Ostracizing Jewish Trump Supporters Will Only Hurt the Jewish Community

Nov. 19 2018

On the day of the massacre in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the political commentator Franklin Foer wrote in the Atlantic that “any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.” Foer was not alone in this sentiment, which was echoed by at least one influential rabbi. Seth Mandel warns of the dangers of this passion for anathematizing political opponents, made even more dangerous by the tendency to blame Israel for the anti-Semitic violence:

Two versions of this [claim] predominate: one, that Israel’s strength has deceived Jews into weakening their position in America; two, that Israeli policies are to blame for the bloodshed. . . . The former Anti-Defamation League official Harry Reis [stated that] Benjamin Netanyahu, the Knesset member Naftali Bennett, the Israeli ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman “are enablers and defenders of [Donald Trump’s] hate and the white supremacists who support him.”

The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson took the next logical step in this progression and—ironically, endorsing a key neo-Nazi talking point—proclaimed: “The bizarre and terrifying nexus between Israel and white nationalism actually starts to make sense when you understand the ethno-nationalist literature. Extreme-right Zionists and anti-Semitic white nationalists have the same core beliefs.” Liberals have thus unwittingly been reprising the old “Zionism equals racism” calumny with the 2018 version: Zionism is borderline Nazism. . . .

So there you have it: the Jews are the authors of their own destruction, supporters of Israel are disloyal Americans, Zionism is a first cousin to Nazism, right-wing Jews are Nazi collaborators, and Trump-supporting Jews should be expurgated from Jewish communal life.

Why are [Foer and others] fixated on excommunication? [There] is a great irony here: liberal laymen and clergy are deploying one of the most heavy-handed rabbinical retributive powers on the menu. . . . But of course the religion we’re talking about isn’t Judaism, is it? It’s progressivism—the Torah of Liberalism. In leftist politics, isolation is the first, not the last, line of defense against upsetting ideas.

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More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump, Politics & Current Affairs

 

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela