By Barbara Goldberg Goldman
The past four years, especially the past eight months, have been devastating. COVID’s impact on our health, relationships, economy and lifestyles we once took for granted are too much for too many to bear. The prospect of four more years of a Trump administration that has torn away the fabric of our society, and divided Americans more than any administration since the Civil War, only compounds our anxiety. Access to quality healthcare, reproductive freedom, combating climate change, enacting gun safety legislation, fair housing and U.S.-Israel relations should be bipartisan matters. Tragically, they are not. The Trump administration has done everything in its power to use them to divide us. Let’s take Israel for example.
Ensuring a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, for decades, has been a cardinal principle of pro-Israel advocacy. Partisanship is not unusual when ideological considerations are in play. In fact, party affiliation is a good indicator of where a candidate will stand on any given issue — but not Israel.
Strong support for Israel on both sides of the aisle should be celebrated. Israel should be a uniting force within our diverse American Jewish community.
To use Israel as fodder for partisan fighting simply is unacceptable, with only losers, no winners. Somehow, Trump and his supporters don’t view it that way.
The stark reality is that Republicans looking for votes and realizing the significance of Jewish voters in pivotal communities across America are attempting to manipulate our emotions on Israel. Because so many Republican positions are antithetical to core Jewish values, they distort the one area of bipartisan consensus in order to score political points. In so doing, they weaken the unity we should be working to strengthen.
Joe Biden exemplifies our Jewish core values, including bipartisan support for Israel. His five decades of support for Israel evidence the longest and strongest record on Israel of any presidential candidate in history. Joe Biden fought for Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) in the 1980s when he opposed the sale of AWACs to Saudi Arabia. He has backed foreign aid to Israel during his entire career. He strongly advocated for missile defense systems such as Iron Dome as vice president (after Iron Dome received a frosty reception from the previous administration). In fact, he helped broker the record-setting $38 billion 10-year aid package to Israel, the largest aid package in U.S. history. And, Joe Biden has unequivocally opposed any conditioning of aid to Israel. To suggest that he is anything other than an unwavering friend of Israel is untruthful, manipulative and puts rank partisanship before the safety and security of Israel. Such mischaracterization and lying should be condemned by everyone who supports Israel.
As vice chair and a co-founder of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), I am proud of the fine work we have done to advocate for our core Jewish values while modeling bipartisanship when it comes to Israel. In horror and disbelief, we watched President Trump call neo-Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people,” as they marched in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us.” It was then that we decided to move up JDCA’s original launch date. Not coincidentally, Joe Biden made his decision to run for president for the same reason based on the same values.
JDCA recently ran a successful ad linking the emboldening of white nationalism under Donald Trump and the rise of fascism and hatred in 1930s Germany. The fact that some Republicans closed their eyes to the truth does not lessen the ad’s validity. Instead of discussing it on the merits — which they cannot do because truth does not play to their political advantage — some Republicans choose to use the memories of those who perished in the Shoah as partisan shields, pretending that the ad accused the Trump administration of genocide when it does nothing of the kind. What does “Never Forget” mean if we cannot learn from the lessons of history?
Instead of condemning the repeated anti-Semitic rhetoric and dog whistles from their Republican leader — the most powerful man in the world — these same Republicans focus on two or three of the least powerful Democrats in the House, a tiny fraction of the 435 members of Congress and 236 Democrats. Anti-Semitism must be condemned in all forms no matter the source. We should not permit ourselves to be fooled by attempts to create false equivalencies. It is beyond absurd to equate the words of a couple of first-term members of Congress with the words of the president of the United States.
Anti-Semitism might exist on both sides of the aisle, but while the Democratic Party marginalizes it, the Republican Party ignores it emanating from the top. Trump’s silence speaks louder than his words. His failure to condemn white supremacy when asked to do so at the presidential debate, and his failure to condemn QAnon, a dangerous group of anti-Semitic conspiracists, at the recent Town Hall, tells much about his danger not only to the Jewish community, but to all decent people in America.
Golda Meir was the first of nine Israeli Prime Ministers with whom Joe Biden has met. In her infinite wisdom, she once said, “If only political leaders would allow themselves to feel, as well as to think, the world might be a happier place.” Joe Biden is precisely the leader who we need now more than ever.
Barbara Goldberg Goldman is a founder and vice chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.