Last weekend a pair of horrifying massacres in the U.S. cities of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio sent shock waves through the country. The outrage was so powerful that even President Donald Trump had to overcome his own indifference to the act and say something that, from another source, might have sounded vaguely presidential. From him it only sounded insincere, especially since he could not even remember which Ohio city had just been so badly traumatized.
Among the punditry, Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton, had perhaps the most insightful commentary. As Glaude completed his brief speech on MSNBC, he noted that when we see these horrific mass shootings, we ask, “Oh my God, is this who we are?”
Glaude answered his own question. “What we know is that this country has been playing politics for a long time on this hatred—we know this. So, it’s easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders. It’s easy to place Pittsburgh on his shoulders. It’s easy for me to place Charlottesville on his shoulders. It’s easy to place El Paso on his shoulders.” But then Glaude resoundingly proclaimed, “This is us! And if we’re gonna get past this we can’t blame it on [Trump]. He’s a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us.”
Glaude is correct to point out that Trump is not inventing this, he is unleashing it, harvesting hate that has festered for decades, suppressed—but not defeated—by liberal ideals.
But as Americans so often do, we think of the Trump presidency in terms of ourselves, of what happens within our borders. For many of us, that doesn’t even extend to a place like Puerto Rico, which Trump was able to smugly neglect in a way he never would have dared to do to a mainland U.S. city. But what of our foreign policy under Trump and for years before him?
Events in Gaza, Iran, the United Kingdom, Congo, Kashmir, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and other places do not exist in isolation from the United States. Sometimes by action, sometimes by inaction, the U.S. affects events all over the world. That’s hardly news. Most Americans know it. But too few of us take it seriously enough to let it influence our votes or political activity. Read more at LobeLog
UPDATE 8/16: Labor chief Avi Gabbay took a while, but today did issue a very strong statement condemning the events in Charlottesville, clearly blaming the white supremacists and implicitly complaining about Trump’s response. Statement in Hebrew here, translation by Mikhael Manikin here
Author’s Note: This article was published just hours before Benjamin Netanyahu made his reprehensibly late and weak statement on Charlottesville. To this piece, which I hope you will read in full at LobeLog, I will add that Netanyahu’s pro forma statement was, in its way not just an imitation of Trump, but actually far worse. What we have seen here is an Israeli Prime Minister, one who has, over the years, been only too eager to cynically use anti-Semitism to defend holding millions of Palestinians without the most basic human and civil rights that most of us simply take for granted; to marginalize, demonize and physically imperil political opponents, activists and those who work for peace and human rights; and even to protect his own personal position, take his cues from a US President who supports, and seems very much to agree with, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Netanyahu has truly shown the world what the “new anti-Semitism” is. It is not, as he and others would have it, a phenomenon of the “pro-Palestinian left.” It is certainly not connected in any way with supporters of a two-state solution. No, it is the phenomenon that Netanyahu has led in creating and cultivates today with his allies and friends in a white nationalist White House. It is the phenomenon, in the grand tradition of classical anti-Semitism, of differentiating between the good Jews and the bad Jews. What makes it new is that it is being done by Israeli leaders.
For Netanyahu, as with his friends in the Trump Administration, the Zionist Organization of America, Christians United for Israel and, yes, much (though not all) of AIPAC, among many other channels, the good Jews are the nationalists. For them, any ally is a good ally, no matter how anti-Semitic or racist, as long as they support Israel in all it does, particularly its occupation and denial of Palestinian rights. The good Jews are the Stephen Millers, the David Friedmans, the Jared Kushners, the Morton Kleins. The bad Jews are pretty much all the rest of us, including many Zionists who support two states, believe Palestinians deserve human rights, or just think that a small group of misogynistic, anachronistic orthodox rabbis do not have the right to dictate Judaism to all of us.
It couldn’t be more clear. Netanyahu, already well established as a racist (we have not forgotten the last election, just to name a relatively recent and very blatant example), has sided with white nationalists, Jewish nationalists, even European nationalists (see the article for more on this) against the vast majority of the Jewish people, including against most Israeli Jews. Never forget it. And think it through clearly as you consider your politics regarding Palestine, Israel, and the Jewish people.
Israel’s Silence on Charlottesville
The awful events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend presented politicians with an opportunity to score an easy political point, simply by condemning the white supremacists who sparked the violence. Many politicians took advantage of that opportunity. That included right wing politicians such as Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), as well as the Vice President, Mike Pence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the most prominent of international voices deploring the display of racism and bigotry.
US President Donald Trump, by contrast, condemned violence “on many sides,” and for two days pointedly refused to criticize the racist thugs who brought their march of hate to Charlottesville, one of whose number is a blatant murderer. For this, Trump was sharply criticized by Democrats and Republicans, until finally, today, he was forced to condemn the right wing violence and name some of the hate groups—even though they support him.
But there is silence coming from another corner, one that is far more surprising. That deafening silence is coming from the Israeli government, and most notably from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has a long history of condemning anti-Semitism, both real and imagined. He has played a huge role in creating the narrative that virtually all support for Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel’s human rights record is rooted in anti-Semitism. Until recently, he rarely missed an opportunity to raise the specter of anti-Semitism.