I’m going to tell you a little bit more than I did yesterday about the pernicious influence that rightwing Jews have, both here in America and in Israel.
Yesterday I explained how the presence of about one million Russian ultra-orthodox Jews (out of Israel’s total population of eight million) has poisoned Israeli politics and actually endangered that small nation’s security. Today I want to explore these notions more fully, based on what we now know about Trump’s new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
I’ve never met Friedman but I’ve known orthodox Jews like him. They are angry religionists, putting their theological views above everything else. These are people who still live in the Middle Ages: no man is allowed to touch a woman, not even to shake her hand, unless he is her husband. The absurdities of the Old Testament are taken literally: if you mow the lawn on Saturday, you’ve committed an abomination and may be stoned to death. Homosexuality is, obviously, also worthy of the death penalty.
But of course, these Jews don’t have the power, yet, to inflict their medieval views on the world, and they know it, which is why they continue to await for the arrival of “Moshiach”—the messiah. When he comes (and it will be a “he”), then Jewish law, halakha, will be imposed upon the world, and there will be plenty of executions. You don’t believe it? Try talking, off the record, to an orthodox Jewish rabbi, perhaps one of the Lubavitch faith, as I have done. You will have a glimpse into insanity that will leave you shaken.
Friedman is clearly a hater of Arabs. So, for that matter, are most orthodox Jews. They believe that Jews are God’s chosen; everybody else is dreck, and Arabs are the dreckiest of all. They believe that God gave “the holy land” to Israel for all of time, and they have no intention of sharing it with anybody. They do not accept a “two-state solution”—certainly, Friedman doesn’t—even though common sense tells us it is the only solution for the problem of the Palestinians. Friedman consistently accuses anyone who disagrees with him, including his fellow Jews, of being “anti-semites” and calls them “worse than Nazis,” insults that explain the affinity he and America’s new insulter-in-chief, Trump, have for each other. (Their friendship goes back to the 1990s, when Friedman’s bankruptcy law firm represented Trump.) Both men are aggressive, in-your-face screamers, convinced of the rectitude of their positions, and determined to drive their many enemies into the dirt.
Diplomats are supposed to be, well, diplomatic. Mature leaders understand this, and find suitable people to represent them abroad. Confrontational ambassadors can have serious, unwanted consequences. One reason for the outbreak of World War II, many historians believe, was Hitler’s appointment of von Ribbentrop as, first, his consul in London, and then Foreign Minister. Ribbentrop was appallingly rude and crude; his views were as extreme as those of his master, and he was widely disliked, even by his fellow Nazis. Had Ribbentrop been more even-tempered, more measured in his responses, it is possible Hitler could have achieved all his desires without war. But Ribbentrop was a case of the tail wagging the dog: Hitler, who knew virtually nothing about foreign affairs (he never left Germany before becoming Chancellor, and then only for a quick trip to conquered Paris), was dragged to extremes by his mentally unstable Foreign Minister.
The similarities between Friedman and Trump, on the one hand, and Ribbentrop and Hitler, on the other, are striking. Trump shows no evidence of ever having thought seriously about Middle Eastern affairs. Now that he has to, he has hired an unpleasant ideologue, and a religious nut, to boot, who has shown fascist tendencies. For example, shortly before the election, but after being appointed Trump’s “Israel expert,” he released a statement containing his recommendations for Israeli policy under a Trump administration. Included was this nugget, which should alarm everybody: “The Trump administration will ask the Justice Department to investigate coordinated attempts on college campuses to intimidate students who support Israel.” Just what we need: the FBI running riot on college campuses, investigating—whom? Anyone rightwing Jews don’t like.
Look, I agree with much of what the Israel-firsters say. Palestinians do have to renounce violence. They do have to accept the right of the State of Israel to exist. The stupidity they teach children in their madrasas is contemptible. But people like Friedman are unable to perceive the beam in their own eyes when they criticize Muslims. How open to the GLBT community is Friedman’s orthodox religion? Could two men or two women marry in his synagogue? Would his synagogue allow a woman to be a rabbi? Would gay Jews be accepted into the congregation? If I could have a sit-down with Friedman I’d ask him this one simple question: When Moshiach returns, will rabbis impose the death penalty on gays? And I wouldn’t let him weasel out of answering, as orthodox Jews have a tendency to do when you call them out on their madness.
I want to end with an anecdote that perhaps illuminates more clearly my concern with orthodox Jews. When I was a little boy my parents sent me to “Hebrew School” to become educated in Jewish language, religion, history and culture. One year, when I was about nine, we had a rabbi, a tall young man from an ultra-orthodox wing of Judaism. He was explaining to us how the World was then about 5,715 years old, according to Jewish creation theory. Now I, being a kid fascinated by dinosaurs, raised my hand and asked Rabbi about fossils that scientists said were tens of millions and even hundreds of millions of years old. Rabbi replied that the scientists were all liars. He told us about Piltdown Man, to this day one of the most infamous scientific hoaxes in history, and insinuated that all scientists were committing similar hoaxes, if they did not accept Jewish creation theory, which also precludes evolution. This was an Aha! moment for me. It’s when I realized that extreme religious belief and intelligent understanding of the world are mutually exclusive. I threw my lot in with intelligent understanding and have never regretted that decision. Jews such as Friedman made, sadly, another choice.
The Jewish vote in America, while not particularly large, is influential. Jewish voters have traditionally been Democrats since Franklin D. Roosevelt created his coalition in the 1930s. Republicans have long attempted to wrest control of the Jewish vote for themselves, but have failed, for two reasons. First, Jewish sympathies tend toward liberalism. Secondly, the Republican marriage with the religious Christian right made many Jews uncomfortable. The one place where Republicans believe they have been able to make inroads to Jewish voters has been via the politics of the State of Israel. This is exactly what they’re doing now.
It needs to be said that there is no single “Jewish attitude” in America about anything, but in particular, Jewish attitudes towards the settlements are decidedly not uniform. Most Jews I know feel they cannot defend the settlements. They support Israel, of course, and defend her right to exist in the face of the insanity propounded by Hamas, which still insists on driving Jews into the Mediterranean. But they also feel that Israel is being led by a very rightwing government under Likud and Netanyahu, a government that is Israel’s equivalent of the Tea Party-evangelical alliance in this country.
The thing to realize about Israel is that that it, too, has a problem with religious extremism, the plague that infects so many countries. The cause of this in Israel, as I see it, is the presence of so many ultra-orthodox Russian immigrant Jews, a super-conservative fifth column that plays much of the same role in Israel as Cuban-Americans do in our own politics: driving it further and further to the right, fueled by unreasoning religious beliefs, and based on hatred of those whom they consider their enemy: in the case of Florida Cubans, the remnants of the Castro regime; in the case of Israeli Russian Jews, Palestinians, whom some orthodox Jewish leaders in Israel have referred to as pigs.
Just as I believe American Christians have no right sticking their theology into our politics, so I believe pro-settlement, anti-Muslim Israeli Jews need to stop interfering in the peace process in the Middle East. The settlements are provocative, as they are meant to be. There’s no question they’re an obstacle to peace. It’s unclear why Netanyahu has allowed his policy to become so mired down into settlement politics. Nearly the entire world is critical of Israel’s settlement policy, and indeed, of its entire posture with regard to the Palestinians. Republicans now are hoping to do mischief to the Democratic-Jewish alliance in America, and they may make some headway. But not much, I think; American Jews are too sensible to actually believe that Republicans have any real love of Israel. In fact, the reason why evangelicals speak so warmly of Israel is simply because they believe the rapture cannot happen until certain conditions are met within Israel—and if there’s no Israel, then there won’t be a rapture, and no second coming of Jesus. Therefore, Christians support Israel—for now—while Jews realize, or should realize, that Republicans have an ulterior and sinister motive in supporting Israel. When and if the rapture actually occurs, Jews will be in a very uncomfortable position, since the new Christian overlords will desire to convert them—if necessary, as they have done in the past, through force. So this marriage of Christian Republicans and Jews makes for very bizarre bedfellows, indeed.
The thing I, as a Jew, resent the most is seeing these Republicans, led by Trump, use Jews for political advantage, with the settlements and other Israel policies made into wedge issues. Republicans are not the friends of Jews or the Jewish state of Israel. Netayahu’s reactionary settlement policies do not have the support of a majority of American Jews. President Obama has done the courageous thing in abstaining on the recent U.N. resolution. Obama knows, as does every honest foreign policy expert, that the settlements have been an unmitigated disaster that has cost Israel most of its friends around the world and decreased its security. To be against the settlements is not to be against Israel, as Likud and the Republicans falsely say. In fact, yesterday’s incredible allegation by Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., to the effect that Obama personally orchestrated the Security Council vote, appears little more than a desperate attempt by the right—including Netayahu and Trump—to deflect ongoing attention from Electiongate, which has been so damaging to the legitimacy of Trump’s election.
Look, Obama has always looked to ensure Israel’s long-range security. Trump and the Republicans, on the other hand, are looking to secure, not the state of Israel or the well-being of Jews, but the votes of Bible Belt evangelicals, who look to the Book of Revelations for their answers to complicated questions. That is pitiful on their part. On Trump’s part, it is dangerous and sickening, but hardly surprising for a man who has spent years pandering to the basest instincts of the Republican Party. I completely agree with David Horovitz, of the Times of Israel, who recently editorialized, “Benjamin Netanyahu is waging diplomatic war against the world, and notably against Israel’s only vital ally, the United States. We’ve never seen anything like it. It won’t win Israel any new friends.” That’s for sure, including Donald Trump, whose “friendship” Israel ought to look at with unvarnished skepticism. With friends like that…
I hate those terrible words, which from time to time I’m forced to utter, by dint of circumstance. In this case, on Monday I found, to my horror, I could not get into what’s called the “back end” of my blog website—the administrative side. Nor could the public access the front end, which is what you see at steveheimoff.com. What to do?
You never know quite why these things happen or how to fix them. In the end, I’m still not sure what the problem was, although we appear to have resolved it. Thank you Jose, my wonderful webmaster, at Diaz Communications! Something went haywire that made the server think that it was being overwhelmed by traffic, and so, like a faulty immune system, it shut down. Apparently, this wasn’t a bot or anything malicious, just a one-off. As of this morning—Thursday—we’re back up. Thanks to those of you reached out to me, through email, to inquire what was wrong. It’s nice to be missed.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to lie and insult his way through this life. Somebody really ought to draw up a list of all the campaign promises he made that he’s already broken, the most recent being Gingrich’s announcement that “draining the swamp,” a central part of Trump’s campaign spiel, no longer is part of the agenda.
Imagine that! How and why Kellyanne Conway assigned this disinformation task to the reptilian Gingrich is not hard to figure out. Gingrich, more than any other Republican politician prior to Trump himself, was the official party insulter and character assassin. Who better to let the world know of still more Trump bull than the man who made his reputation smearing Democrats?
I sense, also, that the resistance to Trump continues to gather steam, thank goodness. I believe it was Keith Olbermann who coined #TheResistance hashtag on twitter, but we need a better rallying cry, because there’s too much other stuff under #TheResistance, including more hatred of Hillary Clinton. The hashtag #NotMyPresident has proven to have “legs,” as they say, as well as #StolenElection, #PutinPuppet, #ConflictsOfInterest, #NeverTrump, and—my favorite, thank you Hillary–#BasketOfDeplorables, which describes so aptly the nature of the people who voted for Trump. Republican propaganda portrays these people as decent Americans who are down on their luck in the Rust Belt, cheated out of their jobs by evil foreigners, aided and abetted by the Democratic Party, but I don’t buy it. The reason they’re deplorable is because they’re filled with hatred and bigotry, and they don’t have the common sense God gave to a grasshopper’s behind. If they did, they wouldn’t have voted for this fraud, this incompetent greedhead. But then, as Abraham Lincoln noted, you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Trump fooled, and continues to fool, some of the people all the time, but I have a hunch that sooner rather than later this con job he’s pulled off is running thin. It will be hard to wean his supporters off the political crack Trump’s addicted them to, but not impossible. Some are beyond redemption. Others may not have taken the full plunge into unreason and madness; it is they we have to hope and pray will return to their senses.
Like many of you, I was puzzled by Obama’s curiously passive response to Electiongate at his Friday press conference. While most Democrats, and even many Republicans, view Russia’s actions as a form of cyberwarfare—some have called it a digital Sept. 11—Obama’s message seemed to be: This sort of thing happens all the time. No big deal. Chill out.
The President refused to blame it directly on Putin, as his CIA and FBI have done. He refused to say it influenced the results of the election, as Hillary Clinton has charged (and most of us agree with her). Nor did Obama point the finger at James Comey, whom most of us believe violated the Hatch Act for partisan reasons. And while Obama had called, a week ago, for an investigation into Electiongate, during his televised news conference he appeared peculiarly listless: no outrage, no sense of alarm or perturbation. This was “No Drama Obama” at his coolest, but it demands an explanation. Why the lack of passion? Why is he underplaying Electiongate’s severity?
As I watched the news conference—which was delayed a good 20 minutes due, I think, to the breaking news that the FBI had signed on to the CIA’s analysis—I kept wondering when Obama would let loose and scream bloody murder. To no avail: he was relentlessly unemotional, speaking in a monotone, frequently pausing to “uhh,” and refusing to take any bait offered by a press corps that seemed as weirded out as I was by the President’s lack of affect. It was all very frustrating and puzzling to those of us who thought that here, at last, was an opportunity for Obama to come out swinging, hard—against Russia, against Comey, against Trump, against the lies and corruption that brought Hillary down and have tried to destroy him as well. And yet he refused to do so. It was almost like watching a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed Obama’s mealy-mouthed response to Electiongate. Yesterday’s New York Times, on the front page, called him “wary” and “cautious,” polite terms, I think, for irresolute. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal had an editorial, “Obama Goes Off the Clinton Script,” that noted, astonished, how Obama claimed “the emails stolen from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee were ‘not some elaborate complicated espionage scheme.’” Calling the hacking and subsequent leaking “pretty routine stuff,” the most severe Obama could get was to declare that he would “take action” against Russia and Putin. But when? How? FDR didn’t wait until some future date to retaliate against the Japanese for Pearl Harbor. Will Obama release the evidence of wrongdoing on Russia’s part, which many Americans are asking for? Why is he—who has twice won the presidency—not going off the rails at how this recent election was, in effect, controlled by the Russians with, probably, inside knowledge of the Trump campaign? I mean, how bad does it have to get before the President shows some righteous anger?
So I’m scratching my head. Here we have Democrats, and tens of millions of people who voted for Hillary Clinton, outraged at Republicans; we know now that Donald Trump “won” the presidency illegitimately, we know we warned the country for months this was happening, and we are demanding that something be done about it. And here we have a President who, on Friday, live on T.V., could have and should have given articulate voice to our outrage. Obama could have been FDR speaking to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor, or JFK talking about Cuba to the American people, or George W. Bush on top of that car at Ground Zero, talking into the bullhorn. Obama could have been a President who rallied the people to a justified cause, in this acute, massive scandal. Instead, Obama chose, for his own reasons, to make it sound like he was talking about soybean subsidies.
The only explanation I can come up with—and it’s not a very satisfactory one—is that Obama feels personally responsible for a smooth transition to a Trump presidency, and is concerned about how he would look if, in his remaining month in office, he were seen as creating even more partisan divisiveness. This may be so—that theory fits in with what we know of his character, which is generally averse to confrontation. But I must say that, this time, Obama has let me down. Fortunately, he still has time to seize the moral high ground and come out swinging against what he well knows are dark, evil forces. He should remind himself—or be reminded—that his responsibility is not to ensure a smooth transition to an incompetent, mendacious incoming President, but to speak truth to History.
This is a short post. Trump is off to the worst start of any President-elect of my lifetime, and I’ve seen a lot of them. He will take the oath of office—if he indeed does—under a dark cloud of suspicion. Democrats clearly are concerned about his massive conflicts of interest, which he has done nothing to dispel and in fact has only added to by letting it be known that his exotic animal-slaughtering sons will run his businesses. Republicans are rightfully concerned that Trump is an ignoramus who will get this country into crazy foreign policy debacles they will be answerable for. Trump’s love of Russia and Putin is the leading example of what Republicans are dealing with. The GOP is a party that has spent generations loathing the old Soviet Union and, since its fall, Russia. Now they have a President-elect who respects Putin more than he does most Republicans, and certainly more than he does the current President of the United States. There are many people, in both parties, who do not wish to see Trump inaugurated. There is pressure on the Electors to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton. I do not think it will work. Trump will be sworn in—but his problems will mount after that, because the internal contradictions of his vile campaign cannot be resolved, but will only grow and grow until—what? What will it take for his supporters to realize they have made the biggest mistake of their lives? I don’t know. Denial is “a river in Africa,” as they say, but it is also very hard to get people who are in denial to admit to their errors. Trump’s Republican voters are locked into their ideology: for them to admit they were mistaken to vote for him is for them to admit they are idiots. I think they are; I think they’re the most mentally unhinged people in this country; I fear them and pity them. But it doesn’t matter what I think, what matters is how they perceive the coming of this horrible liar and unhinged bully as Leader of the Free World, as we used amusingly to refer to the POTUS. When Trump starts losing them—and I believe he will, by Spring–he will have lost all, and then it’s up to Congressional Republicans to take the trash out.
Have a wonderful weekend!
When it comes to criminal investigations, there are two kinds of Republicans. The first kind is ALL Republicans when the alleged criminal offense concerns a Democrat, namely, Hillary Clinton and her private email server. The second kind is VERY FEW Republicans when the crime concerns a Republican, namely, the Trump campaign’s use of Russia interfering with an American Presidential election.
In both cases, there was the possibility of criminal activity: Hillary endangering national security through her use of a private email server, and the far more serious case of Putin’s Russia deliberately swinging the recent election to Trump. In Hillary’s case, even though there was not the slightest shred of evidence that she committed a crime—and the FBI exonerated her twice—every single Republican in Congress demanded that she be jailed, or investigated, hounded out of town, denounced. Now, of course, much to the chagrin of these Republicans, she’s been 100 percent, absolutely, totally exonerated, but have we heard a single Republican anywhere who’s come out and said, “I guess we were wrong about Hillary. Sorry, Ms. Clinton!” Nope. And there never will be, for Republicans never own up to their lies.
Now we have another instance in which there seems to be a crime, and a far more serious one, than the accidental use of a private server, and that is Electiongate. You’d think a supposedly reputable American newspaper, regardless of its political orientation, would want to get to the bottom of this unprecedented situation. But no, you’d be wrong. The Wall Street Journal thinks it’s all a “Democratic attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election,” or so says their lead editorial from yesterday.
Which makes the Wall Street Journal the best and latest example of the second kind of Republican, the kind who doesn’t want an investigation if its target is a Republican. This is the same rightwing newspaper that was obsessed with jailing Hillary Clinton, whose editorial page ranted every chance they got about national security and coverups and how unfit for office Hillary was. When it all proved to be a big yawner (which most of us knew all along it was), did the WSJ apologize for their witch hunt? As if!
Now we have, as I say, a far more chilling scenario: Electiongate. And yet here’s the WSJ sucking up to Trump. They even have the nerve to portray Electiongate as “fake news” (!!!!), and they try to dismiss McConnell’s calling for hearings as a “non-story.”
Why not just call Electiongate a “third-rate burglary,” as Nixon did about Watergate, a scant 1-1/2 years before he was impeached? The Wall Street Journal has said some pretty awful things on their editorial page, but to attempt to sweep Electiongate under the rug is the worst ever. Nor will it succeed.
Look: there can’t be a single reasonable person in this country who doesn’t understand that we should at least expend the slightest effort to find out if, in fact, Putin’s Russia interfered with the recent election by hacking Democratic emails and leaking them to Wikileaks. Why would anyone be against hearings to get to the bottom of the matter? If there’s no there there, as Trump and the Wall Street Journal insist, fine. We’ll all be able to say, Well, we looked into it, there’s nothing there, so sorry, Mr. Putin, sorry, Mr. Trump. (Democrats, you see, do apologize when we’re wrong.)
But how are we supposed to know what really happened unless we investigate? Because the truth is, until we know the truth, there IS a giant question mark hanging over the results of this election. There IS an air of illegitimacy, and there always will be, no matter how much the Wall Street Journal denies it.