Shma Israel! A Zionist’s moral and practical case against Trump

Shma Israel! Hear, oh Israel! These are the beautiful and powerful words of the most famous lines in Jewish liturgy. They are more than a prayer; they are a call to action. So listen up, Jews.

We as Jews cannot support Donald Trump’s presidency. He is a corrupt, immoral, dangerous man.

Trump’s reign has intensified anti-Semitism from both the right and left. White supremacists and classic anti-Semites now feel emboldened by Trump’s unabashed bigotry and the fact that he surrounds himself with anti-Semites.

The left has adopted a similar discourse to that of the Nazis: Jews align themselves with dangerous regimes and movements and the world’s ills can be blamed on them. Of course, I reject guilt by association as a logical fallacy, and of course, no matter how much Jewish support Trump enjoys, anti-Semitism cannot be morally justified.

Some Jews may feel the need to support Trump because he stands in direct opposition to the left. It is true, we have not only been abandoned by the left, we have been targeted by it. No one can credibly deny the vile anti-Semitism bubbling in many progressive circles and in all far left ones, particularly pernicious because it operates under the guise of progress. As a progressive, this is deeply frustrating, but I made the decision not to allow others’ immorality turn me into a person I do not want to be. I implore you: do not discard your values out of spite.

The United States might be a deeply divided two-party system, but your moral compass need not lose its true North because of a false dichotomy of conservatism versus everything else. Whether you are in the United States or elsewhere, there are many gvanim (shades) of political opinions. You can still be in favour of “fiscal responsibility” (whatever that means) and national security (I know I am) while denouncing Trump.

The argument I hear time and again from Jews who support Donald Trump is that even though he is abjectly immoral and bigoted, he is good for Israel and good for the Jews. Even if one could justify such a calculus, the basic premise is false. Donald Trump is not Napoleon. He is not a friend and protector of the Jews.

Quite the contrary, in fact. He has surrounded himself with anti-Semites, chief among them Steve Bannon. He refused to reject the enthusiastic endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. He initially remained neutral on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He said he would make Israel pay pizzu for America’s protection (which made many of us question how secure the funding for the Iron Dome would be). He promised and then back-peddled on moving the American embassy to Jerusalem (where it belongs). His staff claimed Jerusalem was not part of Israel. Perhaps worst of all, he gave away Israel’s secrets to her long-time foe, Russia.

Donald Trump is no friend of the Jewish People or the State of Israel.

That his son-in-law and daughter are Jewish means absolutely nothing. Jews can be immoral. Jews can sacrifice the best interests of Israel and the Jewish People on the altar of their own self-interest. Jews can even be anti-Semitic. Identity alone a friend does not make.

Nor can his participation in the New York City Israel Day Parade assuage concerns over his . Donald Trump’s only guiding principle is his own personal interests; he will do anything if he believes it will benefit him. He must have seen some benefit to be accrued by participating in the parade (perhaps, like classic anti-Semites, he believes we control the world’s gold, which he is after). Even if it was a genuine gesture, it cannot make up for all the things he has said and done.

And no, Bibi’s embrace of Trump does not mean anything either. I am just as disappointed in him for his cowardly embrace of Trump—whether strategic or genuine, as I am in every other politician and leader who has refused to denounce him for what he is: an immoral and corrupt danger to humanity. I understand that given Israel’s isolation and dependence on inter alia American funds and military equipment, Bibi could not turn a cold shoulder, but I am still disappointed, and Bibi is not always right.

Zionist Trump supporters who cannot find anything convincing about Trump himself point instead to Nikki Haley. She has indeed been a wonderful ally in the theatre of the anti-Semitic absurd which is the UN. But the UN is a pathetic joke, and any losses or victories are largely symbolic. I am prepared to wait another four (or G-d forbid eight) years for the US embassy to move, and I am prepared to lose out on moral support at the UN. If that is the trade-off necessary to rid the world of this dangerous and immoral administration, I am ready to make those sacrifices. The decision is made easier when one factors in how dangerous Trump is to Israel in particular.

There are warning signs we can simply not afford to ignore.

Historically, populist movements have ended in violence, and those on the receiving end of that violence have almost uniformly been minorities. It did not always start with the Jews, but inevitably, the Jews find themselves on the sharp end of the people’s pitchfork. The populist wave that carried Trump to the White House does not bode well for Jews.

Keeping Muslim refugees out of the United States will not keep Israel (or the United States) safe, but even if we ignore the lessons of the Shoah and cast aside the poignant words of Father Martin Niemöller (“first they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist… then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me”), Trump’s unabashed bigotry towards other groups should make us more than a little wary. We are not immune.

The chants of “America first” may have some appeal to those Jews who were uncomfortable with liberal governments’ chumminess with Muslim dictatorships (a discomfort I feel sharply myself), but the dog whistle we are not hearing is that “America first” does not include Jews or Israel.

Trump refused to reaffirm America’s commitment to NATO Article 5 (the one for all, all for one clause). Can we really count on his support the next time Israel faces another existential war? Does “America first” mean that American dollars and resources will be withheld when Israel’s enemies attack? What will we be forced to pay for Trump’s assistance? Will he be neutral that day? Will he be too busy tweeting? Will his reckless intervention cause more problems for us?

How some Jews and Zionists can continue to support this man in the face of all he has said and done is beyond all comprehension. If your support of Trump in the face of his anti-Semitism and betrayal of Israel stands on a constellation of conspiracy theories, you need to ask yourself how important Israel is to you.

Is Israel a priority or just a proxy?

If your outrage over politicians’ betrayal of Israel is reserved for liberal politicians, you should take stock of
your priorities and your Zionism. At what point can it be said that your support for Trump trumps your support for Israel?

His ignorance, arrogance, corruption, racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and Transphobia, Islamophobia, contempt for the poor, contempt for the disabled, contempt for the environment, rejection of science and facts, greed, dishonesty, incompetence, recklessness, selfishness, lust for personal power, pettiness, petulance, inexperience, lack of tact and professionalism, lack of self-control and discipline, flip-flopping, and meanness all fly in the face of tikun olam and Jewish values in general. He has no redeeming qualities. None.

But if all this is not enough to tear you from the clutches of his cult of personality, his anti-Semitism and repeated betrayal of Israel should.

Shma Israel! Hear, oh Israel! For principled and practical reasons, we cannot, as Jews, support this regime.

About the Author
Esther Mendelsohn is a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, a former IDF combat commander in the Karakal Battalion, and an activist. She is a progressive because she’s a Zionist and a Zionist because she’s a progressive. She lives in Toronto with her beloved Maltese mix rescue, Benzi (short for Ben-Tzion).
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