September 23, 2018

A double standard for Trump on Israel

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S. July 25, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernest/REUTERS.

The double standard that too many Jewish supporters of Donald Trump apply to this president was on sad display last week.

A young Palestinian man entered the home of a Jewish family in the village of Halamish on July 21 and stabbed Yosef, Chaya and Elad Salomon to death. No justification. No mercy. No humanity. 

Our hearts cried out for universal condemnation. Our president needed to set the example of moral leadership. As of this writing, he has said nothing. 

Well, not nothing. Immediately following news of the butchery, President Donald J. Trump did tweet. This is what he said: “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.”

Trump was so focused on the perceived treachery of Republicans who refuse to go along with some half-baked Obamacare repeal that he passed on the opportunity to call out terrorists, fanatics and their enablers.

My reaction to Trump’s bizarre tweet was, What if President Obama had done this?

What if Barack Obama had said nothing about the indescribably awful photos of the Salomon family murder scene? His Jewish detractors would have pilloried him — and rightly so.

The contrast points to something more and more apparent: a double standard applied by the pro-Israel community to Trump and his predecessor.

Three weeks ago, Trump recertified Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal. I believe this was the right thing to do, but then again, I supported the deal originally.  Trump didn’t. But when he reversed himself, did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fly to Washington and speak to Congress to publicly condemn Trump? Did Trump’s Jewish supporters call him a traitor to Israel and an Iranian puppet? Nope. Double standard.

One week ago, the Trump administration cut a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a Syrian ceasefire that leaves Hezbollah troops close to Israel’s northern border.  Israel vehemently opposed the idea. But Trump sided with Putin. “The Americans completely conceded to the Russians,” a senior Israeli military official told Al-Monitor. “The very names of Iran or Hezbollah do not appear in the agreement, and there is no expression of Israeli concerns at all. Our security needs are completely ignored.”

I’m not sure the ceasefire wasn’t the right move. But I do know what holy hell the pro-Israel right would have raised if Obama had signed that deal. In this case, they said nothing. Double standard.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised he would move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem  “on Day One.” Jewish and Christian audiences leapt to their feet at Trump’s promise.

Two months ago, Trump declined to move the embassy. The protest from those who applauded him? Barely a word. Double standard.

Keep in mind these all are examples from the past couple of months. Want to go back further? Imagine what the Republican outcry would have been if Obama refused to mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day? Or if Obama had said he “doesn’t know anything about” Louis Farrakhan, as candidate Trump said of KKK Grand Nincompoop David Duke.   

A healthy swath of the Jewish community, and the larger Republican crowd, reviled Obama. But time and again they grade Trump on a curve. Obama signed a $38 billion aid deal with Israel, helped fund its Iron Dome program, stood by Israel during the Gaza War and firmly declared anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism — two years before French President Emmanuel Macron did. Did it matter? Nope. Double standard.

With one notable exception — the Zionist Organization of America’s Morton Klein — the president’s Jewish supporters give him a pass on issues, statements and actions they would have slammed Obama for.

Obama could do no right, Trump can do no wrong. Can you even imagine the derision if Obama’s State Department had blamed Israel for Palestinian terror, as Trump’s State Department did in a report released this week?

Here’s what I wonder: Why does Trump get a pass? Maybe United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley buys Trump all the indulgences he will ever need. Maybe Obama haters simply used Israel as a wedge issue to gain Jewish votes when their real concern was other Democratic policies. Or maybe these supporters cut Trump slack because they believe he supports Israel deep down in his kishkas, or guts, and — so they like to say– Obama just didn’t.

If it’s the last reason, then I have one question that Jewish supporters of the president must consider: Does it matter if you have Israel in your kishkas if you are otherwise incompetent, unprepared, uniformed and relentlessly self-concerned?

In July 2014, the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found murdered by Palestinian terrorists — a horror no less shocking and unjustifiable than the Salomon murders last week. Almost immediately, then-President Barack Obama sent his condolences to the families of the teenagers and condemned the “senseless act of terror against innocent youth.”

It’s not asking too much of a president to respond with humanity to inhuman acts. And it’s not expecting too much of his supporters to call him out when he falls short.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

Eyeless in Gaza

First I saw a young protester telling a CNN reporter in Trafalgar Square, “Every single day, as soon as we turn on the TV, we see children there die in the hospitals, adults dying, children dying on the floor. Why, why, why? Why do children have to die? Why do innocent children have to die on the floor? Why?”

And I thought, She’s right, those children in Gaza are innocent, every human life is precious, civilians aren’t combatants. Doesn’t everyone deserve basic human rights like food and water and life itself?

But then I thought, Where was she when 80 or 90 Hamas rockets a day were raining down on Israel? Where were all the television cameras when innocent children in Ashkelon and Sderot were being maimed and killed?

But then I saw pictures of massive devastation in Gaza on the front pages of the newspapers, and I thought, What good does it do if Israel appears to act like its enemies?

But then I heard Shimon Peres tell George Stephanopoulos that Hamas “did things which are unprecedented in the history even of terror. They made mosques into headquarters. They put bombs in the kindergartens, in their own homes. They are hiding in hospitals.” Where were all the people of Gaza rising up in outrage when Hamas used them as human shields?

Then I heard Palestinian negotiator Hannan Ashwari say that Gaza was a secondary issue, that the real imperative was to reach a lasting political agreement, not a temporary military outcome, and I thought, She’s right, there will be no peace and security for Israel unless a viable two-state solution is reached.

” alt=’Complete Gaza Coverage’ title=’Complete Gaza Coverage’ vspace = 8 hspace = 8 border = 0 align = left>But then I read a blog by Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg recounting his interview with Nizzar Rayyan, the Hamas leader who was killed by Israeli bombs last week. “This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: ‘The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don’t need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel.’ There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East.

‘Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God… You [Jews] are murderers of the prophets and you have closed your ears to the Messenger of Allah…. Jews tried to kill the Prophet, peace be unto him. All throughout history, you have stood in opposition to the word of God.'”

And I thought, How can you negotiate with people who reject your nation’s right to exist, and whose version of religion calls you a murderous race? If someone claimed that the best way for America to deal with Bin Laden is to reach a political agreement with al-Qaeda, I’d say that they’re nuts, that there can be no negotiation or accommodation with people lusting for a final battle to rid your people from the earth.

But then I heard an Arab diplomat railing against Israel’s continuing tolerance of illegal settlements, and I thought, As long as Knesset coalition governments are dependent on ultra-Orthodox parties who have no respect for the law, how can anyone expect Arab moderates to gain enough political power for Israel to negotiate with them, when Israeli moderates can’t muster that clout either?

Then I reminded myself that the people of Gaza overwhelmingly voted for Hamas in a democratic election, and I thought, What good is democracy, if it can put terrorists in charge of governments?

But then I read that tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs in the Israeli town of Sakhnin had rallied against Israel’s Gaza offensive, and I thought, What Middle East nation except Israel would ensure that anti-government protesters had the right to hold such a demonstration?

And then I remembered reading that former Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon warned Israelis not to delude themselves about Israel’s Arab population, that Israeli Arabs — a fifth of Israel — constitute a potential fifth column.

Then I saw a Teleseker Institute poll saying that 95 percent of Israeli Jews support Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. But then I saw a Rasmussen poll saying that while 44 percent of Americans think Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, 41 percent say it should have tried to find a diplomatic solution — essentially a tie, within the poll’s margin of error. And I wondered, How long does diplomacy have to keep failing, how many bombs have to keep dropping, before self-defense finally trumps talk?

I wish I didn’t believe that the events now unfolding in the Middle East are too complicated for unalloyed outrage. I wish the arguments of only one side rang wholly true to me. I am the first to accuse myself of paralyzing moral generosity — the fatal empathy that terrorists prey on. But ambivalence is not the same as moral equivalence, and holy war, no matter who is waging it, makes my flesh crawl.

In Milton’s poem “Samson Agonistes,” Samson — blinded, in chains — cries out, “Promise was that I/ Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;/ Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him/ Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves.” But when Samson shows the strength to shun Delilah, God restores his power, enabling him to pull down the temple and kill the Philistines, though along with himself.

What makes “Samson Agonistes” a tragedy is the self-destruction that victory entails. I passionately assert Israel’s right to exist in peace with its neighbors and within secure borders. But I can’t help fearing that its military success in Gaza, should it come, will also entail a tragic cost.

Marty Kaplan holds the Norman Lear chair at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. His column appears here weekly; the views he expresses are his own. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

‘Cougars’ and Younger Men

I’ve been living in the Valley almost six years, and I’ve discovered that trying to date in Los Angeles could be a full-time job. Now I keep hearing about a new trend,
which has perked my interest. Mature women (referred to as cougars) dating younger men.

Unfortunately, this new trend has not reached all eligible men. I’m still waiting for more younger men to jump on the bandwagon.

Seventy is the new 50, and 60 is the new 45. I’m delighted the dating scene is changing.

Several years ago, I met a younger man online, and I thought that was really cool. It made me feel elated and very special that he was interested in me.

We have many things in common, although he says we have some differences. In a recent conversation, I asked him, “So, what are our differences?”

The response danced around his issues — something about my kids being older than his kid. I asked myself what this has to do with the price of gas. We’ve dated. We have chemistry. He calls me almost nightly when he is driving home from the office.

Periodically, I check in by asking if things are going to change, and I get the same answers, “I travel and have to get my daughter through college.”

I’ve made it clear that “I can deal with that.” And while he keeps telling me I will always be his friend, to me that means there is something he really likes about me, yet he is not comfortable moving forward.

He knows I enjoy his friendship. We talk about almost everything and anything. However, I feel I’m up against a roadblock of sorts. I’m a mature woman, seasoned, energetic and marinated in life experience, with much to offer. I’m self-confident, and I can be maternal and playful. I can sure be an asset.

Many women (including me) are financially secure these days and will pick up dinner tabs, buy gifts, etc. Our pilot light has not been extinguished by menopause. I’m open to love, dating, new dreams, just exploring life and enjoying.

I have a new, exciting lifestyle that people admire — an acting career — and now I’m trying stand-up comedy. I did my first show a few weeks ago, and I made people laugh. I’m still on a high.

It’s also a good feeling that the younger people in my classes welcome me as an equal. So my message to my phone friend and other men is: if you think you’re hip, get with the new dating trend.

Strange how we accept old men dating and marrying women young enough to be their daughters or granddaughters, even while some men still have issues being involved with mature women.

Recently, an East Coast male friend visited. He’s an older gentleman who is well off financially, however, the drawback was he has a problem walking. So I couldn’t take him many places.

One day, we went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and he left his hand print on every wall and display case. He leaned on everything, and periodically needed to sit. He also had difficulty getting out of my car. He was more comfortable sitting in his PJs watching TV with his teeth in a glass.

Yes, we did go to the movies and out to dinner. The highlight of his visit was seeing an overpriced condo in Marina del Rey.

If my mother were alive, she would be completely surprised and horrified to see how I have evolved. She would not have approved of my divorce, my new acting career or my stand-up comedy.

She would ask me in Yinglish, “What are you doing? Why do you need it?”

I do know that I’ve come a long way from my growing-up days in New York.

I’m sure women agree with me on this new dating trend. For all those single men who are sitting on the fence: Try it. You may really enjoy the friendship of a mature woman, and it could be the best thing that happened to you.

Esther Hersh is an actress working in Los Angeles. She can be contacted at ewh1121@aol.com.