Responses to Trump’s Moving the American Embassy Policy – Part I

Responses to Trump’s Moving the American Embassy Policy – Part I

by

Howard Adelman

I was proud to see that my analysis of Trump’s announcement to move the American embassy in the foreseeable future and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as distributed Wednesday afternoon, generally held up very well with other analyses, with one clear exception. Though I accepted that the policy statement was nuanced, that it was impelled by domestic realities, I was out of synch with some commentators who thought the move was reasonable and realistic internationally as well as domestically. I was on the side of those who believed that Trump’s initiative in setting in motion steps to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and, more importantly, immediately recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, would add to the difficulty of advancing progress on the peace front.

This blog will primarily focus upon commentators who agreed with me with respect to the lack of realism internationally regarding the announcement. Usually, they went further and made the judgement that the move was ill-advised or considered it a clear setback to negotiations. Subsequently, not even counting the leadership of all the major political parties in Israel, I will deal with analysts who viewed the initiative as a reasonable one and generally welcome at this time.

In beginning with critics, I will not include any analysis of those who saw the move as part of Zionist and colonialist efforts to deny Palestinians their rights to self-determination and their rightful ownership of Palestine or other more moderate stances of countries in the Middle East who were outraged but still supported a two-state solution.  In dealing with those who agreed with me on the international repercussions, I will say very little about those who were unequivocally apoplectic and loudly denounced and demonstrated against the new policy because they found it indecent and contrary to international law.

For example, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) organized a petition and a series of demonstrations declaring their shock and outrage. CJPME opposed any initiatives of countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem. They declared that, Trump ignored “all previous UN resolutions and an international consensus on Jerusalem.” Trump did not ignore previous resolutions. His statement was made in opposition to such resolutions, and specifically the one in December in the Security Council which President Obama did not veto which weighed in on the negotiations and declared ALL settlements on the other side of the old Green Line to be illegal. As I had analyzed the initiative, Trump’s move was intended to counter Barack Obama’s failure or refusal to use the veto.

Nor did I contend that Trump’s decision undermined all Middle East peace efforts calling for a negotiated settlement on the status of Jerusalem. Trump specifically qualified his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital by insisting that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the plan to move the embassy did not address the issue of Jerusalem’s borders but that such a decision must result from negotiations between the two parties. I was interested in critics on the left who were more analytical, though a few were also clearly very upset.

I distinguish between analyses and appraisals. For although I might have agreed with some critics’ analyses with respect to the international dimensions, I disagreed on their ultimate evaluation. For whether one agreed or disagreed with Trump, whether one has a very low regard for Trump as I do, I thought the policy statement was well crafted and nuanced.

Let me begin with some of the very bright lights among the critics. I start with Peter Beinart who is very sharp analytically but seemed to be almost as apoplectic and hysterical about Trump’s announcement when I watched him on CNN as anti-Zionists. He had expressed his extreme displeasure in the past with respect to Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to build 2,500 more new housing units in parts of Jerusalem that were once on the other side of the Green Line as well as with Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Beinart repeatedly insisted that these moves were incendiary and would cost Israeli lives.

In contrast, Alan Dershowitz, who has a liberal pedigree but in the last few years has sounded like he was more on the right, argued that, “Violence should not determine policy.” Any instigated violence should be met by counter-measures by the police and the military. “The reason violence  – whether rock-throwing or more lethal forms of terrorism  – is used because it works… as a way to extort concessions from the world. And it works because policy makers often make or refrain from making controversial decisions based on the fear of violent reactions.”

For Dershowitz, unlike Beinart, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem was not unreasonable nor was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. According to Dershowitz, Jerusalem is and will remain Israel’s capital. It is a fact and not a matter for debate. When such moves explicitly insist that this in no way predetermines the boundaries of Jerusalem or who should have sovereignty over the Old City, for Dershowitz that is not only a reasonable move, but a prudent one.

For Dershowitz, it does not matter whether the threat of violence comes from Palestinians, from Islamic demonstrators in Malaysia or from settlers on the West Bank. Policy should not be determined by such threats. As an example, Dershowitz cites the threats and the actual violence that resulted when, in 2000-2001, President Bill Clinton and then Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, put forth what was for Israel an extremely generous set of concessions. The threat – and the response: the Second Intifada! Dershowitz was even critical of the Israeli government for backing down under the threat of violence to its initiative in installing security cameras on what Jews call the Temple Mount (Har HaBáyit) and Muslims call Haram esh-Sharif. Dershowitz is fond of quoting Yitzhak Rabin. “We will pursue the peace process as if there no terrorism, and respond to terrorism as if there were no peace process.”

Other commentators supporting the Dershowitz position cite opposite moves that were far more widespread than recognizing the central site as special to Muslims as well as Jews. The UN General Assembly went further in the other direction in October of last year when it recognized the central holy site in Jerusalem as Muslim, supported Muslim claims and ignored Jewish ones.

The Dershowitz position could be questioned because it did not go far enough but also because it went too far in declaring Trump’s rationale to be reasonable. Was the diplomatic initiative reasonable? The peace offer of Barak was reasonable – whether or not one agreed with it. The installation of cameras on the Temple Mount (Har Habayit), however, broke an agreement between the Israeli authorities and the Muslims who administered the plaza of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Golden Dome. Israel had concurred that any changes with respect to the Temple Mount would take place as a product of consultations and joint initiatives. Unilateral actions on the part of Israelis, even those that on the surface seemed very reasonable, were read and interpreted as additional steps reducing Islamic authority on a site which they considered very holy.

Was the initiative to move the American embassy and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without prejudging the boundaries of that capital, unreasonable in breaking with previous agreements and seemingly both symbolically and on the ground advancing Israeli claims of sovereignty at the expense of Palestinian claims? That is the nub of the issue. America’s allies by and large took that position. At this time, such an initiative was “unhelpful”. The Czech Republic initially followed the Russian example of recognizing West Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital which, for many Israelis, seemed implicitly to deny Israeli claims on other parts of Jerusalem, even when qualified by assertions that the move did not signal any assessment on the ultimate boundaries of the capital of the Jewish state. In any case, the next day the Prime Minister rescinded the statement of the president of The Czech Republic.

Dershowitz’s argument in defence of the move and his rant against threats of violence, and Beinart’s apoplectic responses to the initiative and fears for “Jewish” lives, both depended on the assessment of a prior issue – was the initiative reasonable? More importantly, was it reasonable now? Canada was not agnostic on this question, even though the Canadian government refrained from criticizing the American initiative. Canada simply reiterated its position that any unilateral initiatives at this time would further complicate the difficulties in advancing the peace process and that our country would refrain from taking any unilateral steps.

The moderate and experienced negotiator on the Palestinian side, Saeb Erekat, backed up by Abbas, did not threaten violence and at least rhetorically called only for peaceful demonstrations. He did pronounce not only the peace process, but even the prospect of a two-state solution, dead. The only possibility, he insisted was now fostering a one state solution with equal rights for both Jews and Palestinians in the whole territory. However, he spoiled his threat by getting the facts wrong in asserting that Donald Trump had recognized a “united” Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump did no such thing.

Dershowitz asked all bystanders not to “be fooled by those who say that the two-state solution is dead or that it is time to adopt a one-state solution.” Why? Because under any resolution, “Jerusalem would be recognized as the capital of Israel and its holiest places would remain under Israeli control.” That may be a realist prophecy. That may even be a realistic policy. But since it was at the heart of the dispute over Jerusalem, it would be all the more reason not to signal a pre-emptive outcome at this time. Even Donald Trump never went that far in putting forth his position. If Donald Trump had done so, if he had kept his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without qualifying that initiative as not preempting any outcome on the borders of Jerusalem that could result from an agreement, then a Palestinian rejection should be viewed as reasonable and not just “the latest excuse by Palestinian leaders to refuse to sit down, negotiate and make the painful compromises necessary for a complete resolution of the outstanding issues.”

However, Dershowitz offered another argument why an initiative, without the qualification of not predetermining the sovereignty over the holy sites, was the reasonable one. It goes back to the point I made at the beginning of this blog that Trump was indeed attentive to previous UN resolutions. “President Trump’s decision merely restores the balance that was undone by President Obama’s decision to engineer a one-sided Security Council Resolution that changed the status quo.” That is, of course, why I criticized the failure of the US, when Obama was already a lame-duck president, to veto the Security Council resolution that Israeli settlements were illegal. The motions of the Security Council, unlike those of the UN General Assembly, do have legal status. With the U.S. landmark decision not to join the other 14 votes in favour of declaring all settlements illegal but to abstain, an initiative was permitted to take place which did preempt declarations on the outcome of the negotiations.

The Obama White House had rationalized its abstention which had far more significance than Donald Trump’s moving the embassy or recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, again without predetermining the borders of Jerusalem. For one, it was accompanied by a press release explaining the American failure to veto the resolution was determined by “the absence of any meaningful peace process.” That meant that the US was declaring Israel to be the main culprit in sabotaging the peace process. But if one defended the Obama initiative and, thereby, its rationale that the peace process had reached a dead end, then Donald Trump’s initiative should have posed no problem since, unlike the UN resolution, there was no presumptions about a final outcome.

Of course there was a presumption in both moves. Both the Obama and the Trump initiatives signaled an understanding of who was to blame for the stalled peace process. The UN resolution went even further in weighing in, not only on the agent to blame, but on the substance of negotiations, for that resolution declared that areas of West Jerusalem, such as French Hill, illegal as well. The resolution stated that Israel’s settlements had been placed “on Palestinian territory,” that the area captured in the 1967 war and occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, was Palestinian, and the occupation had “no legal validity.” Though the resolution only demanded a halt to “all Israeli settlement activities” as “essential for salvaging the two-state solution,” and did not demand a roll-back of previous actions, it made the quest for a two-state solution even more difficult. For the process was now under an international determination that the settlements were illegal and Israel, whichever party formed the government, would resist participating in negotiations that, in advance, undermined the Israel position that the settlements were not illegal.

There was another voice on the left that criticized Trump’s initiative, not for its content, but for failing to demand any quid pro quo from the Israeli government for what is broadly considered to be a bold American move. Tom Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize- winning columnist for The New York Times, seemed to criticize the initiative, not for its substantive content, but for the failure to link the American concession to a demand that Israel halt its settlement activities. For Friedman, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had been understood as a concession that would be offered in return for Israeli concessions on other issues, such as settlements. Trump had awarded Israel a prize a) at a time when Israel did not deserve it; b) without extracting balancing concessions; and c) while offering Palestinians nothing of consequence in exchange.

In fact, the Trump initiative had been accompanied by a number of prior moves in the opposite direction – the expansion of Israel building more housing units on territory on the other side of the Green Line, such as in Gilo, which, under any peace agreement, was expected by all parties to remain part of Israel. There were other moves – the downgrading of the PLO “embassy” in Washington, the withdrawal of financial support by Congress to the Palestinian Authority because of its implicit support for terrorism in awarding recognition and providing the families of these “martyrs” with pensions. This was seen as a move towards defining the PA as a supporter of terror. The ground was being laid for subjecting the PA to US sanctions.

 

To be continued – Those Who Applaud Trump’s Initiative

 

Tomorrow: to be continued – Plaudits for Trump’s Initiative

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Coherent Strategies in Combating Trump

Scattershot versus Coherent Strategies in Combating Trump

by

Howard Adelman

My seventh foil against which I want to put forth my own position is the advice that those opposed to Trumpism rely on the multiplicity of strategies that will emerge from the grass roots. Thomas Friedman responded to Trump’s victory by advocating and promoting “multiple strategies.” I disagree. Not because I believe this will not happen. It will. Many individuals and small groups will respond to their angst, their terror, their despondency at a Trump presidency, not by praying and hoping that the leopard will change his spots, not by hoping that he will self-destruct, for he surely will do that eventually (but at what cost to the rest, to America and to the world?), and some will escape into their inner selves, even if simply by stopping watching news and public affairs shows, and others by choosing exile. There are many who are considering leaving America, mainly but not just immigrants from Muslim countries. Some will even move.

However, none of these personal choices will deal with and confront the problem. They are illusory escapes, perhaps necessary to get some sleep at night. But some detached and unemotional analyses are equally escapist. Last night I broke my vow to stop watching news and public affairs shows. After all, they only churned my stomach, stoked my rage and enhanced my despondency. When a commentator moralizes and advises Trump what he should do, I feel like barfing. As Kant wrote, a belief in morality per se is a precondition of having a moral universe in the first place.

I watched Don Lemon on CNN. Without being present, Trump monopolized the show – his failure to denounce the alt-right, his tweet about the short speech the actors in Hamilton addressed to VP-elect Pence, who respected and defended the right of the actors to say what they did and did not take any personal offence. This was contrary to the president-elect’s denunciation of the speech, declaring it offensive, that it made the theatre an unsafe place and demanding an apology. I could just hear Pence’s brain cells working overtime and salivating at his personal prospects when Donald Trump finally explodes his narcissistic blimp of a body because he has such as thin skin. I believe Pence may be envisioning his succession as he foresees Donald being impeached. The discussion of Trump’s appointees on the Lemon show and of his conflict of interest because of his refusal to place his assets in a blind trust, offered grist to the mill of my indignation, but the moralizing or outrage of the commentators did little to enlighten me in contrast to the one panelist who spent his time to detail some of Trump’s legal and political vulnerabilities.

But I took a lesson from my masochistic self-indulgence. We must be disciplined and not allow ourselves to become obsessed with Donald Trump’s personality and his failings, which only have the effect of increasing his support and his popularity. It was the biggest mistake of the campaign. Donald Trump is not qualified to be president. Donald Trump does not have the temperament to be president. But he is. He won. His personality, however, must be taken as an unchangeable given rather than offer opportunities for moralizing and advising how Trump should behave. He won’t change so forget it. We must simply use whatever is at hand in strategic ways to undermine his hold on the office.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We must focus on alternative policies and programs that have broader and sounder appeal. Donald Trump gained the presidency legitimately according to the existing rules of the game. That must be respected. But not his personality. Not his policies. Not his practices. Focus on the issues and allow his character to be mocked by others.

My preoccupation with climate change and the challenge of Trump in promoting the destruction of the world stirred up in me both despair and desperation, apathy and self-pity. The despair was justified as I thought about how much more of our planet will be destroyed because of Donald Trump, how many fewer refugees would be helped because of Donald Trump, how many more millions would suffer from his policies, and, whereas in the short term his policies of lower taxes and huge infrastructure investments may spur a growth in the economy, the long term increased debt problem will be left to the next president.

But that is exactly what Trump’s pronouncements and policies were intended to do – induce despair. Analysis showed me there were other options. Trump is akin to a Machiavellian tyrant, indifferent to criticism and even hatred, as long as the tyrant or would-be tyrant sows seeds of fear and distrust, thereby preventing or inhibiting coalitions forming to oppose him. If problems are intractable, if we come to believe there is nothing we can do, we are defeated before the horses are out of the gate. Cynicism breeds passivity.

Though I initially reacted emotionally, I eventually recovered and retained my cool. I must think strategically. I must think in positive ways, though I cannot think positively of Donald Trump given both his record, his willfulness and his determination to do what he does and hang the consequences. After all his followers would have elected him, as he claimed, even if he had shot and killed someone on Fifth Avenue in New York.

However, ideological condemnations without concerted action are a non-starter, even when the depiction of The Donald is correct. But so are wait-and-see approaches. One panelist adopted precisely that stance and was forcefully criticized by another panelist. After all, The Donald has not exactly hidden his identity. In fact, it is on constant display in his appointees, in his inclusion of his daughter who is charged with running his business in a meeting with the Prime Minster of Japan. An anarchic approach or a laissez-faire approach to resistance will also fail, with the opposition to Trump in more disarray after two years than now.

Thomas Friedman (TF) has offered another strategy. Let the many flowers of opposition bloom and the myriad of strategies emerge. TF argues that Trump will be more aware of the value of the optics if there’s a groundswell of outcry and opposition. However, and again, one of the data points we have on The Donald, and it’s a big one, is that his ego is the size of a blimp. He may be very thin skinned. But a fight, often ones he instigates, only energizes him. He is not a wilting flower who will leave the field at the outrages he perceives against his presidency. Rather than his not liking the bad press he generates, as long as the press covers him continually and constantly, he will feed off that.

TF advises Americans to continue to make bad press so The Donald will want to create a countervailing response. But look what happened when he responded to a very civilized short speech to Tom Pence with pretended outrage and how that shifted the conversation drastically away from the news that he had paid $25 million to settle the suits against Trump University. Did anyone comment on how cheap he got off, what a sweet deal he had negotiated? The participants in the class action suit will average $4,000 in recompense, a pittance compared to what they shelled out and the suffering they went through. It is no more than the legal fees Donald would have paid out and the expenditure is tax deductible. The amount not only would not come near to covering the plaintiff’s losses but would not even compensate them for the time spent on the suit and opportunity costs they suffered by enrolling in the fraud that was Trump University.

I agree that we need multiple strategies at the same time. But they must be given some coherence. They will need leadership and coordination. They will require a subdivision of labour and talent. They will require prioritization. We will have to decide what is most necessary, what is possible to change, and where our capacities can best be deployed. Most of all, unlike the election in 2016, we must always keep in mind what is at stake – our values and our world.

TF is correct in asking. “Where the leadership is going to come for all this is totally unclear. The Dems are in complete disarray and are going to be so for a while. And the lesson from Occupy is that bottom up won’t sustain itself.” The latter is true, but the former need not be. The Democrats have demonstrated in the past that they can pick themselves off the floor, dust themselves off and organize a comeback. There is no other potential for leadership. The myriad points of opposition will be too disaggregated and too contentious to offer direction.

Further, as the Berlusconi nine-year dynasty in Italy showed, the Italian President survived in office largely because of the incompetence and disarray in the opposition. As Luigi Zingales warned. “If you think presidential term limits and Mr. Trump’s age could save the country from that fate, think again. His tenure could easily turn into a Trump dynasty.”

“When the state entrusts itself with a cause – whether based around religion or ethnic identity [in this case, male white nationalism] – citizens are no longer individuals pursuing their own conception of the good life; they are part of a larger brotherhood, entrusted with a mission to reshape society.”

TF is correct on other grounds. “Liberals have a real problem with this, which is why they have trouble with the politics of meaning, especially the kind that served up neoliberalism techno-solutions that no one understands to large scale problems (and why Obamacare, despite the hopes when it passed, has proven so unpopular). No one actually feels the horror of climate change because Hillary dressed it as ‘belief in science.’ Actually, you could rescript it as belief in the planet, belief in your kids, belief in the beaches you like to walk on or belief that someone else’s village in Africa should not have to empty out just because we can’t think of another way of stopping the emptying out of West Virginia.”

But this tact fails because it repeats the tendencies to place the blame primarily on Hillary’s shortcomings when those shortcomings compared to her strengths were the least of the problems in opposing Trump. Further, if we shift the blame and the responsibility, in the end, the result will be more frazzled nerves, an inadequate and incomplete analysis and an inchoate and very vague counter-strategy stressing crying out and protests, the very methods that my first correspondent several blogs ago regarded as futile.

We must recognize the strength of Donald Trump. He may not read at all, he may have a concentration span of no more than fifteen minutes, he may be a fabulist far more prone to spreading myths than enunciating the truth, but his gut instincts are very strong. And Trump is magnetic, not only to his supporters, but to the chattering classes. After all, look at how few recognized his power while being sucked into being entranced by it, even its ugliness. Liberalism may be flabby, but it’s all we have. But Liberalism will be like a phoenix rising from the ashes, as it always has been, when confronted with that which threatens its very existence, our values and our political culture.

So where do we start? Not with Hillary. Not with the shortcomings of the Democratic Party. We have to start with recognising what we did wrong. We have to acknowledge that among the large cohort of committed people, most of us were complacent. I could offer the excuse that I am a Canadian and was only watching the election from a distance. But that is a cop out. If I thought the future of the world was at stake, why did I not volunteer and go work in the election. I went south in the sixties to help in the civil rights movement. And I had much less time then. After all, I am now retired. I have the time. I went to an Obama meeting in Princeton back in 2007. In this election, I contented myself with commenting and criticizing from the sidelines.

So I have to start by analyzing why I allowed myself to be fooled by the polls, why I slipped into squelching my fears and expanding my hope. The Obama doctrine had, as such ideas are wont to do, turned in on itself. And all of Obama’s and Hillary’s pleas about the urgency of turning out to vote, insisting that the outcome was now in our court, counted for too little. Hillary perhaps could not arouse our enthusiasm. But Trump did, but for the wrong goals and policies. Was that not sufficient reason to motivate ourselves? Why blame the leader?

Further, we must not substitute hope for a fear that we can bring that change about. We must believe in a better future and not simply hope for one. We must detour around despair and work out the solutions we must bring to bear on the myriad of problems.

After we faced up to and acknowledge our own failings – and the above just hints at my own – we have to create small communities of opposition and dissent where critiques, tactics, strategies and priorities can be considered. We have to share our thoughts. For politics in the end is always a communal and not an individual enterprise. Shared beliefs, convictions and practices are the foundation of politics and provide the glue to fight for change and the achievement of new goals.

Most important, though these initial suggestions are preconditions, we have to reach out and get to know those who voted for Trump. For many who supported him were correct in being angry at our indifference to and our sense of superiority over them. We have to go to the suburbs, go to the small towns and engage the other in conversation, learn who they are and the source of their discontent at the direction and speed of globalization and the threats they experience to the way of life they have and that they feel is under threat. We have to learn why one Trump supporter voted for the Donald because he spoke like him and shot from the hip in expressing his gut feelings rather than conclusions resulting from considered analysis of actual facts. We have to learn to listen and hear and to translate what we hear into workable policies.

In parallel, we must prepare for non-violent guerilla warfare. We know that Donald Trump will move to eviscerate policies and programs dedicated to combating climate change. Most targets have already been identified. We must look at the myriad of legal and political ways those attacks can be disrupted and slowed down. At the same time, we must recognize that some policies of Donald Trump may unintentionally favour the battle against human induced climate change, such as some approaches to deregulation. We must not assume that government regulation is an idol, the be-all and end-all of how to deal with climate change. And if private sector initiatives can help in the battle, then that help should be solicited. If the biggest oil and gas field in the U.S. has just been identified in Texas that is of excellent quality, then we cannot simply denounce fossil fuels. We must recognize their attraction, recognize the power of the interests behind their development, recognize that those who drive long distances to and from work want cheap fuel, and, most of all, we must identify the competitive advantage of recyclable sources of energy when operating on a level playing field and even identify to what degree and where existing fossil fuel stocks can complement the development of wind and solar energy.

This analysis must take place across the board. We know that Donald Trump will try, at the very least, to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal. We must identify legitimate areas that need attention, try to determine what may be negotiable, clearly spell out a bottom line even if it means siding with the Iranians, and, most of all, recognize the threat of the Iranian deep regime, not only because of nuclear arms, not only through the use of conventional weapons and support of “terrorists” and insurrectionists, but the threat to Iran’s own citizens. When the militants in the regime can organize and arrest most of the participants in negotiating the deal as “traitors” while the government in power signed the deal, then you know you have a formidable foe.

The same applies to every other field, mainly free trade and immigration. Trump can certainly be expected to act against both. Further, there are some areas on which Trump initiatives may have the packaging of left initiatives – such as Trump’s plans to go on an infrastructure building program. Investments in public transportation, roads, bridges, sewers, clean water and sewage plants, will generate economic activity, increase productivity and provide an additional source for taxes.

But the infrastructure program is one in name only, and not even one necessarily designed to produce jobs. After all, Ronald Klain, who oversaw the implementation of Obama’s infrastructure initiative in 2009, dubs Donald Trump’s infrastructure program a sham and a trap. The infrastructure program is “not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors” by providing tax breaks for private-sector investors, even on projects already approved, even on ones already underway. Some of the most needed infrastructure will not be repaired under the program – obsolete sewer systems and water works with lead piping. Since taxes will be definitely cut to help the very rich, deficits will increase sending interest rates higher thus endangering home ownership for young recent buyers.

In undertaking such a task, we must forgive our compatriots their failings, and even forgive ourselves. We are all fallible. To some extent, we are propelled by self-interest making a communal effort very difficult. We will also make many mistakes. But we must learn from the dot.com firms and learn to understand that in politics, leadership should go to those with vision who can tolerate risk and participants in the enterprise must be nourished in a culture that respects and even encourages risk. Commitment is a visionary enterprise. And it is the best way to defeat despair even when the hurdles are many and the prospect of many failures must be faced.

At the same time, there must be a focus on underlying political structures. The American system with its democratic monarch in the form of a very powerful president that traditional checks and balances most often controlled, will be imperilled by Donald Trump “doing his own thing.” The opposition must become conservatives who uphold traditions that protect democracy and human rights and do not pave the way for a rise of tyrants. On this and other themes, dissension among Republicans can be fostered.

Trump’s narcissism can play into the opposition’s hands. Throw a spotlight on the fact that, whether it is his VP or his nominees for various offices, Donald Trump does not take the time to introduce them to the public in an expansive way, but does so casually and informally lest the sun shine on another. Use such opportunities to stage alternative introductory sessions with expert guests to comment on the qualities of the appointees. Senator Jeff Sessions was named with a four-sentence quote delivered by email and without any statement of vision for the Department of Justice. Trump attends rallies that will reinvigorate him, not formal sessions of introduction that will inform the public further about his direction and ideas. Trump can be supported in some areas that put him at odds with economic conservatives, such as the reinstatement of the Glass-Seagall Act separating commercial and investment banking.

There are other very tough areas, like Israel/Palestine, where the division of the opposition is at risk. In such areas, careful consideration of all possibilities, realist appraisals of each of them and the search for a solution that is both principled and practical in light of the changing circumstances must be sought. Develop global partnerships with like-minded Europeans, Asians and South Americans.
Fight on the ground and in the trenches – such as over the extensive areas of conflict of interest – where there are reams of opportunities for legal and political challenges, from the use of Trump hotels for meetings and hosting overseas guests in them to the risk to foreign policy decisions because of Trump’s interests in that state. Use technology and, particularly, social and free media, much more wisely. Democrats outspent Trump 2:1 in media advertising while Trump used free media and had much more television exposure than Hillary.

Finally, pick a leader earlier, much earlier before the next round of congressional elections two years hence. Pick the transition team early as well so that the election is a vote for a group and not just an individual. Learn the role of a shadow cabinet from parliamentary democracies.

And be encouraged that this is but one of many pieces of advice on offer.

Hope Springs Eternal…for Americans – But Not for Me

Hope Springs Eternal…for Americans – But Not for Me

by

Howard Adelman

“Trump’s election means new fears and new uncertainties that can only be countered by reaching out, digging deep, and finding new hope.”
Brittany, on behalf of the Leadnow.ca team in Canada

Natalie, an old anti-nuclear ally and good friend of my oldest son, wrote me this note:
Dear Howard, I think Jeremy is right–we may well have won with Bernie Saunders as a candidate. Rabbi Jill Jacobs of Truah writes that this is time to mourn, but it is also a time to think what we can do to protect the human and democratic values we hold dear and to protect our human fellows against war and our dear world against extinction. Chandler and I, older than you (I turned 88 yesterday as well), have lived through terrible times, and were buoyed by thinking what can we do and working with others to try to do it. That’s all we can do, try to keep the flame of hope alive.

Natalie

We are now feeling the after-shocks of the American election. Dramatically falling stock prices. The Mexican peso fell to its lowest level ever. My children who are American citizens (3 out of 6) are in mourning, as is everyone they know along the East Coast, A student of one broke down in tears. For another, the whole faculty, without pre-planning, came to teach in black. Foreign Policy on the morning after wrote, “We were wrong about Trump’s electoral prospects, thinking he had little to no chance to win. Is it possible we were wrong about Trump’s governing prospects?” and then went on: “For the sake of our nation and the world, we hope so.”

But that is the problem. Hope blinded us to the tsunami we faced. We believed our tea leaf readers and other prognosticators instead of walking about in the suburbs, exurbs and backfields of America. West Virginia was one of the first states to fall into Donald Trump’s lap. Larissa MacFarquar in The New Yorker in the 10 October 2016 issue went to Logan County and spent time talking to Trump supporters. In her article, “In the Heart of Trump County,” she asked how did West Virginia transform from a Democratic state to one that voted Republican? She did not unpack the scandal-ridden politics of the Democratic Party in West Virginia and the voter bribing as revealed in the FBI sting in Logan County in 2004 that revealed Thomas Esposito, the four-term mayor of Logan County, to be corrupt and could be used as a decoy to trap other corrupt officials. And there were plenty. For example, Danny Wells, the Magistrate (not to be confused with Danny Bundy Wells who was elected to the West Virginia Senate in 2004) received an eight-year prison term for taking bribes.

Instead, MacFarquar interviewed a third generation descendent of Muslims (Rick Abraham), a Latino (Richard Ojeda whose grandfather came from the Pacific coast of Mexico), a Black (Reggie Jones) and a white Protestant male (Brandon Kirk). All four had deep roots in Logan County. Rick Abraham, had a blown-up portrait of Hillary Clinton behind bars. Abraham “knew” Clinton was a crook. Democrats were all crooks had become the received wisdom. On the other hand, Keith Judd in 2012 in the Democratic primary defeated Barack Obama in the county even though he was a felon serving a 17.5-year sentence for extortion.

“Like most West Virginians, Rick Abraham was angry with the President for hastening the decline of the coal industry with what he regarded as excessive environmental regulation. Like most Trump voters, he considered Obamacare a scourge, and since he selects insurance policies for Mine Lifeline’s forty-odd employees…”

There are no immigrants in West Virginia. But the residents of the county resent refugees because they appear to receive entitlements that these third and fourth and fifth generation Americans do not. They do not resent them because they are Muslims or because they fear they are terrorists. They believe strongly in community and home; they are convinced that strong borders define a home. But they were not interested in sending the immigrants who had arrived illegally back home. They simply regarded Trump’s statements on this issue as opening bargaining chips in making a deal. His pomposity and arrogance were also regarded as devices to distinguish Trump from the other 16 candidates trying to become the Republican standard bearer. Further, Trump promised to support the coal industry; Hillary Clinton promised to bring clean renewable energy to West Virginia. They trusted Trump and the old ways rather than bet on empty promises of politicians. They also did not want monies spent on foreign wars, money that could be used to help West Virginia recover.

There was also the difference in the way they saw Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton. Obama was a leader who began by getting inside their head space and then worked to reconcile that position with his own. Hillary Clinton, who called Donald Trump a promoter of division, was herself a divider. “Clinton, on the other hand, always describes herself as a fighter, and it is her style to draw sharp lines between right and wrong—between people who are being oppressed and the people doing the oppressing. This style can make it sound as though she thinks people who disagree with her on immigration are probably racists.”

Further, Hilary relied on a swarm of talent. Donald Trump seemed to present himself as primarily relying on his family. And the people of Logan County loved family. Brandon Kirk, a historian, focused on local life. Further, he came from a family of Republicans but was thinking of registering as an independent. Traditional political ties were becoming unknotted all over the place. But Kirk still planned to vote for Trump, primarily because of all the poverty around and how it has been ignored by Democrats and Republicans in Washington. Why not bet on a wild card, someone who comes to politics entirely from the outside? The four were not ignorant, were not racists, and were not appalled by the idea of a female president or a black president. Though they wanted the immigrant and refugee intake controlled, they were not suspicious and frightened of immigrants and Muslims.

So what does this tell us? Other than the broad strokes about groups more oriented to Trump rather than Clinton – white males without a college education (by 50 points), white females without a college education (Trump had 23 points on this group ahead of Clinton), it seems that the Trump supporters are varied, though more support comes from rural areas and small towns than big urban areas, from the less educated compared to the college educated. Trump forged an energetic enthusiastic mass movement of Trump Democrats.

David Wong, Executive Editor of Cracked on 12 October wrote a very insightful piece: “how Half of America Lost Its F**king Mind.” (http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-one-talks-about/) To him, Trump supporters “voted for the brick through the window. It was a vote of desperation.” “You’ve never rooted for somebody like that? Someone powerful who gives your enemies the insults they deserve? Somebody with big fun appetites who screws up just enough to make them relatable? Who only get shit done because they don’t care about the rules?”

Let me offer a few additional quotes.

The theme expresses itself in several ways — primitive vs. advanced, tough vs. delicate, masculine vs. feminine, poor vs. rich, pure vs. decadent, traditional vs. weird. All of it is code for rural vs. urban.

See, political types talk about “red states” and “blue states” (where red = Republican/conservative and blue = Democrat/progressive), but forget about states. If you want to understand the Trump phenomenon, dig up the much more detailed county map. Here’s how the nation voted county by county in the 2012 election — again, red is Republican:

Every TV show is about LA or New York, maybe with some Chicago or Baltimore thrown in. When they did make a show about us, we were jokes — either wide-eyed, naive fluffballs (Parks And Recreation, and before that, Newhart) or filthy murderous mutants (True Detective, and before that, Deliverance). You could feel the arrogance from hundreds of miles away.

If you’d asked me at the time [when David Wong lived in a small town], I’d have said the fear and hatred wasn’t of people with brown skin, but of that specific tribe they have in Chicago — you know, the guys with the weird slang, music and clothes, the dope fiends who murder everyone they see. It was all part of the bizarro nature of the cities, as perceived from afar — a combination of hyper-aggressive savages and frivolous white elites. Their ways are strange. And it wasn’t like pop culture was trying to talk me out of it.
It’s not just perception, either — the stats back up the fact that these are parallel universes. People living in the countryside are twice as likely to own a gun and will probably get married younger. People in the urban “blue” areas talk faster and walk faster. They are more likely to be drug abusers but less likely to be alcoholics. The blues are less likely to own land and, most importantly, they’re rural.

Cities live in the future; small towns live in the past.

Terror victims scream in the street next to their own severed limbs, and the response from the elites is to cry about how men should be allowed to use women’s restrooms and how it’s cruel to keep chickens in cages.

Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down — the fact that hard work is better than dependence on government, that children do better with both parents in the picture, that peace is better than rioting, that a strict moral code is better than blithe hedonism, that humans tend to value things they’ve earned more than what they get for free, that not getting exploded by a bomb is better than getting exploded by a bomb.

Or as they say out in the country, “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies… they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying.

These are people who come from a long line of folks who took pride in looking after themselves. Where I’m from, you weren’t a real man unless you could repair a car, patch a roof, hunt your own meat, and defend your home from an intruder. It was a source of shame to be dependent on anyone — especially the government. You mowed your own lawn and fixed your own pipes when they leaked, you hauled your own firewood in your own pickup truck.

Step outside of the city, and the suicide rate among young people fucking doubles. The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed… hopelessness eats you alive.

Hopelessness eats you alive. So what do liberal Hillary supporters tell one another. Keep your hopes up as they experience hopelessness as well. Langston Hughes in his 1935 poem, “Let America Be America,” wrote: “I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart. I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars. . . I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek — and finding only the same old stupid plan of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.”

Why did Democrats not know this group better, appeal to them more directly, offer policies that would actually improve their lot as well as touch them? Why did these Trump supporters give the intellectual and policy elites the middle finger?

This is how Michael Brenner summed it up in an email to me:

What follows are just a few tentative suggestions on how to proceed once we get our bearings.

1. This should not be a surprise – except in the sense that the final outcome was not predicated by the pollsters. Being off by a few percentage points in nothing compared to having missed the signs of the bigger phenomenon. The causes of the American political system’s unravelling are multiple and tangled together.

The failure to pay them due attention was itself symptomatic of a political culture that has degenerated progressively over the past few decades. Public discourse lost coherence, norms that set boundaries of the permissible in content and language were erased, the media lost their way in the maelstrom of the wider, celebrity-focused pop culture, and the leaders of institutions – private, professional, and public – abrogated their responsibilities as de facto custodians of intellectual and political integrity.

2. America’s political elites betrayed the people. Republicans shredded the post-WW II consensus on the parameters of public policy and governance; they abandoned the basic civility that is a critical part of the software of democracy; they indulged the haters and racists of the Tea Party by entering into a merge-and-acquisition deal; and they embraced fully the emerging plutocracy. Democrats ignored the magnitude of the challenge; appeased it out of meekness, lack of belief in their own traditional values, and the promotion of superficial careerists to positions of party leadership; selling out their natural constituents for access to big donors; and then tied their fate to a fatally flawed candidate.

3. America’s elites and political class generally either encouraged or passively acquiesced in the transformation of American society from one characterized by openness, opportunity, economic fairness and decency, and legal equality into one whose distinguishing features are gross inequality, social rigidity, economic insecurity, and privilege for that stratum with the financial means and clout to game the system. Thereby, they discredited the so-called “American Dream” – the package of beliefs so central to both individual self-esteem and the civic contract.

4. America’s elites and political class have worked overtime since 9/11 to sow fear and anxiety among the populace. That has exacerbated greatly the emotional insecurities stemming from the other socio-econ-cultural conditions noted above. The country has been living in a state of collective psychosis associated with the “War On Terror.” That has helped to prepare the psychological ground from the irrational behavior that reached its climax yesterday.

Why was it anticipated that it was the Republican Party that would have to be patched up and put back together when it appears that this applies to the Democratic Party? I believe that I, for one, was wrong about Bernie Sanders – not about who he is and what he stands for, but on the need to rely on him to run a more populist program that could defeat Trump? I was part of the complacency and arrogance that resulted in a major misjudgement.

Now defeated, Democrats and liberals want to rely on hope, on the spirit that they can win on another day. What can you do except rely on hope, except rely on the checks and balances system of the American government, except rely on the return of hope with the dawning of a new day? Marc Fisher in The Washington Post wrote, “Every chapter in the American story so far has resolved into hope. The Civil War birthed Reconstruction. The riots and generational strife of the 1960s settled into sweeping social and cultural change.” But with the rapid acceleration of climate change and the growth in power of the deniers, the sliver of hope is closing fast and darkness is once again on the face of the deep. If Donald Trump could show he could thumb his nose at his Republican colleagues, if almost all, one by one, came crawling back, if not to join his movement, at least to accede to his new authority, what will these supine power-hungry men not do now? The world has a high-risk gambler running the United States after 22 January 2017. Unlike our ex-mayor, Rob Ford in Toronto, there is no evidence that The Donald takes drugs. He does not even drink or smoke. Therefore, we cannot even hope he will simply implode in his first two years.

Donald Trump remains unfit, unfit in terms of experience, unfit in terms of his personality, and unfit in his lack of principles. But look at the logic of the eternal hopers that Americans constitutionally are even when they elect a man like Donald Trump as their president. After all, if the prognosticators were wrong about Donald’s chances, if they were wrong time after time about his possibility of winning, and if he proved them wrong once again on election night in America in 2016, are they now wrong in questioning their assessment of what kind of president Donald Trump will be? To hope that he will be other than who he is makes Americans not only optimists but fools.

Because Donald Trump, whatever his faults, only tried to repress his faults for a very few weeks in the campaign. Now he is totally free of the constraints of his handlers. And anyone who believes that the instruments of checks and balances in America will hold him are deluding themselves. The Republican-controlled Congress has show that it is made up largely of supine supplicants. Even John McCain, a man of outstanding courage, folded well before the end.

And what about the members of the chattering class? Because Donald Trump is “now our president-elect, he has now our initial support.” What madness! Because Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto, how does it follow that he should have any reasonable person’s support? “We continued to believe he will have to change in same fundamental ways,” wrote Foreign Affairs. Thomas Friedman, as far as you can get from being a slouch among media pundits, in yesterday’s NYT wrote, “Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones. I can only hope that he does. Because if he doesn’t, all of you who voted for him — overlooking all of his obvious flaws — because you wanted radical, disruptive change, well, you’re going to get it.”

Not just them, Tom, all of us! And if you can only hope that he does change, your hope is fool’s gold. Donald Trump has shown unequivocally that he does not have to change at all. It is he who has and will change America. “He will need to put the nation’s interest ahead of his own,” wrote Foreign Affairs. Why? Has he ever? He deeply believes his interests are America’s interests. It was an urban myth that Charlie Wilson, formerly the head of General Motors and then Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense, had said that, “What is good for General Motors is good for America.” (In fact, he said that the interest of government and the private sector were mutually reinforcing.) But it is Trump’s belief that what is good for Donald Trump is good for America.

To suggest to such a man that, “He will have to study policies more and polls less.” Why? He has shown that he could trust his instincts more than any of the conclusions of pundits. In any case, he has shown that he is incapable of studying. Further, he never studied the polls. He railed against them as part of a rigged system. And on that he was, to a degree, correct. To hope that he will listen to people who disagree with him is to mistake a man who surrounds himself with supplicants and sycophants for an intelligent and considerate leader.

He can and will be suave. He can be personally charming. And he will work across the aisle, but on his terms. He is, after all, the subject matter of the art of the deal and its pretended author. He can and probably will unify Congress, but only because there are many supplicants on the other side of the aisle as empty of principles as he is. Asking him to reach out!!! Are you kidding? When he reaches out it will be to glad hand and pat another on the back while suggesting that if they do not cow tow, he will reach out with a clenched fist and an irascible voice.

Why would he now reach out to the foreign policy experts from all parts of the political spectrum when they spurned and disdained him? And he disdained them in turn. He will get enough of them to come on board as window dressing, but it is not they who will determine the direction and conduct of foreign policy. Donald Trump will.

Foreign Policy wrote, “We hope the Trump inner circle will reward competence and experience, and not just enthusiastic loyalty. And we hope our friends will heed the call.” Bunkum! More misplaced hope. Donald Trump will only reward those with enough competence to do his bidding. The reality is that Americans have chosen a president who is a regressive strongman, much like what is taking place in many countries across the planet. And it is not because we or Americans are under hard times. The American economy, if not roaring ahead, was not sputtering either. And the average Trump supporter was not in dire straits. He or she earned an average of $72,000 a year. Now that Trump is elected, the only thing we should follow about Trump is his dystopic view of the world because he will bring about what he already professed to see.

Trump, as one pundit perceived correctly, is a man of “factious tempers, of local prejudices and sinister designs,” using the words of one of the founding fathers. That kind of soothsayer and snake oil salesman was precisely the man the founding fathers feared might rise in America. And all their brilliant efforts to prevent that outcome did not work. Donald Trump is president-elect. He washed the floor with his Republican opponents. He beat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College decisively against all predictions, even his own.

Donald Trump remains a pathological liar, a delusional narcissist, an exemplification of high risk and erratic behaviour. Don’t allow the optimistic belief of Americans that hope springs eternal to pull the wool over your eyes once again. The reality is that America is a democratic monarchy. It elects its kings (or queens). It looks to its leaders for strength in governing and not for wisdom or intelligence. Strength is what they have always wanted. And strength is what they have in spades from a man who has never served in any legislative or government administrative position, who always managed to avoid rather than serve in the military. He may praise veterans for their valour and sacrifice, he may praise generals for their dedication, but he would only boss the military not serve within it. For to do so involves a willingness to make sacrifices.

David Remnick wrote the following in an op-ed piece for the online The New Yorker when Donald Trump was declared winner of the election. In an article entitled “An American Tragedy,” he wrote: “In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the ‘innate wisdom’ and ‘essential decency’ of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory.”

“The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

Hillary Clinton, pushing back tears, tried to normalize events. Whereas Trump had announced that the contest was only worth it if he won, Hillary lost and insisted that “fighting for what’s right is worth it.” But she too fell in line with standard rhetoric and urged everyone to get behind our president, Donald Trump. Nevertheless, she urged her supporters to fight on, rise to fight another day, stay together and work together. The ideology of hope and hard work was still a fundamental trait of the American body politic. But how is this possible when the American electorate has chosen, through a majority of votes in the Electoral College, Donald Trump?

Tom Friedman wrote, “Unlike the Republican Party for the last eight years, I am not going to try to make my president fail. If he fails, we all fail. So yes, I will hope (my italics) that a better man emerges than we saw in this campaign.” But he will fail. The question is what can be done to try our best so that the rest of us do not go down with the ship of state? We can blame the media for turning an election contest into entertainment, for exhausting us with repeated attention to the insignificant. We can blame ourselves for not seeing more, for not trying harder, for not recognizing the necessity of Bernie Saunders. We can despair and become convinced that Western civilization is nearing collapse and, therefore, this earthly ecosystem is beginning to collapse. The resentment, fear and anger of Trump’s followers have now shifted. It now fuels the demonstrations of the young across America.

Will hope do the job? No. That is more claptrap coming out of the same mindblindness of the pundits. They deluded us then with hope. I do not intend to allow hope to delude me now. Though I desperately look around for answers, I will not pretend that hope can save us from drowning.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Jews for Donald Trump

Jews for Donald Trump

by

Howard Adelman

Arutz Sheva, identified with the National Religious Party in Israel, with the Israeli settlement movement, and with a history of consistent opposition to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), is an Israeli media outlet which includes Channel 7 and B’Sheva, an Israeli weekend newspaper with the third largest circulation in the country. Following its reports on the presidential campaign in the United States provides a number of insights. Begin with the coverage of the standard prayer invocations at the Republican Party Convention held in Cleveland from 18-21 July.

Prayers came from all faiths. Msgr. Kieran Harrington on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church reminded Republicans in a clearly political speech that “all human life is important.” As another example, a Sikh prayer was delivered on the second night in Punjabi, subsequently translated into English, by Harmeet Dhillon, a lifelong Republican and the daughter of a Sikh-American orthopedic surgeon. She called for unity among Republicans, asking them to have the “courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those with whom we disagree, for the greater good of our nation.” However, when she was editor-in-chief of the conservative student newspaper, The Dartmouth Review, in October 1988, she was very divisive. She published a satirical column by James Garrett likening the president of Dartmouth College (a Jew, James O. Freedman) to Adolf Hitler and calling the results of university policies a Holocaust. Allan Gold in an op-ed in The New York Times (5 November 1988) noted that the headline read, “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Freedmann,” echoing the Nazi slogan, ”One Empire, One People, One Leader (Fuhrer).” Dhillon denied the charges thrown at her of anti-Semitism, but, at the very least, like her contemporary leader, Donald Trump, both of their remarks and the strong defence of them instead of an apology may have smacked more of gross insensitivity.

“The Jewish prayer became controversial when a very well known and highly respected rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, rabbi of the modern Orthodox Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City for almost sixty years and principal of the Ramaz School for fifty years – now emeritus of both – was originally designated to offer the Jewish prayer at the Republican Convention. He withdrew. Lookstein was the rabbi who converted Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, to Judaism and officiated at her wedding to Jared Kushner. Both were his congregants and Ivanka had invited him to deliver the prayer.

At the same time, the conversion of another American married to an Israeli, whose certificate Rabbi Lookstein signed, was rejected by the local rabbinate court in her husband’s hometown, Petach Tikva in Israel, setting off the controversy within Jewish orthodox circles between the bona fide orthodoxy of American versus Israeli rabbis and the issue of whether orthodox Jewish conversions in America were kosher. The issue was not over Ivanka Trump’s conversion because her conversion was sanctioned by a “networked” beis or beit din, a Jewish rabbinical court, while the controversial case was not sanctified by the GPS Rabbinic Court in Manhattan.

However, the bona fide of Lookstein’s orthodoxy was not offered as the explanation for his withdrawal, but rather the pressure he had come under by his former students of Ramaz. “To embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught. As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the Modern Orthodox community; this is a shanda [shame] beyond the pale,” wrote Jacob Savage responding to Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border and temporarily ban Muslims from entry into the U.S. His petition urging withdrawal, or, alternatively, an explanation rooted in Jewish values, had 800 signatures urging that withdrawal. Lookstein did withdraw, professing his political innocence and non-involvement. Rabbi Ari Wolf, a relatively unknown orthodox Ohio police “chaplain,” was named as his replacement.

In spite of that initial reversal, Donald Trump received relatively favourable treatment in the orthodox Jewish press, particularly through the media outlets controlled by Arutz Sheva. The convention itself marked an important turning point in the American presidential race because, according to many pollsters as reported by Arutz Sheva, Donald Trump, benefiting from the Convention “bounce,’ pulled even with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

This celebration of Donald Trump’s improvement in the polls was recently reiterated when Arutz Sheva reported that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump had shrunk to 3% (6 August 2016) according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, though when one read the full article, the headline was undermined when the piece mentioned that CBS poll reported a 7% lead and a CNN/ORC poll reported the lead as 9%. Careful reading indicated the polls more favourable to Clinton were conducted with “registered” voters as distinct for “likely voters” polled by Reuters. The precipitous drop in Trump’s support was attributed largely to his denigration of the gold star parents of a fallen American Muslim war hero who had appeared at the Democratic Convention and criticized Trump’s attack on Muslims. As well, Trump’s squabbles with the Republican Party establishment had also not helped. Making up to the Republican Party and endorsing House Speaker, Paul Ryan, and others, and dropping his feud with the Khans, were given credit for the bounce back, though not much of a bounce according to most polls.

Though the reporting tended to be balanced once the bias of the headlines and the lead to the story were discounted, most op-eds in Arutz Sheva appeared to be highly critical of Hillary Clinton and generally favourable to Donald Trump. David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with the Kasowitz law firm and a close confidante of Donald Trump as well as his adviser on Israeli affairs, publicly declared that Donald Trump would, upon winning the presidency, withdraw American support for the two-state solution, move the American embassy to Jerusalem, put more pressure on the Palestinian Authority and end U.S. economic “coddling” of the PA (seemingly in contradiction to Trump’s early statements in his primary campaign that he would remain neutral in dealing with Palestinians and Israelis), and withdraw the designation of Israeli settlement activity as “unhelpful” in fostering peace and certainly not endorse any characterization of the settlements as illegal. Friedman went further and declared in Trump style, without proffering any evidence, that Hillary would be “terrible” for Israel, and had no love for the Jewish state.

Barak Obama (as well as Hillary Clinton) has been harshly critical of continuing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” Obama, however, has not strayed from the continuing American established policy that settlement activity was not defined as a violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords or their subsequent implementation agreements, and is neither illegal nor in violation of the letter of the Oslo Accords and its supplements. Eliot Abrams, President Bush’ national security advisor, wrote on 8 April 2009 that the specific guidelines negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel merely stated that any settlement activity would not diminish the territory the Palestinian Authority would get in any peace agreement. In any case, the settlements, even with their expansion as a result of national growth, consist of less than 2% of the territory of the West Bank. However, most international observers go further than Obama and Clinton and regard the expansion of the settlements as not only illegitimate in violating the spirit of Oslo because they undercut the prospect of peace, but also regard them as illegal according to international law.

But what a radical shift Donald Trump would make on Israeli policy, assuming that Friedman has articulated Trump policy correctly. “Trump policy first and foremost is to trust Israel that they know what they are doing. They are not a client state of the United States. They are a partner with the United States in a global war on terrorism. We trust our partner and we want our partner to be secure and safe. We trust them to do the right thing.” Reflexive support of a two-state solution would no longer be a premise in American foreign policy since it has proven to be a failure if Trump were to be elected.

On 22 July 2016, Ben Ariel published an article in Arutz Sheva headlined, “Trump: Clinton’s legacy doesn’t have to be America’s legacy.” He repeated Trump’s condemnations of Clinton’s polices while she was Secretary of State in Libya, and with Iran., Egypt and Syria. “In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS wasn’t on the map. Egypt was stable. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was somewhat under control. After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region and around the world. Libya is in ruins. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to take control. Iran is on a path to nuclear war. Syria is engulfed in war.” Trump ran as the candidate of law and order, of America first, of making America great again. The report captured and summarized Trump’s speech, but there was no fat check of his assertions – such as, “America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” (In a report by KPMG in 2013, in a comparison of 114 states, the U.S. ranked 55 in comparing personal tax rates around the world.)

Yet an article by David Rosenberg on 24 July 2016 reinforced Trump’s message when it was headlined, “Could Clinton’s VP pick hurt her chances with Israel supporters,” as if all supporters of Israel opposed the nuclear deal. At the same time, an op-ed by Jack Engelhard appeared entitled, “Trump’s speech was huge.” This paragraph in the article is typical of his vociferous cheerleading for Trump. Fact-checking was labelled merely “nitpicking.” “Trump delivered the goods for nearly every segment of American society, and true Zionists who wanted a good word about Israel got it when he named Israel as ‘our greatest ally in the region.’ This drew sustained applause from the packed house. Among Democrats, meaning Liberals, such talk usually gets jeers.”

In another op-ed piece in the same issue, Rabbi Dov Fischer, who gives himself the tile of Prof. Dov Fischer even though he is only an adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, in an op-ed article entitled, “I think I understand Trump,” explained Trump’s delivery of the longest nomination acceptance speech at any convention as a means to undercut all his naysayers on the three main commercial networks who might otherwise devote the time to dissecting and criticizing the speech if it were shorter. There were no criticisms of the speech in Arutz Sheva. Other than these two pro-Trump op-eds for Trump, there were no critiques let alone analyses of Trump’s speech, only one reasonably objective report, but under a distorting headline, and one anti-Kaine diatribe under the guise of reporting.

Just when one would expect objective reporting on the Democratic Convention, all one could read was one attack after another on the Democratic presidential team. The attack on Kaine continued in the next issue (25 July 2016) headlined, “Clinton VP tapped pro-terror Muslim leader (Esam Omeish) for immigration seat,” with an on-line video clip of a pro-jihadi speech that Omeish gave. In 2007 (my italics), Governor Kaine of Virginia had appointed Omeish to Virginia’s Immigration Commission, though, after learning more about him, he pressured Omeish to resign, which Omeish did. The story was a denunciation of Omeish and, by extension and association, Kaine, even though it was really about an inadequate vetting process. Omeish had been vice-president of the Dar Al Hirjah mosque and responsible for hiring the radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a U.S drone in 2011 in Yemen. Two of the 9/11 terrorists attended that mosque. Another op-ed piece by Stanley Zir was a vitriolic attack against Obama for allowing the theft under his watch of America’s identity as a Great Nation.

The 27 July issue included anther op-ed by Jack Engelhard with the headline, “Hillary flees to sanctuary city, Philadelphia. He pronounced that Hillary had won over her audience, not by her brilliance but “wore them down through exhaustion” as he repeated the usual Trump litany of accusations against Hillary. “It’s how the Clintons do it – they beat you into submission. They’ve spent (ill-gotten) millions crowding out anyone who might be more qualified. As for Hillary, throughout her shady past, has she ever met a payroll? Yes, but mostly for herself, her foundation and her cronies.” While Ben Sales gave a reasonable, if very brief, report of Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton, Ben Sales wrote that, “Sanders’ delegates not listening,” a statement that proved to be totally false in subsequent polls.

In the next issue, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld wrote a rebuke of the petitioners who “forced” Rabbi Haskel Lookstein to withdraw offering a benediction at the Republican convention, which he insisted was always politically neutral, though anyone with the least knowledge knows that it is not. He asked rhetorically in a rebuke, “how about the Chillul Hashem [desecrating the name of God] of publicly humiliating a rabbi – your rabbi – in the media? What about the Chillul Hashem of a massive rebuke to someone who could be the next President of the United States? What about the mitzvah of ‘v’ahavtem es hage. You must love the convert’? Don’t you think your actions were a public humiliation of Ivanka, the Jewish daughter of the ‘anti-Semite’ Donald Trump?” What is worse, comparing the criticism of a rabbi and of the Republican presidential candidate to profaning God’s name, or comparing university policy to a Holocaust? I personally find it hard to choose which is the worst, but they are both of the same order.

The overt bias against Obama and Clinton and the overt favouritism towards Donald Trump continued in issue after issue. The same 28 July issue included a repetition of an accusation by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham that, “Obama increased aid to Arabs, but not to Israel.” The 29 July issue by Shai Landesman reported Trump’s charge in some detail that, “Hillary’s refusal to mention radical Islam proof that she is unfit.” Finally, a seeming reproof of Trump came from Jack Engelhard commenting on his horrible handling of the Khan affair, but the so-called critical comment came as a backhanded excuse and plea for support. “We need him and we need him to stop making such blunders.”

So the question arises not simply about completely skewed journalistic bias, but about why a leading voice for Jewish orthodoxy is providing such strong support for Donald Trump. I suggest that it could not be based on the conclusion that his temperament (which this media outlet ignores), lack of experience (which this media outlet ignores) or his blatant and outright lies repeatedly exposed by other media outlets (which this media outlet ignores) are not relevant. The possibility of Donald Trump favouring their radical right-wing agenda of increased settlement in the West Bank and refusal to contemplate a Palestinian state living in peace beside Israel is the prime motivation.

Eric Metaxas, the biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pronounced that Donald Trump is culturally Jewish and his bigotry is just “shtick.” Other Jewish supporters offer other reasons than his bias towards an expansionist Israel. Like many non-Jewish supporters, they see him as saying it “as it is” instead of being politically correct (when he most often says it as it isn’t), applaud him for being refreshingly honest when he tells lie after lie without explanation or apology, regard him as a great business success in spite of Michael Bloomberg’s scathing attack on his business credentials followed by that of Warren Buffett. They generally give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt when he is attacked for his bigotry and for being a demagogue, for his loose generalization in place of worked-out policy provisions. It is not clear, but it may also be the case, that Donald Trump’s attitude to Muslims articulated what they themselves were too timid to utter.

But, as with many non-Jewish Republicans, many Jewish Republicans are reconsidering their support for the GOP candidate for the presidency while the vast majority of Jews continue to back the Democratic ticket and continue their long pattern of voting against their personal self interest in favour of a larger vision of justice and tikkun olam, mending the world. I do not have any idea of the degree, but the stand of Arutz Sheva has even helped push at least some orthodox Jews away from Orthodoxy itself. “Peace through strength, unwavering [and uncritical] support for Israel, and robust American leadership at home and abroad” are slogans viewed as the voice of Balaam, blessings that end up being disastrous. But they were the blessings that the Republican Jewish Coalition conferred on Donald Trump.

“The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulates Donald Trump on being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Throughout the course of this long campaign among Republicans there has been unity in the belief that Hillary Clinton is the worst possible choice for a commander in chief. Secretary Clinton has proven time and again through her record and her policies that her candidacy will compromise our national security, weaken our economy and further strain our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel. Along with the Presidential race, the RJC will be working hard to hold on to our majorities in the Senate and the House. It is critical that these majorities be preserved. To do this we must remember our core principles: peace through strength, unwavering support for Israel, and robust American leadership at home and abroad.”

With the help of Alex Zisman