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Trump’s move on Jerusalem is his latest shot at Obama



I guess it’s only natural for non-Jews to think all Jews are the same. Many non-Muslims think all Muslims are the same, even though we know that Shiites hate Sunnis and vice versa; and some Jews even think that all Christians are the same, which, of course, they’re not: there’s a huge difference between evangelicals who believe Adam and Eve played with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden versus more enlightened Episcopalians, Lutherans and Unitarians.

But all Jews aren’t the same. The distinctions between us can be quite profound. In general, I’d divide Jews into two broad categories: the Orthodox and all the rest. The Orthodox, and especially that sub-group known as Ultra-Orthodox, are our version of the Taliban. They are extremists. They believe in the literal truth of the Bible (in this case, the Old Testament), just as the more irrational evangelicals believe in the literal truth of the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments). Even among Ultra-Orthodox Jews, there are further nuances. Probably the most extreme of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews are the Hasids, or Hasidic Jews. These groupings were formed in the shtetls and ghettoes of Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1600s and 1700s, when the Renaissance was happening in Western Europe; but they tend to live lives that are more medieval and Dark Ages than modern era. These are the men who always wear black suits and wide-brimmed caps. They usually have beards and always have long earlocks, because the Book of Leviticus tells Jewish men not to shave them. And you very seldom see Hasidic women around town, because they’re pretty much kept at home, raising the kids, cleaning the house, and cooking for their large families. (A similarity between Hasids and Islamic people is that men and women are segregated in mosques and synagogues.)

Hasidic Jews are by far a minority in the world, even in Israel, but they have an outsized voice in Israeli politics. There, the governing Likud Party—the party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—is quite conservative, but has not been able to secure a solid majority in order to rule the Knesset, or Parliament. Thus, they’ve had to ally with other parties, and in Likud’s case, they’re partnered with very conservative parties, such as Yisrael Beitanu, which stands for extreme Zionism and right wing populism, including keeping Israel a Jewish state and making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

It wouldn’t be true to say that there are no “liberals” in Israel. Probably the majority of the population is “liberal” in the sense that they’re secular rather than orthodox; they want a peace treaty with the Palestinians, they think Israel should give back the Occupied Territories and stop building settlements, and they certainly don’t think Jerusalem—a divided city—should be declared the capital.

But the Ultra-Orthodox Jews have much more influence in Israeli politics than their small numbers deserve. It’s as if the wing of the Republican Party that favors Roy Moore were to be able to dictate policies here in America. (They can’t, quite yet, although we have to be on our guard.) With his alliance with Israeli’s Ultra-Orthodox, Netayahu has proven to be an extremely right wing, conservative leader, which is why America’s extremely right wing, conservative leader, Donald Trump, likes him so much.

But there’s another reason why Trump and Netanyahu are political bedfellows. That’s because Trump could not have been elected without the strong support of the wacko wing of Republican Christians, the ones who believe in things like The Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. These people are among the most pro-Israeli in America, not because they have any particular love for the Jews—they’d convert us in an eyeblink if they could—but because they believe that Jesus can’t return to Earth until certain conditions in Israel are met, among the most important of which is—you guessed it—making Jerusalem Israel’s capital. Thus, the radically conservative American Christians (Franklin Graham, chief among them) are strong supporters, not only of America’s security commitment to Israel, but of making Jerusalem the capital. (And, of course, these Christians also are the most rabidly anti-Muslim people in America.)

Trump needs to keep these right wing American Christians happy, and one way to do that is to give in to their demand that Jerusalem be declared the capital of Israel. Indeed, this is the only way to understand why Trump has just taken the first step towards recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, by declaring his intention to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

American Jews do not support this move. It is provocative—Arab nations will be up in arms, and the safety of all Americans will be endangered. It is stupid—no other country in the world thinks Jerusalem should be Israel’s capital, it will never actually happen, and it will only further isolate us from our friends and allies, mainly the Europeans. And it is so unnecessary. Nobody believes that Trump’s move will move the Middle East closer to peace; indeed, exactly the opposite.

There’s one more way to understand Trump’s dumb move: Obama was dead-set against it. With each passing day of this regime, Trump’s main agenda as President becomes clearer: to un-do anything and everything Obama did. His vengeance toward and hatred of his predecessor seem unbounded. Maybe it dates to 2011, when Obama let Trump have it over his birtherism at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and an embarrassed Trump could be seen steaming and furious. Whatever its origin, Trump as President is driven, not so much by policy or even ideology, but by a mad, sociopathic obsession with getting even with and humiliating Barack Obama. It won’t work, of course: personally, Obama is too secure and serene in his own mind to let anything Donald Trump does get to him. And policy-wise, Trump’s stupid anti-Obama moves will easily be undone, once he’s removed from office. The important thing to realize now, concerning this Jerusalem-as-capital move, is that it will never happen, and is merely one more egregious thing attempted by this worst President ever, as he lashes out on his way toward impeachment.

  1. Nancy Weil Brown says:

    My neighbor used to be a moderate Republican who often voted for Democrats. Something happened and all of a sudden he was a birther and a Trump supporter and he had conspiracy theories about more things than I can recall. He can’t be the only formerly reasonable person who left human intelligence and reasoning behind. He told me that Obama would go down in history as our worst president ever. I maintained my outward calm although the cauldron was boiling everywhere inside my body. When asked, he couldn’t be specific about why he thought this. Trump and his followers seem to think that overturning every accomplishment from Obama’s time in office will demonstrate they are right. The thing is, what history will remember is what Obama did. History will remember how, for no reason except vengeance, Trump tried to erase Obama’s legacy. Long after we’re gone, historians will talk and write about what Obama actually did accomplish and they will talk about how the only accomplishments from the Trump time in office were the dismantling his predecessors work. I have no doubt which one will come out looking good in that scenario.

  2. Thanks Nancy. Your neighbor sounds like he’s lost his or her mind, as so many Republicans have. It’s going to be very difficult for us to forgive them for what they’ve done. I suppose we’ll have to try. It’s largely up to them. Can they admit the enormity of their bad behavior? Will they repent? Hopefully they can, and will. If not–well, we’ll have to see how things go.

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