We Israelis deserve the credit that Donald Trump gave us for coping with unrelenting attempts to scare the beemoses out of us.
You were right, Mr. Trump, when you said, “They’ve done an unbelievable job, as good as you can do.”
Yes, Mr. Trump, anyone who’s been here as long as I have has become an unwitting expert at self-defense; creating and seeking shelter; appearing for active duty; sending one’s loved ones into active duty; looking over our shoulders; picking out the bad guys; notifying authorities; and – most of all – getting on with the miraculous gift of our lives in this heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, inspiring, beautiful, and sacred country.
We too have learned to see something say something. But we’ve also learned to be very careful about whom you say it to, where, when, and how. As Donald Trump said, there is much that the United States can learn from Israel’s long history of grappling with terror. But there is much that Donald Trump can learn too.
Just after the bombs went off in New York and New Jersey on Saturday night, Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in Colorado Springs that “a bomb went off.” On Monday, Trump noted in a telephone interview on “Fox and Friends,” “I was criticized for calling it correctly. But what I said was exactly correct. I should be a newscaster because I called it before the news.”
Every Israeli I know was appalled by the cavalier announcement that the bomb had gone off and his subsequent attempt to take credit for calling it first. It prompted ridicule on the part of his opponents in the Hebrew media and an awkward silence on the part of their colleagues who support him.
Why? Because all but the most clueless and capricious among us — and children under the age of 10 — know that we don’t say something like that until the all-clear signal is sounded. We know that if you say something like that too soon and too loud – much less on TV — you risk the following:
- You may be wrong.
- You may drive throngs of panicking and/or curious spectators to or from the scene, who may in turn interfere with investigations, law enforcement, and emergency and security services.
- Evil forces may take advantage of such premature revelations to make good on their intention to kill and maim.
- You may instill terror in people, particularly children, who are ill-prepared to deal with it and at physical or emotional risk of responding badly.
- You may tip off folks that their loved ones are in harm’s way or worse – setting off unnecessary or unmanaged grief. No one needs to hear on television from Donald J. Trump that a bomb went off in front of their daughter’s or son’s apartment or their father’s or mother’s workplace — especially if the ensuing dread is warranted.
Letting people know that the worst has happened is better left to physicians and mental health professionals.
- You may thwart the media’s attempts to provide the public with vital information by attracting attention-starved halfwits who jockey for position in front of the cameras as such grizzly events unfold. We have our share of these idiots too. But imagine Israelis’ horror at watching a would-be leader of the Western world invite the likes of them to the after-party.
Better yet, imagine our relief at watching his opponent, Hillary Clinton, comport herself with the calm and measured restraint of the stateswoman that she is. She did exactly what any of our leaders would have done. We expect nothing less from them but what Trump would call “an unbelievable job.”
Just as we teach our children to notify the proper authorities quietly, leave the scene as quickly as possible, and urge and help others to do the same, we expect our leaders and our media to reinforce that message. Any Israeli leader in any walk of life – much less government – would have been raked over the coals for your ill-timed and irresponsible announcement.
I shudder to think what could happen if a President Trump similarly let it slip that a catastrophic mega-event had taken place in Israel, a nation the size of New Jersey, with limited resources, surrounded by enemies. We could be robbed of the time we need to save hundreds of thousands – if not millions — of lives, the time we need to neutralize the perpetrators and their accomplices, the time we need to address the inevitable chaos that would ensue.
I’ll leave it to the pundits to decide whether Trump’s statement was a political tyro’s careless slip of tongue, a narcissist’s irresistible yen to grab the limelight, or a calculated ploy to garner votes by terrifying Americans.
I can’t know whether you scared Americans in the US, Mr. Trump, but you did scare me. And as an American-Israeli, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, a wife, mother, and grandmother, I have plenty to fear. That’s just one of many reasons why I’m voting for the woman whom President Obama called the most qualified candidate for president.