By Walter Ruby
Special to WJW
In recent days, I have seen a pronounced shift in favor of President Donald Trump in Facebook discussions among American Jews. One woman wrote that despite her personal dislike of Trump, she is now undecided in the November election between the president and former vice president Joe Biden because of her gratitude for the mutual recognition agreement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with great fanfare at the White House on Sept. 15.
Without question, the accord is a significant step forward in breaking Israel’s isolation in the region.
However, the key question for undecided Jews is whether the mutual recognition agreement is reason enough to vote to re-elect Trump. My answer is an emphatic “no” — unless we allow the agreement to render us oblivious to the deadly peril Trump represents to the survival of democracy in America, to the welfare and safety of American Jews and the sustainability of the planet itself.
Let’s start with Trump’s threat to the rule of law. He has refused to state that he will accept the results of the November election if he loses; and keeps doubling down on efforts to prevent millions of Americans from voting by mail during an epidemic he has not seriously attempted to control. Trump muses with increasing explicitness the he should not get only four more years, but actually 12 more years; so that he can join his fellow autocrats Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping as a president for life. As in 2016, Trump is again accepting the help of Russia to skew this election in his favor through online trickery; and slavishly refuses to offer a scintilla of criticism of Putin; a brutal dictator who poisons his opponents and places bounties on the heads of U.S. servicemen.
Brian Murphy, a high-level whistleblower from the Department of Homeland Security recently reported that he was asked by acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to suppress vital information about the growing white supremacist threat. As the Anti-Defamation League has been warning for years, heavily armed white nationalist, neo-Nazi and pro-Trump vigilante groups present a clear and present danger to the safety of Jews in this country, yet Trump continues to coddle them.
In 2017, we witnessed some of his “very fine people” marching with tiki torches through Charlottesville chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us.” Then, in 2018 and 2019 came murderous attacks on Jews in prayer in synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego by racist gunmen obsessed with the belief that Jews are behind a devilish plot to dilute America’s white essence by importing black and brown refugees and immigrants to these shores. Does anyone think Jews will be safe from these people in 2021 and beyond if Trump is re-elected and continues to turn a blind eye?
Trump’s own determination to cut off immigration from “shithole countries,” even to the infamous point of separating immigrant children from their parents, flies squarely in the face of the Jewish edict to welcome the stranger. His xenophobic fearmongering against Muslims, Mexicans and Chinese threatens the affirmation of religious and ethnic diversity of America that is essential to the maintenance of a decent Jewish life in this nation. We Jews simply cannot feel comfortable living in a closed and bigoted country intent on preserving a white, Christian identity. We know in our kishkes that if Muslims or Mexicans are demonized today, it will likely be our turn tomorrow.
Jews who are undecided in this election should also ask themselves what has more long term significance for their lives; an Israel-UAE entente or the immolation of large sections of California, Oregon and Washington state or the massive flooding of the Gulf Coast now taking place? The hellish infernos and monster hurricanes of the past decade, which are supercharged by climate change, have vividly shown us there is nowhere in America where we can feel safe from these life-threatening cataclysms. Are we ready to risk our lives and those of our children and grandchildren to re-elect a president who declared falsely while visiting California that “science doesn’t know” what causes the wildfires; and airily assured his listeners that it will soon “start getting cooler”; a comment about as reassuring as his oft-repeated claim that COVID-19 will “magically disappear” any day now?
No matter what we do, Americans will face for many years to come grievous consequences for our past inaction against climate change. Yet to shrug one’s shoulders and contribute to the all-too-likely advent of environmental apocalypse by voting to re-elect Trump — the science-denying emperor gleefully fiddling while the world burns — would be the height of irresponsibility. Not to mention that undermining democracy, coddling white supremacists and carrying out the willful destruction of our planet is sure as hell not good for the Jews.
Walter Ruby, a veteran Jewish journalist, is executive director of Jews, Muslims and Allies Acting Together (JAMAAT), a Washington-area Interfaith body.