Jewish refugees arrive in Israel in 1948. Photo via Wikipedia

Yes, the Trump Administration Still Hates Jewish People

U.S.-Israeli alliance of convenience notwithstanding


It’s become almost redundant to say that members of Pres. Donald Trump’s administration, if not Trump himself, are anti-Semitic — and that his campaign traded in anti-Semitic dogwhistles as part of his ascent to power.

Despite the well-documented anti-Semitic remarks of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s widespread support among neo-Nazis, supporters have tried to refute charges of anti-Semitism by pointing out two things. Trump’s relationship with his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner and his Jewish convert daughter Ivanka. And his support for Israel.

The first defense is basically the same as when someone says something blatantly racist, and then tries to excuse it by saying, “But I have black/Latino/Asian friends.” It’s a defense that falls flat because having friends from a marginalized group does not preclude you from having racist views of that group.

For one thing, using that defense means you’re literally using your friend as a prop to enable you to say whatever offensive nonsense you want. For another, such friendships are often predicated upon the belief that the black friend (or other person of color friend) is “one of the good ones,” that they are better than other blacks or people of color because they aren’t bothered by things like your racist jokes or your conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the levers of global power.

It’s kind of like the POC version of Gillian Flynn’s concept of the Cool Girl. Your coolness is your willingness to accept a certain level of racism in exchange for access to a certain amount of privilege. And it is the reason Trump can love his daughter and son-in-law while employing anti-Semites and perpetuating anti-Semitic dogwhistles and conspiracy theories. His cool Jewish friends won’t call him out on it.

As for the Israel question. There are a number of reasons white nationalists and anti-Semites can find it in their hearts to support the Jewish state, and even more unexpectedly, a lot of reasons Israel would be willing to overlook those attitudes and cooperate with the Trump administration.

Israel has a history of connections with the Christian right, despite the fact that some factions mostly like Israel because they think that the concentration of Jews in the Holy Land will hasten the second coming of Christ and the end times. If they have to support Jews for a while until they will be killed in the end times, some right-wing Christians are okay with that trade-off.

Israeli border police. Photo via Wikipedia

And similarly, the right wing in Israel is comfortable with some of their American allies eagerly anticipating their demise as long as in meantime the stream of military and economic aid keeps flowing.

It’s a movement known as Christian Zionism. And conveniently, it can dovetail nicely with white Christian nationalism and even among some neo-Nazis. It gives them a sort of ideological cover. Support for the Jewish homeland lets them argue that they simply support the idea of an ethno-state homeland for all races, and not that they have any specific animus towards non-whites.

Of course, that claim falls apart when those same sites have people in the forums referring to black people as “baboons.”

Even Richard Spencer has compared his white nationalist cause to Jewish Zionism, a comparison that particularly upset many Jews because the state of Israel was founded in response to the literal genocide committed against them by the Nazis, while cries of “white genocide” are really just complaints against racial mingling, particularly sex between whites and nonwhites.

Despite all this, there is common ground to be found between the Israeli right wing and America’s white nationalist, alt-right movement. That common ground is Islamophobia.

Fear-mongering about the inherent dangers Islam poses to American national security and indeed the fate of Western civilization has been a go-to tactic for some right-wing Republicans ever since 9/11. One recent, egregious example was the time a number of Republicans, many of them Trump supporters, tried to claim that ISIS fighters were sneaking across the Mexican border.

A popular complaint against Barack Obama during his candidacy and presidency was that he was a secret Muslim, a quality that many Republicans — and some other Americans — thought should disqualify him from office.

While Islamophobia has been simmering steadily and dangerously in the background of Republican politics for years, it reached a new boiling point during Trump’s run for office. He didn’t even try to contain or limit his rhetoric about Muslims, and his bigotry resonated with many Americans.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups have reported on rising Islamophobia in the United States, a trend that promises to continue under our current president. His penchant for saying the words “radical Islamic terrorism” seemed to be his main qualification for fighting terrorism, but since some on the right act like that is a spell that could ensure an end to all terror attacks ever, it was one of the things that propelled him to victory.

Police sharpshooters in Ferguson, Missouri during racial-justice demonstrations. Photo via Wikipedia

Israel’s foundation displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, sending them to refugee camps and across the borders into neighboring countries. Decades later, many still have no permanent homes and remain in camps and temporary settlements.

Others who have found homes in other countries still struggle to gain citizenship, rights and access to resources. The ones in Israel face discrimination that has been compared to apartheid, and Palestinians in Gaza struggle to survive with limited access to water and other necessities.

That is not to say that Israel has not faced real dangers from terrorism, and from war with its Muslim-majority neighbors. America likewise has legitimately been the target of terrorism. But both states have responded with a counterproductive wholesale targeting of Muslims that makes us all less safe.

At this point, even the United Nations has called out Israel’s apartheid regime and its oppression of the Palestinian people.

Islamophobia has helped create new ties between the Israeli and the American right. The American War on Terror has made Israel a major counterterrorism partner in the Middle East. This position is reinforced because right-wing American Islamophobia has likewise emphasized the common bonds of the supposedly Judeo-Christian roots of the United States and the Jewish state of Israel.

They play up the shared history of Judaism and Christianity while ignoring or even denying the shared Abrahamic tradition of Islam.

Beyond that, Americans on the right have been positively inspired by the Islamophobic Israeli security state and the skill with which its armed forces have conducted its occupation. And while Americans have given military aid to Israel for years, there is a less widely-known but growing exchange between Israeli security forces and American police.

U.S. police have gone to Israel for antiterror training for years. It’s a trend that contributes to the growing militarization of American police. Sometimes American taxpayers foot the bill. Other times the trips are privately funded by groups like the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and even the Anti-Defamation League.

American police observe and train with not only Israeli national police, but also the Israeli Defense Forces and border patrol. The police chief of St. Louis during the Ferguson uprising had gone on one of these trips and then oversaw a heavily-militarized response to protests.

Members of the Baltimore Police Department have likewise trained in Israel. They have also been accused by the Justice Department of committing “widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement and culture of retaliation.”

And they have presumably learned some of their tactics from security forces the State Department has cited for committing extrajudicial executions, torture, and excessive use of force.

Another police chief returning from a training in Israel remarked upon how impressive he found Israel’s ability to suppress demonstrations. An expert from Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, commented on how often Israeli police disregard rules regarding the use of lethal force, and are rarely punished for it.

More broadly, there is the question of how useful the lessons of a military occupation are to policing America’s own populace. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has been criticized by rights groups around the world, as well as by the United Nations, and its militarized approach to security flies in the face of best practices regarding community engagement.

And despite the beliefs of some police officers, the goal in responding to protests and demonstrations in a country that claims to uphold the right to freedom of speech and assembly should not be to suppress those protests.

This is all in addition to the groups like International Security Instructors and the Golan Group, companies composed of Israeli veterans based in the United States and providing security consulting and training around the world.

The Golan Group has been linked to human rights violations against protesters in Guatemala. It has also organized training for DHS officials and U.S. Border Patrol. And while Israel continues to receive U.S. military aid, it has also become a leading global arms exporter.

The post-9/11 American obsession with Islamic terror has made Israel, with its history of fighting Palestinian insurgency, a model for our security forces. But that emulation risks further entrenching the divide between police and communities, especially when police are learning to view the American people as enemies and their neighborhoods as territories to occupy.

And while our love for the Israeli security state is rooted in our shared Islamophobia, and that makes Muslims in America particularly vulnerable, a police force that views our people as its enemies ultimately puts everyone at risk.

Stay defiant.

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