We know you have many challenges as Jews in America. We here in Israel just have one question: Can you please explain to us your extreme hatred for the president? In Israel, we so appreciate what he has done for Israel and the Jewish people, yet in America, most of you despise him. Even many connected, Conservative and Reform, AIPAC-supporting, “Federation” Jews despise him. We Jews in Israel truly don’t get it.
Fifty percent of our Jewish brothers and sisters have returned and now live here in Israel. It seems to us that U.S. President Donald Trump’s turnaround in U.S. support for Israel has been nothing short of awesome. When he took office, President Obama had just given the Iranians, the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of Jew-killing, the country that has Holocaust denial celebrations, that threatens to wipe Israel off the map—that’s us, by the way—$1.7 billion in stacks of unmarked bills, delivered on transport planes as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement. All the while, as we knew would happen, Iran was cheating on the deal which was supposed to keep us safe.
Then Obama blinked on Syria, encouraged the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who, if allowed to, would have abrogated the peace treaty securing our longest border. Finally, he supported a U.N. resolution asserting that the Western Wall is not part of Israel.
Contrast that with the situation today.
Thanks largely to President Trump, Iran is now in a box. In January, the U.S. military killed chief Iranian terrorist Qassem Soleimani, who was up to his elbows in Jewish blood, and today Israel has allies across the Sunni world. Then there’s the movement of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem—something no other president would touch for fear of the reaction of Arab street—U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and the Trump peace plan.
All the while, your brothers and sisters in Israel are, thank God, safe and thriving, which helps explain Trump’s 71 percent approval rating in Israel (based on a Pew study that includes both Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations). By contrast, an identical percentage, 71 percent, of American Jews supported President Obama’s former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in the last election.
Then there’s the situation in the United States where Jewish kids who still love Israel are under attack on college campuses. According to recent surveys on anti-Semitism, almost half of college-age Americans said they had experienced some form of anti-Semitic incident. Again, the previous administration did not act. The Trump administration, by contrast, signed an executive order under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among other things to stop anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israel protest.
(But perhaps this is partially self-serving; the president does have traditionally observant Jewish grandchildren—something many U.S. Jews can’t boast. They have been seen running around the White House sporting kippot and tzitzit, and someday will likely attend college in the United States.)
Some of us in Israel believe that based his record, Trump may be the most supportive president for the Jewish people and Israel ever. Yet American Jews are leading the outrage movement against the president.
Many believe that it is in the best interest of the Jewish people that there should be support for Jews in Israel (and around the world) on both sides on the aisle. But what we are seeing are not honest policy differences asking for more compassionate responses to America’s problems, as we would traditionally expect. We are seeing Jews leading the angry, hate-filled hostile attacks against the president and his supporters.
Is it not possible to look past his tweets or insults to see his accomplishments for our land and our people? Is it his ego that can’t be overlooked? (Although only someone with a strong ego would buck his own State Department and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.) Is it the psychology of inductive reasoning; i.e., the natural tendency to try to justify one’s previous position/vote? Maybe it’s just hard to break through the generational pattern of parents’ influence on children, and that we are still living with the legacy of parents and grandparents who supported Roosevelt.
Is the media the major problem? A daily media barrage of one-sided anti-Trump hate speech can spin a person into a frenzy. (Seventy-five years ago, The New York Times buried stories about the ongoing Holocaust. Has it truly changed its approach?) No doubt many on the right are equally guilty, but can American Jews not find balanced reporting?
Maybe it’s the culture? In the classic book The Pity of It All, author Amos Elon describes the aspirations of German Jews in the early 1800s to fit in and be part of the German upper crust. That liberal “intelligentsia,” which thought itself better than the working class, was annihilated a few decades later, but their ideas were not. Is that culture still permeating our Jewish world today?
Finally, we hope and pray it isn’t true, but maybe Israel simply isn’t that important to some of our brothers and sisters anymore?
It is just difficult to understand the intense hatred for Trump among so many U.S. Jews. Admittedly in the political world at large there is hatred on both sides, but here we have someone who loves Jews (literally; e.g., his grandkids), loves Israel and arguably has been an amazing champion for both. Yet many American Jews not only don’t see what we see, they despise the president and are leading the hateful efforts to belittle him and his supporters (that would include us—your Jewish brothers and sisters here in Israel).
Speaking for most Israelis, we just don’t get it.
Gary Schiff is a Jerusalem-based natural resource consultant connecting Israel and the United States.