive will have been salvaged out of this disaster, but let’s not kid ourselves. Fighting bigotry was already an uphill battle, and Trump’s election has made the hill much steeper.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Fred Maroun writes for Gatestone Institute.
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