I always thought the “Don’t worry America, Israel is behind you” T-shirts sold in Jerusalem on Ben Yehuda Street were silly. Partly because I grew up a proud American who believed (and still does) that this is the best country on earth, warts and all. That, and the plane being flown by the “greatest air force in the world” was built in America and paid for by American tax dollars.
But as a Jew, I absorbed the communal myth that America is safe for the Jews because Israel is there — just in case. Or more directly: Israel will protect us when “they” come for us. And they would come for us, because they always come for us. “Raid on Entebbe” was required viewing for mainstream American Hebrew schools, reinforcing the understanding that the Jewish army would protect the Jews.
When I was younger, I took pride in the immutable fact that my fellow Jews would protect my people from what befell my grandparents.
Today it is cold comfort. During the most uncivil election cycle in American history, when Jewish journalists were targeted for heinous anti-Semitic harassment and the dog whistles rang clear as a bell, the Israeli government remained silent.
The rhetoric of the campaign gave way to an immediate and massive uptick of hate crimes, and I’m left asking why we heard nothing from the self-appointed saviors of our people. The Mexican government spoke up when Trump opened his mouth and his supporters attacked Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the name of “passion for their country.” But the Jewish state was silent when Jewish people were told they would make nice lampshades.
Much has been made of the deafening silence of the Jewish Federations of North America, AIPAC and Conference of Presidents, but why haven’t we heard a word from the Israel? The American Nazi Party is praising the Trump victory and his appointment of a number of top advisers to the administration — but nothing from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the dangers for the Jews.
And make no mistake about it: The dangers are real.
The Israeli government’s blinders have in the past led it to favor the survivalists among our co-religionists, dismissing a generation of diaspora Jews and our concerns. For as long as I have been aware of my Jewish identity, the Israeli government has told us we are under attack and need to be ready to fight for our lives. But now, when we are at risk of imminent attack, they are silent.
The Israeli government may be acting upon the assumption that they share a common enemy with the American government. However, even if you share a common enemy with your enemy, he is still your enemy. The Trump coalition will get around to coming for us because they always get around to that. And then what?
This is beyond a political miscalculation; it is a monumental failure of morally bankrupt leadership. The government of Israel welcomes this administration and what it stands for without protest. As vocal supporters of the incoming administration incite hatred and violence against minorities in the United States, including the Jews, it’s clear that Israel has made its choice.