|Donald Trump delivers a prepared speech at AIPAC on March 21.|
… And then Trump took the stage. No, not as the final speaker but, unexpectedly, the penultimate one. Everyone looked around; where were the Reform rabbis who were going to get up and leave? How many were they supposed to be, a thousand? Two thousand? Nothing. There were awkward cheers and applause, the blobby shape of politeness, and suddenly it was clear that Trump was reading a prepared speech. He wasn’t winging it, free associating, but carefully reading prepackaged points to a specific audience. No one knew how to react; Tweets snarked on the awkward and halting delivery. Ha, he’s not such a good reader, is he? But then he began to zero in, he relaxed, he paused, and mugged, and waved his finger, reading the room, ad-libbing more and more.
High quality demagoguery is hard to find these days. The words “fascist” and “racist” are thrown around too freely as epithets and have lost their meaning as definitions or categories. But seeing an experienced demagogue at work is a special experience; you don’t really know what you’re experiencing. You, the average well-educated, well-intentioned listener, sit there with your stubborn preconceptions, smug in your ability to filter fact from fancy, hyperbole from reality. But with a rising and falling cadence, the repetition of ‘believe me,’ the mugging, the finger waving, and – it must said – the recitation of actual facts about Iran, Palestinian incitement and terrorism, the crowd – you, even you – are sucked in.
“Believe me,” he said, over and over. Of course we don’t believe you, you don’t even believe you, do you? Or maybe, just maybe, he does believe himself. By sheer repetition, by understanding that crowds really do want to believe in something today, to hang on to something that is not a shadow, that has substance, resistance is worn down.
It didn’t really matter what he said, but the way he said it. He stayed close to his script and avoided disaster and sounded sort of sensible, on the Iran deal (it’s a bad deal), Palestinian terrorism and incitement, and more. Trump’s particular gift is to take a sensible observation and make it sound outrageous (illegal immigration, terrorism, whatever) and to fix it in your mind through excess. He’s right, but he’s wrong, but he’s right, also confuses matters by its nonlinear structure, as of course do his more wacky statements. So what if he walks everything back? But are we supposed to be outraged by that, or the original statement?
Does he really believe that NATO is useless, like the UN? Who knows? So what if he said the other day that he could be neutral between Israeli and Palestinians. Maybe this way he confuses friend and foe alike. Few took heed of his use of ‘Palestine,’ not Palestinian Authority. This is instantiation, the giving of substance to something, not perhaps to create a Palestinian state but to bury it. And there was nothing about closing the borders, or hating all Muslims, or building a wall, which Mexico would pay for. But there was Palestinian incitement, and the murdered American, Taylor Force, and the Iran deal. It’s a bad deal.
It was simultaneously masterful and reposterous. ut the willful suspension of disbelief is intrinsic to the show. Why should American Jews be any different than the hundreds of audiences who have been willingly taken in? Why should they be so much smarter? Another stupid conceit that, when applied from the outside, is more than a little antisemitic. The essence of the con is knowing you’re being conned, subconsciously appreciating being conned, because it flatters you. Jews are no different. The essence of AIPAC is first being flattered by politicians, then attempting to hold them to their promises with lobbying and political pressure.
But Trump confounds this; he is only of the moment. How do you put pressure on a shadow whose shape changes from hour to hour? But is he so different than Hillary, who said more or less the same things as he did, minus the embassy moving and the rhetorical flourishes and the orange face? The most frightening thing to pundits was that Trump could be under control, that he could calibrate, that he sounded almost sane and plausible, that he could connect even with this audience. They’ve seen the Keyzer Soze trick a million times — ”The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist” — but it still scares them, because the keep getting fooled. But that says more about them than Trump. Maybe they’re scared because he’s not different in category than Hillary, only in degree.
Only two lines — ”[Obama] may be the worst thing that ever happened to Israel, and you know it” and “Yay! Obama is leaving” — showed a real spark of subversion, and, of course, Trump’s secret access to the collective id. Of course it was applauded. Because he was right. Of course, the next day, AIPAC issued a condemnation, saying that it really, really respected our president, and that some people’s feelings were really, really hurt. Because they do, they were.
The specter of a Trump blowup hung over the entire affair; damage control is a well-rehearsed dance routine, hardly Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, more of an improvised throwdown. Everyone expected worse. Of course, The Affair of Trump at AIPAC will be turned into the Worst Insult Ever By a Racist Who Shouldn’t Have Been Invited That Tarnishes AIPAC and the Entire Jewish Community. But the damage done? Only in the eyes of those who obsess over every word uttered by, for, in front of, in the context of, in the general vicinity or penumbra, of Jews. That is to say, first and foremost by official Jews, and antisemites, followed by Jews who Fret, then by those Who Care, and finally everyone else. Trump, the uniter.
As for the protests, the promised walkouts, these were shadows, camera phones theatrics invisible to spectators, much less official feeds. So much for strident statements from movements and magazines alike, puffed up talk from righteous moralizers taking a Bold Stand against Racism. Of course, the focus will not be on them but on AIPAC -oh my God, did you hear the applause? AIPAC fell for Trump, AIPAC supports Trump, American Jews are racists and fascists because they laughed at his jokes. Of course, it’s never about the moralizers, it’s just about the Jews. All of them. Which is to say, it’s really about the feelings of moralizers, the League of Indignant Jews and their self-image as The Kind and Caring Jews™.
People cheered, loudly and repeatedly, when they were told things they wanted to hear. The shame of responding to a con man is hardly greater than the thunderous applause that had earlier greeted a felon, guilty of numerous violations of the Espionage Act and lying before of Congress (remember, her bathroom server -is- the smoking gun). No shame there? Go read 18 U.S. Code § 793 — Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.
Are those in attendance likely to remember the protests, or what Trump actually said, or what he unsaid, or the AIPAC president’s scolding, but what was very nearly a genuine emotion from Trump, about his daughter’s forthcoming “beautiful Jewish baby?” Mother and forthcoming child should only be healthy. …
Alex Joffe is editor of The Ancient Near East Today, the monthly e-newsletter of the American Schools of Oriental Research, and a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
A Sa’ar 4.5-class Corvette of the Israeli Navy fires its canons during a naval exercise off the coast of Israel.
Israel’s Defense Ministry on Sunday announced a series of deals for the purchase of combat systems from local defense industries in the amount of $420 million by the end of this year. This is part of a project to acquire warships whose mission would to protect natural gas platforms within Israel’s “economic waters” in the Mediterranean against military threats.
An Israeli soldier training in Krav Maga.
Several dozen members of the Indian military are currently learning how to protect themselves using the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, India Today reported this weekend.
“I brought Krav Maga to India in year 2002 after intensive training in Israel,” Vikram Kapoor — the head instructor at the International Krav Maga Federation — was quoted as saying. “This is the only self-defense technique that is being evolved every moment and that is why it is the best.”
Culminating a three-year process, delegates at the Mennonite Church USA assembly in Orlando on Thursday adopted a resolution titled “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” with approximately 98 percent voting in favor. The resolution calls on members to “avoid purchase of products associated with the occupation or produced in settlements in occupied territories.” It also establishes a process for the church to review its investments “for the purpose of withdrawing investments from companies that are profiting from the occupation.”
Rabbi Steven Wernick says Netanyahu recruited progressive Jews to find a compromise for the holy site; now that the PM has reneged, world Jewry won’t be silent
The fight for pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall is a battle already won by Jewry’s Conservative movement. For some 20 years, Conservative Jews have inhabited a spiritual home at Jerusalem’s contentious holy site, which they won through a series of Supreme Court cases — in a section allocated to the Davidson Archaeological
Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Photo credit: hebron.com)
In a secret ballot held at the World Heritage Committee’s 41st annual summit in Krakow Poland, on Friday, UNESCO voted twelve to three in favor declaring the Holy City of Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs “Palestinian world heritage sites”.
The resolution described a Muslim history of the city while blatantly ignoring the Biblical narrative describing 3,000 years of Jewish connection to the site. Six countries abstained from the controversial vote which, at the request of Poland, Croatia, and Jamaica, was a secret ballot; a first for such a vote.
During last month’s 2017 Chicago Dyke March, the true face of “inclusion” among “progressives” finally surfaced. According to the Chicago based newspaper Windy City Times, the march proceeded calmly with people “of all races, genders and gender identities” attending, until “the Dyke March Collective ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).”
Something is terribly broken in the relationship between American and Israeli Jews. I say this as an American Jew who has lived in Israel for almost half a century. But if anyone thinks this started with Women of the Wall or PM Netanyahu’s recent – and I believe unfortunate – backtracking on the agreement over egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, he is suffering from selective memory, if not total denial.
gentleman from times gone by. He was soft-spoken, courtly, and wore his pants hoisted high and held up by suspenders; clearly, a European who had personally endured horrors in the last century.
Indeed, he had personally survived the Holocaust in Poland. Therefore, I could not immediately understand why he now attends a very left-wing synagogue—but, totally incomprehensible, was his unexpected and rather passionate defense of Poland and of the Poles. He argued on their behalf as if his very life still depended upon it.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to visit Jerusalem but not Ramallah has prompted much comment.
The expectation of equal treatment goes back to the Oslo Accords’ signing in Sep. 1993, when the prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, represented his government in the handshake with Yasir Arafat, the much-despised chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. No one found it strange or inappropriate at the time but things look differently nearly a quarter century later.
Matthew Healy at the Atlantic, one of the few remaining liberal anti-censorship magazines, offers a disingenuous counterpoint to the debate over political correctness.
The attempts to silence dissenting points of view are counter-speech, according to Healy. And counter-speech is an important form of free expression.