Any Consequences for Israel’s Love Affair with Trump?

Israel Flag

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You bet. But first, let’s spend a minute analyzing the picture above. We see three prominent flags being carried above a river of people—demonstrators, rioters, terrorists—on the way to the Capitol building in Washington D.C. The citadel of our fragile democracy. We don’t know whether the people we see will eventually storm the building too. Maybe they are just behind the storming mob, and will stop at the steps of the Capitol. No matter, we look at their faces and see that they are eager participants, following President Trump’s orders.

The first flag in the foreground, on the right, is the QAnon flag, slightly folded by the wind. QAnon, of course, is the largest and most notorious (alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring, etc.), most influential of all the Republicans’ conspiracy theories. A completely baseless, alternate reality gibberish. Which, nonetheless, making true believers of the president’s anti-reality, anti-truth supporters. At the center, most prominently, we see the American flag. And then on the right, farther from us, is none other than the Israeli flag.

So what are we to make of this Holy Trinity? We know that Israel was on top of the list of a few countries to benefit from the Trump administration. Any wish Netanyahu and his right-wing supporters—qualifier: almost any wish, as the annexation of the West Bank was not granted, yet was a future possibility—was happily granted by Trump and his sycophants, Ambassador Friedman and Jared Kushner. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: check. The Golan Heights recognized as Israeli territory: check. Disregard, discredit, marginalized the Palestinian issue and people: check. A hurried exit of the Iranian Nuclear Deal: check. More money and more sophisticated weapons and fighting aircrafts: check. And so on.

If you ask yourselves why this lovefest was so strong from the get-go, you couldn’t be more wrong if you thought it was Trump’s love for the Jewish State and the Jewish people. Nonsense. (He could never get used to Jared stealing his beloved daughter Ivanka away from him.) When he came to office he couldn’t point Israel, or Jerusalem, on the map if you put a gun to his head. Two reasons then: First, the Evangelical movement. His greatest supporters. And devotee supporters of Israel’s occupation, annexation, apartheid, you name it. How else will the Messiah come back to earth? And do you know that, even while the pandemic is raging on, and the country is in lockdown, some Evangelicals were allowed to enter the country to volunteer for picking up grapes in the settlements?

The second reason was that he’d hoped—stupidly, of course—or was sure that by granting all Netanyahu’s demands and wishes the majority of Jews in America will vote for him. Fat chance. We know now that between 66-76 percent (depend on the pollsters) of Jews have voted democratic, for Biden. (As yours truly had predicted, and was attacked for so predicting, in a previous post, Why Most Jews Vote Biden, 10/30/2020). Which brings us naturally to the question of what the consequences are, if any, for Israel’s love affair with Trump.

“If Israel were a U.S. state, it would be the reddest state in the Union,” said Alon Pinkas (to the New Yorker), a former consul-general for Israel in New York. But why? But how? Some adulation can be attributed to the dimwitted, or naive belief that to be good to Israel and its people, to safeguard its security and future, a president must grant every wish of its Right-wing government and majority. (Which is, of course, utter nonsense.) The other, and even more problematic, is that the anti-democracy, anti-truth, anti-reality forces in Israel are just as strong, just as large (population-wise) as in America. And that the threat of a criminal dictator like Trump—i.e. Netanyahu—is just as prominent. Hence the continuous struggle, and year-long demonstrations by Israelis fighting for the state young—in comparison to America—democracy. And without a constitution to safeguard it. As a result, the residue of the lovefest with Trump will continue to resonate as the country and its people continue the fight to retain its democracy.

The other consequence is that the gap between Israeli Jews and American Jews—not only liberals, not only reforms, but among conservatives too—is wider than it has ever been. American Jews, on the whole—excluding the ultra-orthodox, ultra-conservatives, and evangelical-prone Jews—abhor autocracy and despise anti-fact, anti-truth conspiracy theories and alternate-reality nonsense. They sew clearly what was in front of them when Trump was in power, and didn’t like it one bit. Just as they didn’t/don’t like what they see going on in Israel. Which, even if they don’t admit it loudly, know it’s way ahead into becoming an Apartheid state.

One hopes that with the change of a president, an administration and party in America, things will change—and they will, to a large or small degree—regarding Israel’s occupation and grand ambitions. But the way things are moving, especially in Israel, I don’t see this gap narrowing any day soon. This will create a fissure, and complications in Jews’ reaction to Israel. Assuming the coronavirus would be defeated at some point in time, soon hopefully, and Jews will return to services at their various congregations, they and their national organizations—even AIPAC, another Trump’s enabler when it comes to Israel—will have to work hard to narrow this gap.

Finally, in Israel, time will tell. And much will be determined in the next elections. The demographics don’t look good, though. As in Israel, unlike America—wherein seven of the last eight elections the majority of the people voted for the Democratic presidential candidates—the majority goes the other way. Traditionally the Likud and Netanyahu were always supported by the majority of Mizrachim, or Sephardim, Jews from Arab and North African countries. Joining them—the fasted growing segment of the population in Israel, and the majority of the West Bank settlers—are the Haredim, the ultra-orthodox. The fervent religious zealots. The most ardent of Trump’s supporters.

The struggle for democracy continues then, both in America and in Israel, with the consequences of the alliance of Trump and Israel to vibrate for years to come.

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Paradise Lost — The Ashkenazi-Mizrachi Fault Line

Kibbutz Heftzibah, circa 1970

My childhood village is so far away these days, yet I never really left it. I’ve been aware of this notion, this conundrum for a long time, yet the stories about ‘The Battle Over the Hassi Stream’ between the residents of the city of Beit She’an and the members of kibbutz Nir David—and the beautiful pictures from the ‘Valley of the Springs’ that are decorated these stories—keep driving this point home again and again. This new battle, as if on purpose, seems determined to reopen old wounds and make them fresh once more.

It so happened that in 2012 I published a short story titled, ‘The Kibbutz is Burning’—originally titled ‘The Battle Over the Dining Room’—in which young people from Beit She’an invade my kibbutz, set it on fire, and engage in a life-and-death battle with kibbutz members over the kibbutz’s dining room. And while the protagonist of the story (see under: ‘The Kibbutz is Burning’ on my literary website) is my late father, David—a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, a salt-of-the-earth kind of a person who escaped three labor camps during that war, and a veteran member of that kibbutz—the heart of the story is pounding on the fault line dividing the haves and the have-nots, and the deep yearning to go back to the old ‘values’ that had built the kibbutz.

A kibbutz modeled on the one where I was born and grew up, Hephzibah, which in the glorious pictures of Nir David, with the aquamarine stream running through it, you can actually see on the other side of Gan Hashlosha—or the ‘Sachne’ as we called it back then—nestled under Mount Gilboa. Growing up we didn’t know it belonged to kibbutz Nir David. It belonged to us, all of us, courtesy of mother nature. As kids, we used to walk there barefooted. Swim there day or night, without a care in the world. Only later came gates, fences, guards, paved roads, showers, and restrooms. The magic was gone. Or almost gone.

Which brings me to the current situation in kibbutz Nir David, and the battle over access to the Hassi Stream. I have no idea how to resolve this intractable situation, this clash of wills, though one solution that was suggested in 2015— “to set aside a section of the stream for public use”—seems to me to be taking the right approach needed for a reasonable, decent compromise. However, as reported in The Times Of Israel, it “is still stuck in the planning system.” Wouldn’t you know that?

Strangely, it reminds me of a different kind of clash, here in America, between President Trump and the renowned journalist Bob Woodward. In his latest book, ‘Rage,’ and in an interview Woodward gave recently to ‘CBS 60 Minutes,’ he said he asked the president, “… do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave, to a certain extent, as it put me – and I think lots of White, privileged people… we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country?”

President Trump—again, wouldn’t you know that?—responded mockingly, “You, you really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you, wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

That, indeed, is the problem with some privileged, have-it-all people. For them, it’s my way or the highway. Not only do they lack the capacity to understand the other side, but they also don’t seem to care to understand it at all. It may be—in America as in Israel—that it’s not exactly, or simply ‘justice’ that the under-privileged, the have-nots are asking for but ‘understanding.’ After all, in the case of the citizens of Beit She’an—or the larger population of what used to be called the ‘second-Israel’—what does ‘justice’ really mean?

Certainly not the dislodging, the uprooting of the kibbutz and its members away from the beautiful place they have worked so hard to build and give it to them instead; or as is the case with the Sachne, make a national park out of the kibbutz. Just as in the case of the African-American population of America, what would ‘justice’ be for them? Returning to Africa (as few now do)? Reversing the turning of the wheel-of-history? Give reparations—how much, really?—for descendants of those who died many years ago? (In Germany’s case, reparations are for surviving Jews who were directly affected by the Holocaust.) Take the white people’s money and places away and hand it to them?

No. That’s not justice. That’s more like injustice. What they are looking for, I believe—both in Israel and in America—is understanding. Inclusion. Sharing. Collaborating. Acknowledgment of past grave mistakes. This can be achieved, you see, but not with a president who has no clue as to what hunger—both for food and recognition—is. Not with kibbutz members from the ‘first-Israel’ who may still think that that beautiful stream was given to them by God (not that they are believers)? They were Chalutzim once, pioneers of the ‘Tower and Stockade’ settlements, who received the land—spring-fed warm pool and narrow stream included, a la ‘Garden of Eden’—from the ‘Jewish National Fund.’ The Arabs certainly lived there before them.

Which reminds me of something else, too. The last time I jumped headfirst and swam in that beautiful, paradisical pool, was in the winter three years ago. I visited Israel on the occasion of my mother, also a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, 90th birthday. It was cloudy and cold that January day my brother drove me to the Sachne. I told him I won’t leave the old country without swimming again in my ‘fountain-of-youth.’ We were almost by ourselves there. Us and nature. Like old times. But we had fun galore. And then we sat on a wooden bench and my brother brought his Finjan, his coffee kit, and made us strong cups of black coffee to warm our shivering bones. And as we sipped the coffee and talked, looking at the argentine, peaceful waters while guarded by the rocky Mount Gilboa, paradise—if for a fleeting moment—was found again.

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