According to a deep dive in the New York Times into how the American Jewish community feels about Donald Trump’s close relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, some rabbis expressed extreme misgivings about the country being linked to the increasingly unpopular president.
News that Trump and Netanyahu appear to have combined forces to block Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D -MI) from visiting the West Bank — although Netanyahu relented on Tlaib so she could visit her grandmother — has dismayed many American Jews and opened a divide over how to deal with it.
As St. Louis Park, MN. Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky put it, “There was very much an attitude of, ‘oh, here we go again.’ The pendulum keeps swinging left and right, left and right. It’s dizzying and exhausting and distracting. Emotions are raw.”
As the Times notes, “For months, American Jews in Ms. Omar’s district and beyond have found themselves enmeshed in a deeply uncomfortable debate over the growing distance between traditional liberal American Jewish values and the political realities of an Israeli government that’s embraced hard-line policies and a deep alliance with President Donald Trump.”
Of concern is the fact that many Jews feel Trump is using them as human shields to not only allay concerns about his connections to anti-semitic white supremacists but also to appeal to evangelicals who are obsessed with the Holy Land — and Israel in particular.
“To some Jews, the president’s attacks on the congresswomen are a fierce renunciation of anti-Semitism and a defense of Israel,” the Times reports. “But many others see their identity being used as a pawn for the political ambitions of Mr. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a dynamic they fear could undermine the historically strong alliance between the United States and Israel and increase the security risks for their community at home.”
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who oversees the Ohev Sholom congregation in Washington, D.C., got right to the point in an interview.
“If Israel equals Trump, then there is a concern that opposition to Trump will transition, God forbid, into opposition to Israel. It is very dangerous,” he explained.
Sheila Katz, who heads the National Council of Jewish Women, also expressed a desire for Trump to stay out of Israel’s business when it comes to the two banned lawmakers.
“I don’t think any of us want to be in this position and we don’t think it is actually helpful for Israel either,” she stated. “We’d ask the president to not influence and pressure the prime minister of Israel to be carrying out what feels like bullying because of issues he has with congresswomen here in the U.S.”
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