I have written the following letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, who on several occasions has offered praise to Donald J. Trump, in view of the dangers that Trump poses to the Jewish community of the US and to other minorities here, most especially our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
I am writing to you as an American Jew, about the grave dangers threatening my country, the United States. As the leader of a consistent ally of the US, you hold great influence with the new leaders of my country, and I urge you to employ that influence effectively to protect fellow Jews and one of Israel’s closest friends among the international community.
The United States is facing a tough struggle for the next four years, and we badly need your help. The specter of fascism has taken hold, and Jews as well as other minorities in the US are under a grave threat, not dissimilar to the threat posing us in Germany in the 1930s.
Mr. Prime Minister, you have expressed praise for Donald Trump, and previously you spoke unkindly of President Obama during his administration. Both of these stances, I am sorry to say, have undermined the safety of Jews in the US and elsewhere. I cannot image that you are unaware of the great support Trump has received from Nazi groups in the US and other nations, from the KKK, and from other antisemitic and fascist groups here and worldwide. The new president has received “Heil Trump” salutes; and language recalling and celebrating the Nazis of the 1930s has been spray-painted on temples, mosques, churches, and other potential targets.
It would be easy in normal years to dismiss these atrocities, and to presume that these people have misunderstood Trump’s message or that these people do not represent what Trump is attempting to accomplish. But Trump’s appointment of a leading American white nationalist and anti-Semite, Steve Bannon, to the position of Chief Strategist, signals clearly that the harmony between Trump and the Nazis is neither imagined nor unintended. In the wake first of the election in November, and more recently of the preparations for and festivities of the inauguration, Jewish communities across the US suffered bomb-threats, swastika paintings, and other acts of intimidation, intended to keep Jews here fearful, obedient, and quiet.
As if that weren’t enough, Steve Bannon has been further elevated by a change to our National Security Council, whereby this white nationalist and anti-Semite has a key role in constructing our country’s security policy – policy which is going to closely affect your nation as well. This change also included the shocking removal from the council of the Director for National Intelligence and of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces. Our intelligence and military chiefs no longer have a right to sit on the key venue for crafting our country’s security policy; but our country’s leading architect of racist and antisemitic propaganda has a leading voice on that body. Sir, as a Jew, if that does not chill you to the very bone, then I think you need to re-examine your Jewishness, and to take a closer look at Adolf Hitler’s shifting of Nazi Party members into Germany’s security mechanisms in the early 1930s.
Recently, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the US government under Trump spoke about the “innocent victims,” while failing to mention Jews in any way. Nazis and other groups applauded this statement loudly, revitalizing their movement to destroy Jews and other minority groups. On this very same day, Trump proclaimed a ban on Muslim entry into the US from several Muslim states where Trump has no personal business interests (we can presume, so that his personal business interests would be less threatened by the inevitable attacks that such an act will provoke). Trump’s ban is a clear reminder to many Jews like me of the policies of the US toward Jewish refugees prior to World War II, turning back many seeking refuge from Nazi terror – many of whom were shortly to perish in the camps. Sir, as Jews, it is fundamentally imperative for us to embrace those seeking refuge from the political and theocratic extremists of the Middle East (such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and similar groups). Innocent people need protection just like we did in the 1930s, and which some like me fear even Jews in the US may need over the next few years.
And where are we to go if the US treks its current path toward fascism ever further? As long as Israel promotes the settlement of areas of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, we can’t look to your state, either, if it destabilizes regional security with policies such as this. As an American Jew, I live in a nation built on an idea – attacked as it is by Trump and those supporting him – that all peoples can live together and build a greater community. That idea has worked for almost 250 years, even if now it seems shaken by those who want to erase the progress of history. Israel, too, to be a democratic state, must embrace and empower both the minorities within your borders, and the Palestinians seeking to build their own nation-state in the West Bank. A two-state solution is necessary to the security of Jews in Israel (and may even become necessary to the Jews of the US if we need to seek a haven from American fascism).
Sir, I urge you strenuously, with both the knowledge of history, and the close reading of the events of the past few years, to cease advocating or expressing support for Trump, and to act like a leader of Jews, concerned about the lives of Jews abroad. The US has not yet become the Third Reich; but we have taken, and are continuing to take, ever more rapidly, the first steps down that road. We need leaders like you, who have power and influence and who know how to wield them, to help stand in the way and to provide a guiding light for a better way, a way of embracing fellow communities, before that light is extinguished by the darkness of Trump, his Nazi supporters, and those like them.