By Zalman Shoval, Israel Hayom—
The disagreements over religious issues between Jewish Americans and Jewish Israelis have now taken on an additional factor that has the potential for crisis. That factor is U.S. President-elect Donald Trump — or, in the name of precision, Trump and Israel. As we saw once again in the recent U.S. election, the majority of Jewish Americans stuck with tradition and voted for the Democratic candidate.
The topic of Israel apparently did not play an important part, if any at all, in the voting process. Not only was Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton perceived to be as much a fan of Israel as her Republican rival, but also, issues related to Israel barely came up during the election campaign, which focused mainly on internal American issues and on the personas of the candidates. This, despite the fact that the majority of American media outlets, which either openly or covertly supported the Democratic candidate, tried to hurl all kinds of false accusations at Trump — including charges of anti-Semitism. However, the anti-Semitism charges did not hold water, not only because Trump’s daughter is married to a Jew and has Jewish children, but also, more importantly, because his past bears no signs of tendencies or comments made against Jews.
Members of the radical Right, including anti-Semites and neo-Nazis, also supported Trump’s candidacy, though not at his urging. And anti-Semitic leftists, pro-Palestinian advocates and BDS propagandists — including Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, who is now running for Democratic National Committee chair — supported Clinton, also not at her urging. Both presidential candidates can be blamed, at most, for failing to speak out immediately and sharply against these undesirable “supporters.” The poisonous influence injected into the vein of public consciousness in this context will seemingly be neutralized very slowly; and at this point, it continues to add to the doubts among the Jewish community regarding the incoming administration.
The horror of anti-Semitism is unfamiliar to the generation that was born and raised in Israel, and to a large extent, the same is true for the generations of American Jews born after World War II. At most, they have heard from their parents about the anti-Semitism that was in the past rampant among the American public and governmental institutions and that is today considered an affront to “political correctness” (though it has yet to disappear completely). Even in today’s liberal and democratic America, where Jews hold senior positions in the public and economic spheres, there is still sensitivity surrounding the phenomena of overt or implied anti-Semitism — these issues are addressed by Jewish organizations, and rightly so. Still, I recall remarks made by an official in former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration who said that the Jews’ increased integration in American society is primarily the result of the establishment of the State of Israel and the respect that the American people have for it. And if, God forbid, something were to happen to Israel, the status of Jewish Americans would once again drop.
And what about the issue of anti-Semitism and Jewish Americans’ relationship with the State of Israel and with Trump? The answer is that until the stain of implied anti-Semitism among Trump’s circles or supporters is completely cleared, the improved relationship between Israel and the incoming U.S. administration may be interpreted by some American Jews as a sort of indifference toward them. In their view, if the State of Israel demands recognition as a Jewish state — it must not turn a cold shoulder toward the feelings of Jewish Americans, who comprise about half of the Jewish people and who have always been and will always be relied upon by Israel in all areas.
We must hope that both the practical steps taken by the Trump administration and its anticipated appointees, and the realistic and balanced approach of the Jewish leadership in the United States, will lead to the quick evaporation of concerns regarding the revival of anti-Semitism and their influence on the unity of the Jewish people regarding the State of Israel.