With Trump, Jewish civil war beck­ons

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY MICHAEL GOLD­FARB Michael Gold­farb is the au­thor of ‘Eman­ci­pa­tion: How Lib­er­at­ing Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Rev­o­lu­tion and Re­nais­sance’

IT HAS been a phe­nom­e­nally busy news pe­riod — and for once the heavy news is not from the Mid­dle East. Be­tween Brexit and the jaw-drop­ping re­al­ity of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, this news qui­etly slipped away: the bulk of bomb threats to Amer­i­can JCCs, Jewish schools and other cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions ap­pear to have been made by a 19-year-old Is­raeli-Amer­i­can Jew us­ing en­crypted phone calls from Is­rael.

This links two things: the uptick in open an­tisemitism in Amer­ica and the civil war within the Jewish com­mu­nity over Is­rael, re­li­gion, as­sim­i­la­tion, J-Street — ev­ery com­po­nent of what it means to be Jewish in the mod­ern world.

As with the vote for Brexit, the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump has brought forth a flow­er­ing of what un­til a year ago would have been con­sid­ered hate speech into the pub­lic sphere. In the US much of this venom has been di­rected at Jews.

But Jewish Trump sup­port­ers have been san­guine about this. Marc Zell, direc­tor of Repub­li­cans Over­seas Is­rael, told Ha’aretz the ar­rest of the JCC caller showed that “a lot of the up­roar about an­tisemitism among Amer­i­can Jewish lead­ers and Demo­cratic politi­cians — par­tic­u­larly those go­ing af­ter Don­ald Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion — has been over the top.”

Mr Zell might want to dis­cuss that point with Jewish jour­nal­ists and other Jews on so­cial net­works who have re­ceived a tor­rent of abuse in the com­ments col­umns of Bre­it­bart, the alt-right “news” web­site run un­til re­cently by Mr Trump’s chief strate­gist, Steve Ban­non.

But then Mr Zell would say that Mr Ban­non’s deputy, Stephen Miller, and Bre­it­bart’s CEO, Larry Solov, are both Jewish, so no an­tisemitism here.

A more trou­bling mea­sure of the split in the com­mu­nity are the com­ments of Mr Trump’s Am­bas­sador to Is­rael, David Fried­man, who was con­firmed by the Se­nate the same day the JCC caller was ar­rested.

Last June, Mr Fried­man, who had been Mr Trump’s bank­ruptcy lawyer (a busy job) wrote about the lib­eral Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tion, J-Street, for Arutz Sheva web­site, “Are J-Street sup­port­ers re­ally as bad as ka­pos? The an­swer, ac­tu­ally, is no, they are far worse than ka­pos … The ka­pos faced ex­tra­or­di­nary cru­elty and who knows what any of us would have done un­der those cir­cum­stances to save a loved one? But J-Street? — smug ad­vo­cates of Is­rael’s de­struc­tion de­liv­ered from the com­fort of their se­cure Amer­i­can so­fas — it’s hard to imag­ine any­one worse.”

As re­pul­sive as that state­ment is — and it was writ­ten by a lawyer, not some off-the-cuff re­mark in an in­ter­view — it is rev­e­la­tory.

J-Street does not ad­vo­cate for Is­rael’s de­struc­tion but to Mr Fried­man that does not mat­ter be­cause the state of Is­rael has be­come a re­li­gious totem in the Jewish di­as­pora. How one views the oc­cu­pa­tion and the prospects for a set­tle­ment with the Pales­tini­ans may be a po­lit­i­cal ques­tion for Is­raelis, but for di­as­pora Jews it is a sec­tar­ian ques­tion. It de­fines whether you are a good Jew or a bad Jew. And since Ju­daism, like Is­lam, does not have a Pope to rule on doc­tri­nal is­sues, it is left to Jews them­selves to ar­gue out what a good or bad Jew is.

You don’t keep kosher? Bad Jew. You don’t sup­port the two-state so­lu­tion? Bad Jew. You don’t think Is­rael is un­der ex­is­ten­tial threat? Bad Jew. You think Is­rael with its nu­clear arse­nal and world lead­ing elec­tronic de­fence sys­tems can­not take care of it­self ? Bad Jew. You think there is such a thing as sec­u­lar Ju­daism? You’re a non-Jewish Jew. You think the Oslo Ac­cords were a dis­as­ter and that Yitzhak Rabin was a traitor? You’re a Jewish Salafist.

And on. And on. You do not have to be re­li­gious or view the Tanakh as di­vine to see in it a his­tory of a peo­ple and their cul­ture which, even if the de­tails are ex­ag­ger­ated, tells a fac­tual story. Some­times it feels as if his­tory — even his­tory from nearly sev­eral mil­len­nia ago — may re­peat it­self. The Jews will split, the peo­ple will fol­low kings who are not wise. De­struc­tion looms.

For the di­as­pora, Is­rael is a sec­tar­ian is­sue


Michael Kay­dar, the Jewish-Is­raeli bomb threat sus­pect, be­ing ar­rested last week

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