America First, Israel First: The Lobby Loves Trump – OpEd

Israel loves Trump.  Right-wing settler Israel, that is.  That is, the entire political apparatus.  Trump loves Israel.  Israel can do no wrong.  Palestine can do no right.  The embassy’s moving to Jerusalem.  Just like Mohammed’s steed carried him from Mecca to Jerusalem (and back) in the Night Journey, so Trump will personally deliver the embassy to its rightful place high on a hill in the Eternal City of the Jewish people.

During the campaign, Trump began using a slogan that brought chills to the hearts of historians or those old enough to remember the raging anti-Semitism of Father Coughlin and Hitler apologists like Charles Lindbergh (who later changed his views after war was declared).  The banner under which they marched was “America First.”  So today’s inauguration speech brought echoes of the old xenophobia and racism of white-dominated 1930s America.  Those were the days of the Ku Klux Klan.  Of white sheets and cross-burnings in the dead of night.  Of strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Charles Lindbergh speaking at an AFC rally. Source: Wikipedia Commons.
Charles Lindbergh speaking at an AFC rally. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Of course, Donald Trump is no historian.  But Steve Bannon is.  At least enough to know what the slogan means.  This is the low, soft dog whistle of hate that Donald Trump will offer us for the next four years.  America first,  America for the white man.  If  you’re Black (or any other color), get back.  If you’re a Jew, especially the  pinko liberal variety, Donald Trump will bring you nothing but gnashing of teeth.  However, if you’re pro-Israel there’s hope.  Trump will be the greatest friend Israel ever had.  By the end of his term, Palestine will be a thing  of the past.  You will be one happy Zionist.

Of course there will be blood.  People will suffer.  But the main thing is that the blood will be Arab blood, not Israeli.  Or at least mostly not Israeli.  For Israelis are one of us.  Part of that Judeo-Christian tradition we embrace.  The Arabs?  Not so much.  And just you remember what we’re going to do to the bad ones:

We will…unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

Note use of the term “Islamic terror.”  Not Islamist.  Because terror is by nature part of Islam, right?  And how will he accomplish this task?  By presidential decree, of course.  He will slay them like Saint George in his fight to the death with the dragon.

Trump’s really going to town over this phrase, America First.  There’s America First Foreign Policy and America First Energy Policy.  But if America comes first, someone has to come last, right?  That’s the other guy, the foreigner, the migrant.  We win at their expense.  And that’s just the way it has to be.

Israel Firster

In 1961, thinking obviously of Lindbergh’s America First isolationist, racist platform, Brandeis University founder Abe Sachar coined, according to the American Jewish Yearbook, the term “Israel Firster:”

American Jews continued to object to Israel’s claim that a genuine Jewish life was possible only in Israel. Abram L. Sachar, president of Brandeis University, at the biennial convention of JWB [Jewish Welfare Board], declared on April 2, 1960 that among Jews there is no room “for Israel Firsters whose chauvinism and arrogance find nothing relevant or viable in any area outside of Israel.”

Sachar, who devoted his entire career to the principle of integrating Jews into American life through the life of a great liberal arts university, objected to the mantra of classical Zionism.  It held that Diaspora Jewish life was meant to wither, disconnected from the vitality of Zion. The Holocaust showed us, supposedly, that Jews were ultimately unwelcome everywhere except their own sovereign country. Eventually, there would be nothing left of the Diaspora but a last surviving remnant (in Hebrew, shayrit ha’pleytah).  Of course, it is this last dying gasp of Jewry that confirms the fundamental truth of Zionism.  That Jews may only survive in their homeland.  Everywhere else they must die.

In 1961, Sachar’s counter-sentiment resonated among many American Jews.  Israel had not yet become an idée fixe among world Jewry.  The Israel Lobby was in its infancy (Aipac was launched only a decade earlier), not yet as powerful as it would become.  Then, the Diaspora stood a chance as a concept in competition with Zionism.

We must not lose sight of the deep truth Sachar uttered nearly 60 years ago: that the Lobby and its adherents are just as obtuse and monomaniacal in their pursuit of Israel-supremacy as Donald Trump is in pursuit of America First alt-right values.  The Lobby poisons the well of American Jewish life.  It induces charges of dual loyalty because it forces Jews to grant precedence to Israel over all else.  That is why Israel has successfully recruited so many American Jewish spies, among them Jonathan Pollard.

America First will be just a poisonous to this country as Israel First is among American Jews.  It will mean America über alles.  America going it alone.  America against the rest.  The diametric opposite of the values of most of the rest of the world.  While the world moves toward globalism and interconnectedness, Trump moves toward isolation. These are dark days.

This article was published at Tikun Olam.

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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