The Jews American dilemma

There’s quite a dilemma that grips American Jews on the eve of the elections. It’s not about immediate benefits, consumer goods, or social wellbeing: instead it concerns a worldview, a cultural and even moral choice, whereas another part of the dilemma is made up of what is dear to almost all Jews, namely protecting Israel. And therefore from the beginning of the presidential election campaign, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been busy attempting to clinch the Jewish vote through numerous meetings and promises on the issue.

American Jews make up 2.2 percent of the U.S. population, 70 percent are stalwart Democrats, and 69 percent voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Today, 64 percent remain Democrats according to the Pew Research Center, but Trump has boasted of his rise in support among Jewish voters.

The showcase displays Hillary hand in hand with Bill, who always mentions how his minister ordered him to protect Israel; it also flaunts glossy photos of Trump alongside his daughter Ivanka – who converted to Judaism – and her husband Jared Kushner, who is always described ask: “Much listened to adviser” of the Republican candidate.

But Trump has not broken through, and Hillary has not consolidated. American Jews are like all other Americans with a touch of additional moralism: their New York parlor is often extremely politically correct, pro-immigration, anti-imperialist, intellectual, and their children graduate from the best universities often after an “exciting” and even “amazing” internship in Israel. Often they come back to the U.S. and launch careers while remaining staunchly pro-Israel, but many others chose to remain and when it happen sthey are among Israel’s most enthusiastic and active patriots.

Veteran liberals are keen not to undermine the rules of conduct that are attuned to a pro Clinton vote. Yet they are not without doubts: Clinton hasa controversial past which includes her role as head of a State Department prone to Obama’s foreign policy that approved the agreement with Iran, which is not only uncertain, but also can be dangerously detrimental to Israel’s security.

There are serious doubts by those who are friends of Israel about what exactly her policies will be, given that she advocated Obama’s ideological approach, including his blind persistence in seeking an agreement with a hostile Islam, the lethal uncertainties over Iraq and Syria, the errors with Libya, the weak hand vis-à-vis international terrorism, and a kind of paranoid insistence on the Palestinian territories and their construction while throughout the entire Middle East we’ve been witness ing massacres and mass emigration.

All this has been occurring while Clinton has received donations (one million dollars from Qatar!) from Arab countries. And yet, she’s also proven herself over the years, we’ve seen her support decisively U.S. aid to the Jewish State and upholding the veto that prevents the UN from taking extreme steps, such as those that it is said Obama is currently planning.

Trump has a series of no lesser troubles: his language has even crossed over into anti-Semitic statements like when he quipped, “I’m a negotiator like you folks.” American Jews identify with the status of a minority that up hold sethos and legality, they usually don’t like hard-hitting language and threats to the rule of law, and they sympathize with Hispanic or Muslim minorities when Trump condemns or threatens them.

Republicans have won Jewish hearts just presenting them selves during the Bush years as the party promoting democracy in the world. Trump at the begin ning seemed likely to win among Orthodox Jews, conservatives like all religious groups, but now the polls say that only 50 percent will vote Republican, compared to 70 percent who voted for John McCain eight years ago.

Some see Trump as the antithesis of Jewish values, they are afraid of being identified with his anti-universalist, anti-minority, and anti-foreigner sentiments. Furthermore, they don’t want to be associated with his sexist remarks and aggressive language, as well as with his social image. On the other hand, they liked his statements against the Iran deal, his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and his skepticism about the peace process, particularly the assertions that the State of Israel bear an overwhelming responsibility even when Palestinians indulge to continuous terrorism and incitement.

His positions are often expressed in a rather harsh and over the top manner, unfit even for Jewish bourgeoisie conservatives. Moreover, Trump caused a stir when he didn’t immediately reject the support of David Duke, the racist white supremacist and former head of the Ku Klux Klan.

And also there was that intolerable gaffe when he invited Obama’s half-brother Malikto the final presidential debate, and then shortly thereafter a photo of him wearing a red and white keffiyeh associated with Hamas and with the words “Jerusalem is ours, we are coming” appeared.

A gesture that arises from the confusion that often seems to take over in his neigh borhood. Meanwhile a poll in Israel says that even among Americans with Israeli passports Clinton prevails by 49 percent against Trump who stands at 32 percent. The old favorite Clinton style at the moments looks like holding the upper hand.

Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (November 7, 2016)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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