Skip to main content

Trump, Netanyahu and the pro-Israel monster

The rising alliance between Zionism and anti-Semitism - not questions over Trump's many prejudices - should be our focus right now

Since taking office a month ago, the Trump administration’s defence against charges of actively or passively engaging in anti-Semitism has been to repeatedly note the president's Jewish relationships: a Jewish son-in-law, daughter and grandchildren, and some advisers. After his meeting with Netanyahu last week, he has now added to that list a kosher stamp from Israel's prime minister.

His long overdue condemnation on Tuesday finally addressing the slew of bomb threats on Jewish centres across the US came only after weeks of pressure to condemn anti-Semitism and, peculiarly, just hours after his daughter Ivanka tweeted this:

But having Jewish relatives or showing Jews “a lot of love”, as Trump put it, does not make you immune to anti-Semitism. Neither does being “pro-Israel” or having the endorsement of the Israeli prime minister.

In fact, in the US, there is a strong alliance between Zionists and anti-Semites, who share the belief that all Jews belong in the historic Land of Israel.

The Trump-Jewish relationship is not looking good. But the Trump-Israel relationship is in great shape

When asked about anti-Semitism at both of his press conferences last week, Trump ignored the questions and instead enumerated his Jewish relatives and his approbation from Netanyahu. This is scapegoating Jews and Israel.

Not by blaming them or demonising them, but by pointing to them with esteem, singling them out and utilising them for his own benefit. That is fundamentally an anti-Semitic trope, but as expressed through philosemitism: instead of hating Jews, loving them.  

The connections that go unnoticed 

Whether or not one deems Trump an anti-Semite is not, however, the issue. We already know he has shown at best disregard and at worst contempt and prejudice toward so many minorities and ethnic groups – women, Muslims, blacks, handicapped, journalists. Jews are just another in this collection.

If he’s an anti-Semite, then he’s also a racist and an Islamophobe and a misogynist. Focusing on any one of these misses the fact that they are all interconnected, exemplified by the fundraising campaign launched by Muslim Americans to repair the desecrated tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in St Louis.

US Muslims raise $58k to help repair vandalised Jewish graveyard

Trump is not operating in a vacuum. The bigger issue being glossed over is the harmonious connection between white, nationalist, racist and religious Christian elements in the US (as well as in Europe and South Africa) with Zionism and the pro-settler, right-wing leadership in Israel which is well-established and has been growing roots for years.

Netanyahu is more than happy to take Trump’s support as political capital, even if it means turning a blind eye to various degrees of anti-Semitism

It is most evident in Christians United For Israel – the largest pro-Israel group in the US (much bigger than AIPAC) and figures like John Hagee, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, and now Vice President Mike Pence. In 2009, Pence said to an AIPAC conference, “Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel.”

Years of Israeli positioning in American politics have led to this point. In his response to the question of anti-Semitic incidents in the US, Netanyahu disregarded the diaspora, and instead drew attention to Trump’s strong connection to Israel by saying that there “is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state,” and that “we should put that to rest”.

Trump denounces 'horrible' anti-Semitic threats

He casually ignored the concerns of the American Jewish community, whose organisations and leaders from across the spectrum have been at the forefront of efforts to oppose Trump, and who happen to also make up nearly half of the world Jewish population.

Twenty Rabbis got arrested protesting against Trump’s Muslim ban, young American Jews from IfNotNow interrupted the confirmation hearing for Israel ambassador pick David Friedman and the Reform Movement has come out against the nomination; the Anti-Defamation League has been censuring Trump and has called on him to follow up on his condemnation of anti-Semitism with concrete steps.

And an Orthodox Jewish reporter from a pro-Trump magazine got berated by Trump for asking a question after specifically pointing out that he considers Trump an ally.

The Trump-Jewish relationship is not looking good. But the Trump-Israel relationship is in great shape.

Unleashing the pro-Israel monster

The White House is able to have a toxic combination of support for right-wing Israeli visions like moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and abandoning a Palestinian state, while at the same time excluding any mention of Jewish genocide or anti-Semitism in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. These are perfectly compatible.

Seeing Trump and Netanyahu together is the embodiment of the apex between white supremacy and Jewish supremacy.

Netanyahu actually told Israeli reporters after his meetings at the White House, “There is no doubt that they now understand the meaning of the Holocaust as a means to strike out the Jewish people.” Netanyahu is more than happy to take Trump’s support as political capital, even if it means turning a blind eye to various degrees of anti-Semitism.

The phenomenon of the alliance between Zionism and anti-Semitism is by no means new, but Trump has taken it from the margins to the mainstream – with Netanyahu’s help. Seeing the two of them together is the embodiment of the apex between white supremacy and Jewish supremacy.

It exposes just how giant this “pro-Israel” monster has become. It is a brand name, an identity, a prefix for groups in the US who identify with a specific kind of politics based on tribalism, supremacy and often times, Islamophobia.

But Trump is not the only one responsible. The Israel lobby, which includes a variety of groups and individuals, chief among them AIPAC – which has remained disturbingly silent  - as well as the Israeli government and complacent Democrats, are all responsible for actively and passively creating this pro-Israel monster, which is now on the loose all over the White House.

- Mairav Zonszein is a journalist and translator based in Israel. She blog at 972mag.com.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: US President Donald Trump (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on 15 February 2017 (AFP)