Recently I have encountered, several times, the claim that a certain number of jewish people believe with utmost sincerity that if Labour wins this next general election, they must take flight from Britain for their own safety. And in many cases they have even devised a concrete plan for how they intend to do so. Now, this claim was put forth by ostensibly credible figures, and I have not seen it disputed. So I am inclined to take it at face value for argument’s sake.
I don’t mind telling you that I do not follow British politics exceptionally closely. I just don’t find it very interesting. But, given that I do happen to live on this unhappy little island, its relevance is rather inescapable. As such, I try to at least keep up with it from a bird’s-eye-view. The broad strokes of what the hell is going on at any given time, and then a heightened focus during the lead-up to an election. That kind of thing. So when I hear that there are members of a marginalized group who are literally planning to run for their lives if one of the two major parties – and the left-leaning one, at that – takes power, my ears do perk up just a little bit, it must be said. I think to myself: ‘boy, I must have missed something pretty fucking big!’ For such an incredible claim to be true, there must be some crucial gap in my knowledge you could drive a busload of frightened émigrés through…
Because as far as I personally have ever seen reported – and one imagines such a news story would not be little-covered – the Labour party itself does not officially have any antisemitic ideological positions or policy proposals, and Jeremy Corbyn also has not espoused antisemitic beliefs.
So why then is the prospect of a mini-exodus of self-preservation hanging over this election?…
Frankly I just could not tell you the answer. I have not read about anything even remotely extreme enough to evoke or justify that reaction.
Now, Labour is certainly a loooong way from being utterly blameless in this matter, to be sure. When people assert, as one’s eyeballs and eardrums barely get a moment’s rest between encountering yet again, that the party has a quote-unquote “antisemitism problem”, that does… actually… seem fair to say. It has, after all, reportedly been hesitant or inept (I do not know which) when it comes to punishing individual members who’ve said or done something antisemitic. In most cases, the culprits seem to be lowly rank-and-file. Just random people who show up at a meeting now and again. And while a political party, whose membership is presumably composed of several hundred thousand people, should not be defined by the misdeeds of some tiny fraction of scumbags, it does obviously have a vital responsibility to expel them post-haste. If someone is found to be trafficking in bigotry/hatred, there can be no dragging one’s feet or equivocating when it comes to kicking them out on their ass. It’s as simple as that.
Still, do I think that this slipshod handling of the situation was because the higher-ups in the party apparatus secretly harbor some animus towards jewish people? No, I can’t say that I do. It doesn’t seem very believable and I haven’t seen any evidence to support it. Moreover, I’m inclined to defer to Hanlon’s Razor in cases like this: “never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” That’s an invaluable heuristic which should be knitted into the tissues of one’s mind. It’ll often save you a lot of mental effort, because then you won’t have to conjure the fanciful conjecture needed to fuel motivated-reasoning.
You know what I think? I think that people are lazy, and they just let things slide because it’s easier. And I think that the cogs of large bureaucracies, like a political party for example, get gummed up by many factors such as incompetence, apatheticness, nepotism, and so on. And unless someone at or near the top feels motivated enough to push hard to break through this sluggishness and achieve a goal, it will just get done slowly and poorly. As I imagine probably happened here. But Corbyn and his cohorts SHOULD absolutely have recognized the importance of granting this antisemitism purge priority and getting it done, and it’s right to fault them – even severely – for dropping the ball there. Yet, does this failure make the party itself, as has become the accusation du jour, “institutionally antisemitic”? Nope, I don’t think this even nearly approaches the bar for that weighty, damning label. That would denote an organization which was consciously pursuing the cause of antisemitism in some way. But, again, that doesn’t mean that things weren’t fucked up, because they clearly were.
As for Labour’s leader, listen, I am not at all (and have never been) a Jeremy Corbyn fan. I do not know much about him beyond the facts which are germane to this particular situation. I do not endorse him as a political figure whatsoever.
What’s fascinating to me is that so many people seem to believe it goes without saying that he’s definitely antisemitic and they also assume that everyone just knows all the things he’s done/said to that effect. But if you ask the average person – not a refresh-Twitter-42,039-times-a-day hyper-political psycho – to name some of those things, I’d say it’s a tremendously safe bet that they’d draw a blank. They don’t know how they know, they just know, you know?
Based on the news coverage about this subject I’ve read over the last year or so – and let’s just say that the reportage has had a certain feverish, breathless quality to it – I can’t say that I can improve on that blank-drawing. I really am pretty stumped. I have not come across anything which even nearly seems to warrant labeling him as an antisemite. Or, for that matter, anything which confirms that he has even seriously flirted with embracing antisemitism.
(Obviously I haven’t consulted some kind of comprehensive, nit-picky oppo-research list of all his alleged ‘mask-slips’, if you will, so I may perhaps have missed some niche fact. I don’t know what I don’t know, as always. But, like I said, there hasn’t exactly been a dearth of coverage about this matter and so I think it’s fair to assume that some measure of decent thoroughness has been conveyed to those following it.)
That’s not to say he hasn’t done some intensely stupid – perhaps even unpardonably so – things in his past. On the one end of the spectrum are ill-judged attempts at sarcasm or backing causes he naively only had a cursory knowledge of. All the way at the other end though… he has rubbed shoulders and glad-handed (sometimes blithely, sometimes not so blithely at all) with a loathsome and even downright vile ilk. When it comes to those who’ve spent a long time as outsider, far-left, low-level politicians, this is unfortunately not all that uncommon a skeleton in the closet. My read on it is that there is a blinding effect which accompanies the desire to be seen supporting those who purport to be ‘freedom fighters’ or adjacent. You just show up at any event which seems to fit the bill so that you can burnish your anti-imperialist or anti-war or social-justice or [et cetera] credentials. I think in some cases, this likely accounts for why he was idiotic enough to put himself in such odious company. In the other cases however?… I don’t believe in ‘guilt by association’ (generally speaking), but he does deserve to reap a whirlwind of shit for being so reckless and undiscriminating and ill-informed. No question about it.
I think the worst thing you can say about Corbyn, in this arena at least, is that his carelessness and foolishness in the past has led to the impression that he is not as instinctively, ferociously allergic to being around anything or anyone in even the same zip-code as antisemitism as he (and everyone else) should be. That’s bad. That’s really fucking bad. Especially for a politician. Especially x2.5 for a leftist politician. Especially x10 for a leftist politician who’s leading his party and seeking to become Prime Minister.
And so, yes, it is only proper that he be criticized for all these things I’ve mentioned. As long as the complaints are proportional and placed in due context. I mean, go right ahead. I’m not here to rhetorically bodyguard Corbyn or valorize him or even re-litigate all of his putative misdeeds point by point. That doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. If you think that his many errors in judgement are so grave that he either shouldn’t be the leader of the Labour party or shouldn’t be Prime Minister, I don’t think that’s an indefensible or unreasonable position AT ALL. Whereas, to brand him as an antisemite just seems to be a baseless smear. (Why people feel the need to invent this profoundly tenuous extra step when there are already such valid reasons not to vote for him is beyond me.)
How then can it be so that there are truly people who are willing to leave their country – an act which requires not just a great deal of money and planning and sacrifice, but also an uprooting of you and your family and a total re-orientating of your life – because the antisemitism of Labour and/or Corbyn is supposedly so virulent and dangerous? A threat to their actual safety, in short.
I submit that it is because an unwieldy strain of hysteria has popped up and been purposefully spread.
Take the very recent comments from the British chief Rabbi who insisted that he wasn’t telling people not to vote Labour, whilst issuing a barely-veiled plea not to vote Labour under any circumstances. He claimed the “soul of the nation is at stake”: melodramatic, apocalyptic language meant to imply that Britain will somehow transform into a cesspool of unmitigated hatred if Labour wins. He claimed antisemitism is a “poison sanctioned from the top” when it comes to Labour: the insinuation being that there is somehow an agreement at the leadership level to permit and foster antisemitism in the party. These are both unfounded suppositions which are simply meant to stoke fear and anxiety. (Meanwhile it doesn’t even occur to him to advise against voting for Boris Johnson, who actually has used outrightly racist language and rhetoric on many occasions in the past, often without the scantiest trace of irony. I mean, go figure, right? If Johnson is comfortable brazenly saying that type of thing in print, beneath his own byline and goofily-grinning photo, can you even… fucking… imagine… what he’s said behind closed doors? And, be honest with yourself, do you really think Corbyn is doing the same?)
Or take, as happened a year ago, a trio of British newspapers (which specifically cover the jewish community) publishing a joint front-page editorial which blared that an “existential threat to jewish life in this country would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.”
Yes, do not adjust your television set, you read that right. If Corbyn unpacks his bags in 10 Downing Street, the very existence of “jewish life” in the United Kingdom would be imperiled. I imagine the reason why this mealymouthed euphemism was employed was so that, if pressed, these newspapers could cynically claim that it merely meant the ‘jewish way of life’. However, the intended implication is crystal-clear. You don’t tell a group of people, especially one with genocide in its recent history, that it faces an “existential threat” unless you are hoping to invoke the darkest fear of all. Anyone who denies that is a liar or a useful-idiot.
To call these newspapers’ assertion ridiculous or alarmist would be an understatement. It’s actual goddamn lunacy. Immoral and offensive and pernicious lunacy at that. It is beyond shameful. This is scaremongering of the lowest, most disgusting sort.
Those are just two examples off the top of my head, but there are many more. The trend is unmistakable. These doom-merchants have steadily been escalating their hyperbole and it has evidently reached its horrible apex. ‘If you are jewish and British and you vote Labour, be warned: you may well die.’ What an outrage it is that people in positions of prominence or authority can get away with spewing this foul, dishonest nonsense to whip up into a panicked frenzy those who are uneasy and unsure and seeking guidance. I say again, what an unbelievable outrage.
Look, for me this is ultimately about the principle. This is not even really about Labour at all, when it comes down to it. I do not vote. For reasons which are too long to go into here. Though, sure, I suppose I would prefer to see Labour defeat the Tories, in the same way I’d of course rather someone punch me in the arm one time instead of ten times. However, I am no party partisan here. I’m in no way trying to sell you on casting a ballot for Labour, believe me. A bayonet pressed to the small of my back couldn’t make me do that.
Vote for Labour, do not vote for Labour, it makes little difference practically (if advance polling is to be believed, the Tories must be preemptively klunking bottles of champagne into ice-buckets) and it makes little difference to me because I am affiliated with or represented by no political party beneath the spherical, eye-hurty ultra-radiance some call sol. If you think that Labour has not been sufficiently no-tolerance about instances of antisemitism in its ranks and you feel that you can’t vote for them because of it, I get that. I think that’s totally valid. And if you think the appallingly dumb, careless mistakes that Jeremy Corbyn has made in the past disqualifies him from receiving your vote, I get it. That’s also totally valid. Do what you gotta do.
But if Labour is elected, it will not herald a state of affairs where life for the jewish minority in Britain becomes significantly more intolerable and dangerous. (Let alone profoundly or life-threateningly so). It just won’t. I cannot conceive of any even remotely realistic scenario where that comes to pass. I do not believe that either the Labour party or Corbyn himself will voice anything even slightly verging on antisemitism, nor will they seek to enact any legislation with antisemitic effect. That seems almost too obvious to even have to state plainly, but, shit, here we are.
So if the newly-elected government won’t be doing it, what’s left? I guess the last-ditch argument would be that, okay, Labour might not itself be a harbinger of antisemitic propaganda or policy, but there will be a subtle ripple effect on society at large. Because of Labour’s reputation for being soft on punishing members found to be saying such things, if they get a pass from the electorate it will embolden true dyed-in-the-wool antisemites to espouse their hatred more confidently and openly or perhaps even act on it.
Two things spring into mind in response to this. The first is that I find it somewhat implausible that antisemites are sitting around, holding their tongues and staying their hands, desperately waiting for the electoral victory of one of the two major establishment parties in order to act upon their abhorrent impulses. The second is that if you could find just such a person, I think you ought to turn them over to your nearest crack team of neurologists. After all, this is someone who’s apparently decided that only upon the ascension of a lefty, social-justice, quasi-socialist, historically anti-racist and anti-fascist party (as opposed to, say, a right-wing party which is anti-immigration and pro-‘British-values’, whatever the hell they might be) will they feel so well echoed in the halls of parliament that they can finally embark on their campaign of vitriol and harassment. Such a singular mind deserves to be studied and dissected. I mean, the results might turn out to be important to the science of insanity.
Nevertheless, proponents might well say “ah, but even if someone only perceives a danger to themselves, isn’t that bad enough?” And, indeed, one is always hearing that it doesn’t matter whether you think Labour isn’t an antisemitic force in the world, there are some British jews who think it is and are consequently afraid, and we should #LISTEN to them because them saying it essentially makes it true by dint of practical effect. The fundamental problem with this ‘no, fuck you, JEWISH PEOPLE! get to decide whether or not something is antisemitic’ browbeating is that there are a not inconsiderable number of jewish Labour supporters who are passionately bellowing that the party is not itself antisemitic and neither is Corbyn. Why is it that they get overruled and shouted down? Why doesn’t their opinion count as incontestable too? Because they’re not saying the right thing? Because they’re not echoing the sacred, pre-established consensus? There is no good rebuttal to this objection, so people don’t even try to make one. They just pretend as if it doesn’t exist or hasn’t yet occurred to them.
Let me be clear: antisemitism is a very real scourge and is far more prevalent in even liberal western democracies than anyone should be comfortable downplaying or ignoring. That we must suffer its existence is appalling. For antisemitism is a hideous disease of the mind, a repulsive blight on one’s character. It is stomach-turning and blood-boiling in equal measure. The sooner it can be made extinct the better.
And if a jewish person should say that they feel they must leave Britain for friendlier shores because even the low-level ambient degree of antisemitism is too much, alright. Godspeed. I don’t know what it’s like to have to deal with that, so I respect their decision. But if the argument has the additional clause of ‘because it will be hugely amplified if Labour wins’ added to it, I just cannot understand. It doesn’t seem to have any basis in logic or reality whatsoever. Do such people actually believe that this prospect is real? I do not doubt it, alas.
There is perhaps something to be said about it being a hell of a lot easier to claim you’ll flee the country if Labour wins when Labour seemingly has no chance of carrying the day. Like a sulky teenager screaming at their parents that they’ll wreck their room if they’re forced to go to some stuffy boarding school there’s no plans to send them to. A mere pose of readiness-to-rebel, in other words.
It’s also important to point out that indulging in hysterical overreaction comes at a cost. It has a corrosive effect which spreads far afield.
For instance, during the 2016 U.S. election there were so many people – even some from the blue-checkmark aristocracy – who predicted that the country was in danger of installing a ‘fascist’ government, who swore they’d have to depart the U.S. for their own safety if Trump was indeed elected. (Presumably they’d be flouncing across the northern border to a country soooo liberal it just recently seemed to forgive, without much fuss, its Prime Minister for repeatedly having worn blackface. My aghast astonishment at this remains undiminished.) And, of course, they said this when it seemed wildly unlikely that Trump would ever win. They were saying it for effect, really. Well, then Trump was elected and you can bet your ass those same people are still in residence there. Somehow they’ve managed to dupe or evade the monthly anti-LGBT, white supremacist pogroms for this long, and I wish them continued luck in doing so. I hear the razor-wire fenced prison camp, to house rounded-up dissidents, which the Federal government transformed the entire city of San Francisco into is nothing short of brutal. They only allow the prisoners to listen to ONE slam poetry show a week and even then the secret-police censors make sure anything critical is stricken from the shouty stanzas beforehand.
The point being that melodramatic, self-pitying inventions of dangers which do not exist does not help the struggle against the countless genuine ills Trump is visiting upon American society. Recall the tale of the boy who cried wolf. It’s a cliché for a reason. And, likewise, pretending that life in Britain will quite literally become perilously untenable for jewish people if Labour wins is a ludicrous fantasy which only degrades (and increases the difficulty of) the fight against antisemitism. Because do you know what the effect of staging a hysterical overreaction is? It makes the person and whatever they stand for seem ridiculous. And when it comes to the fight against bigotry, what is the last thing it needs to be made to seem?…
The question answers itself, don’t you think?
Much as I’m loath to step on that snappy little sign-off line, I feel there’s an important post-script matter I should also get into. Y’know, given that I’m already here and all.
It seems to me that one of the things which has always been perceived, however unspoken this assessment may be, as a ‘red-flag’ about Corbyn is his longstanding and full-throated and unflagging criticism of Israel.
(Just FYI, to spare you from the eyestrain-redundancy I’m going to be using ‘Israel’, as has become conventional, as shorthand for ‘the actions of the government of Israel’ here. I’m sure that goes without saying, but I have somewhat of a tic when it comes to verbalizing the implicit.)
The first thing I should point out is the irony surrounding how similar the mentality of people like Corbyn is to those on the exact other side of the coin. Both factions see their support for a specific thing as invaluably emblematic of their support for a larger, more nebulous thing. That’s why they consider it incumbent on them that they uncritically act as a cheerleader for either Israel or the Palestinians. And I think there are understandable, even creditable reasons why they decide they ought to do so. In the former case, there is a sense of wanting to stick up for a beleaguered (both in terms of negative opinion as well as the naked hostility evinced by some of its neighboring adversaries) country which serves as a jewish haven, in order to in turn advertise solidarity with jewish people in general. In the latter case, there is a sense of it being crucial to advocate for a downtrodden and mistreated group, in order to advertise an allyship with all the similar underdog groups elsewhere. Like I said, I get both instincts and think they are each noble in theory. Nonetheless, when you come to think that your unswayable not-giving-an-inch defense of something is synonymous with your more generalized solidarity, you can find yourself getting too swept up in the fray. You start tilting at every windmill you see. And then anything which even vaguely resembles a windmill. After all, your sense of virtue seems to demand it.
Okay, that’s one thing. Now to switch gears a little bit…
I genuinely think there are a lot of people, especially on the social-justice left, who believe the fight against antisemitism is of such paramount importance and urgency that it warrants choosing not to loudly criticize Israel. For several reasons. Because that criticism can so easily be smeared as covertly antisemitic. Because that criticism may upset some jewish people/groups, who understandably hold Israel close to their hearts, and therefore make it harder to ally with them in battling antisemitism. Because that criticism may be conflated with anti-zionism itself. And so on and so forth. I’m sure you understand what I mean. It will essentially just create friction and impediments.
As it happens, I am not wholly unsympathetic to this (generally tacit) approach. I do agree that the fight against antisemitism is way more important than the utility of criticizing Israel. But I just do not think that it has to be one or the other. I do not think that go-along-to-get-along is a necessary sacrifice here. I believe that people should be able to disagree, even sometimes very strongly, about certain things to do with Israel’s conduct, but still be nonetheless capable of banding together in perfect affinity in trying to rid the world of the disgusting evil called antisemitism.
Furthermore, as much as it shouldn’t even need to be said, criticizing the government of Israel is not inherently antisemitic. And criticizing its actions towards the Palestinian people is not inherently antisemitic. (There are ways in which such criticism can be warped and hate-injected and weaponized by actual antisemites, but that’s a different matter. When you introduce deception/ulterior motives into this, of course everything becomes different. Acting in bad faith is always a game-changer.)
If these seem like strawman objections, if you think that no-one ever says or thinks that, you are incorrect. You must not be well acquainted with the situation at hand. They certainly do not refer to common positions – thankfully – but they are also far from vanishingly rare. Though they are often dressed up and employed behind a smokescreen of innuendo and evasive language.
The truth is that there are indeed people who see someone making a big deal out of castigating Israel and confidently assume that they’re a closet antisemite until proven otherwise.
Their line of thinking seems to be “maybe not everyone criticizing Israel is antisemitic, but isn’t it funny how every antisemite has a jolly good old time engaging in that same criticism, so better safe than sorry.” In reply to which, I would be forced to point out that presumably all bank robbers wear shoes, and here this person is standing in front of me flaunting their beclad feet. I mean, gosh, what am I supposed to think? You wear shoes, scoundrels strolling out of bank vaults with a wolfish grin wear shoes. The sterling deductive certainty comes to one quite unbidden I’m afraid. Fetch me the nearest constable, I shall simply have to turn you in. How you scrubbed the dye-pack splatter off your face so completely I really have no idea. I would have expected you’d look like a runaway from the Blue Man Group.
And here’s where Corbyn ties back into all this. When the Labour party adopted the IHRA’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism, there was vociferous backlash to Corbyn having caused the appending of a disclaimer: “this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.” This was, in my view, not at all gratuitous. The IHRA definition is thorough and nearly pitch-perfect, but in just one or two of its illustrative examples regarding criticism of Israel, it becomes unnecessarily and unhelpfully vague and thus open to discrepant interpretations. (I.e. the exact thing one seeks to avoid when defining a term.) Therefore it’s reasonable to add a tiny clarifying statement. A statement supporting something which, after all, is alleged to be uncontroversial. And yet Corbyn gets raked over the coals for it anyway. That tells you a lot, I think.
I beg your pardon, but a semi-related post-post-script has also just occurred to me. It’s about how Trump is, very much oppositely to Corbyn, perceived to be a ‘friend’ of Israel. And what a heaving crock of shit that is.
Now, I am not well-versed in the Israeli/Palestinian situation and, well, “whereof one knows little, one should be slow to speak.” Evergreen wisdom I do not take lightly, trust me. It is an impossibly fraught and complex issue to wade into without a comprehensive understanding of what you’re talking about.
I simply know, as most everyone does, the overview. And that it seems to be a hopelessly vexed and interminable conflict. Though judging by the not-too-long-ago announced large-scale annexation Netanyahu plans to carry out (if he manages to hold onto power), it would seem that the Palestinian territory may well be eroded to the point where the question of a two-state solution has effectively become moot. And the fact that Trump is suspected to be willing to green-light this drastic endgame move is very significant.
(On a related note, I should also say that the Trump administration’s recent decision to recognize the disputed Golan Heights area as part of Israel – a proclamation blatantly timed to sway a foreign election, no less – is really quite unbelievable. One of the most basic precepts of the modern international order is that no country may unilaterally absorb land it has seized control of during wartime. No matter if that was a ‘defensive’ war and no matter what reasons they adduce for wanting to retain the land. You can call it whatever you like, but that’s conquered land by any reasonable definition. And the United States should not be fondly cosigning it just because the country in question is an ally. Even though they are very, very different situations, how can the Trump administration possibly preserve the crucial moral high-ground when excoriating Russia’s annexation of Crimea given that it has shown it’s willing to take a self-serving relativist attitude towards the cornerstone of international law?)
It is evident that the Trump administration, and the GOP in general, have decided to tilt very hard entirely in Israel’s favor. To an extent which suggests that they really have no intention of pushing for a meaningfully bilateral settlement anymore. The current position appears to be that the Israeli government should be entitled to dictate terms, and be appeased in just about each and every particular, and then the only obstacle which remains is plying the Palestinians with enough so-called ‘economic incentives’ that they’ll be enticed to take the (raw) deal. Quite the brilliant strategy. But what else would one expect when a mastermind negotiator is at the helm? Seriously, anyone waiting for the Jared Kushner ‘deal of the century’ peace plan to pay off should set their alarm clocks to approximately five minutes after the sputtering-out demise of the sun. I’ll be there too, behind a booth, selling Ray-Bans at fire-sale prices. Hit me up and I’ll give you a special friends-and-family further discount. And at that point, I might as well be paying you to take them off my hands.
I know I cannot be the only one disturbed by the palpable cynicism embedded in the GOP’s rabid support for Israel. Does anyone seriously believe that if Israel was not such a vital military ally (or, to put it more accurately, asset) in the Middle East, crusty old ‘America First’ Republicans would be abandoning their sacrosanct isolationist principles to treat it as reverently as they do now? However much they might like the fact that an enclave of Liberal Democracy™ exists in that part of the world, its utility to their be-in-striking-distance-of-all-potential-threats foreign policy dreams is what tips the balance. There is no two ways about it. And if you are a supporter of Israel, who is just glad to see it receiving favorable treatment, ask yourself how much faith one can ever put into backing which is intrinsically conditional. Ask yourself what it means for a country to be seen as an expedient instrumentality. And, finally, permit yourself to wonder what other sides you might one day see… when the winds of fortune abruptly change direction… from the politician-class who are friends only to those who can do something for them. Discovering, perhaps even in your hour of greatest need, that you are now yesterday’s news is… I expect… quite a gut-punch.
As for Trump himself, I don’t think he has even the excuse of “patriotically” – and those quotation marks might as well be book-ending smirks – affecting a posture in order to further America’s interests. His mercenariness is only ever in service of himself. The thing which thankfully always trips him up is his childlike inability not to say what he really thinks. If only more people would take him at his word…
Just yesterday he gave a speech at an ‘Israeli-American Council’ event where he began a sentence by saying “even if you don’t like me – and some of you don’t, some of you I don’t like at all actually.” It’s nothing short of incredible that the President can go out of his way to speak to a crowd of jewish people and then tell them, point blank, that he utterly dislikes a portion of them (presumably because they’ve had the gall not to support him politically.) It’s funny – well, actually, the precise opposite of funny – that the crowd laughs genially at this line. They evidently don’t realize that they’re not even in on the joke. Also, what’s the context in which that sentence even arises in the first place? It’s Trump telling the crowd that they’ll no doubt end up begrudgingly voting for him to preserve their wealth from the supposedly tax-mad Elizabeth Warren. He’s literally telling a room full of jews that their love of money will override everything else. You simply cannot make this shit up.
And he would go on to decry that some American jews “don’t love Israel enough.” I mean, the mind actually fucking boggles. He has also previously claimed that any who vote for the Democrats are demonstrating “great disloyalty” to Israel. (One hastens to recall that the implication that jewish people have an innate allegiance to Israel, which they feel they must service above all else, is considered a classic anti-semitic trope. Per the IHRA’s own definition in fact.) This sort of maneuvering is a laughable attempt to play both sides against the middle. It is disingenuous in the extreme. It is clumsy in the extreme. One would need to have recently sustained a tragically severe brain and/or eye injury to not spot the hook sticking out of that bait.
What’s so surreal is that, for all his acclaim/notoriety as a talented conman and manipulator, Trump really does unfailingly reveal his hand as he’s trying to play you. It’s your choice whether to take note of it or look away. And those who do avert their eyes – who happily reach for the fleeting, illusory reward which is always waggled in front of the mark – will pay a high price in the end. By the time they finally accept that they’ve been grifted, it will be far too late. They will look back and see how quickly his hollow gestures evaporate and amount to nothing at all.
Take this particular relationship. Even while hoping to barter for their vote, Trump cannot hide what he truly thinks about jewish people. He just can’t do it. Who knows whether they’re the involuntary admissions of an addled mind or the flaunting arrogance of a swindler who feels unstoppable. The reality is that he has proven time and time again that he fundamentally views jewish people through a prism of simplistic and reductionist stereotypes. That’s all he has to go on when planning how they may be won over, which is why his attempts to do so are so absurdly crass and bumbling. And, in turn, the only reason that is a priority at all is because he warily views them as potential political enemies, of formidable might, who must be preemptively placated. But just look at how he goes about it.
He is a suitor who will make a big show of deigning to give you the occasional flashy gift – which, of course, when inspected closely turns out to have cost little and to be of paltry lasting value – but who in fact also openly disdains you. One hand extends forth the beribboned present, whilst the other is down by his hip, shooting you a middle finger from an oblique angle. His whole project as a politician is determining what kind of present must be in the one hand to induce you to ignore the gesture being made by the other. That’s all it is. He’s just trying to figure you out, like a puzzle. Because he solely wants to extract what you can offer him. And then he will discard you and show you his true colours. Count on it. And so there is only one sane and dignity-preserving approach. Do not be a willing party to his deceptions; it will only debase you in the long run. He is a fickle egotist and will no doubt one day become enraged by some minor perceived slight against him/his shining legacy by some group or leader in the jewish community. And when that happens, he’ll not just abandon you, he’ll outright turn on you too. His wounded pride will have to be avenged. (There is ample evidence of this phenomenon elsewhere in his recent history.) So, when his rhetoric flips and his promises dissolve and his boons are rescinded, whether or not you will be humiliated by having been taken unawares… by having been betrayed by an erstwhile patron… is entirely within your power to decide right now. Plus, if you refuse to be wooed by this wretched crook, you won’t have to bear the constant anxiety of wondering whether today is the day that’ll finally happen. And won’t that be nice? A weight off your mind. Phew.
And as for Israel itself, I’ll put it as straightforwardly as I possibly can. If you think that Donald Trump truly gives even the slightest fuck about Israel beyond how his crudely performative support for it can delight his conservative base, you’re out of your mind. You are a dupe. You are a sucker. In fact, if you’ll believe that tripe, I’d love to have a business brunch with you the next time you’re free. Basically, I have a bridge I’d love to sell you – it’s really very lovely, I promise – and I’d advise you act fast because I have a cavalcade of other buyers hounding me day and night about it. I trust you’re savvy enough to see what a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this is. Haven’t you always wanted a bridge named after you? Time to carpe that diem, and open that checkbook!