Recent events illustrate why American Jews won't be leaving the Democratic Party anytime soon. Both parties have anti-Israel and anti-Semitic fringes, but the Republican Party has mainstreamed bigotry and intolerance to a level not seen before in our lifetimes.
Saturday, white nationalists, Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members rallied in Charlottesville, chanting "white lives matter" and "Jews will not replace us." Trump, who was so quick to criticize President Barack Obama for not using the phrase "Islamic terrorism," condemned "in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides."
You read that right. "On many sides." He said it twice. Hallie Jackson asked a White House official what the president meant by "on many sides." The false moral equivalence is abhorrent. Trump has no trouble condemning so many people and groups, sometimes in the crudest terms. Why can't he condemn Nazis, Klansmen,and white supremacists?
The president of the United States should be condemning only one side in Charlottesville, and he should be condemning that side by name. Maybe Trump followed David Duke's advice and looked in the mirror. Meanwhile, Sebastian Gorka, who wears a Nazi medal, remains in the White House.
As the leader of our nation, our president should know that some conflicts don't deserve forbearance or false equivalence. There weren't many sides in Charlottesville. There were two. Through his cowardice, complicity and unwillingness to confront what he has enabled, President Trump has chosen the wrong one.
Trump did not tell the white nationalists to go to Charlottesville or to commit violence. But his campaign and presidency have given white nationalists cover, oxygen and the dream of respectability. And now, when the moment calls for some semblance of presidential leadership and denunciation of racists, he cannot bring himself to criticize a group that is unarguably part of his base (not a majority, but among his strongest fans).
No wonder most Jews remain Democrats. In a desperate effort to deflect attention from the leader of their party, some of our Republican friends are doing all they can to feign outrage over imagined slights to Israel from Democrats, but as I explain in the Times of Israel, Democrats remain pro-Israel--and most Jews will remain Democrats. We should strongly condemn anti-Semitism on the left, but three marchers carrying flags getting kicked out of a march no one heard of before pales in comparison with what happened in Charlottesville Saturday and to the current occupants of the White House.
(Shortly after I wrote my Times of Israel piece, the White House trivialized the Holocaust to make a political point, and it wasn't the first time for the Trump administration.)
Support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. If you are concerned that the new law would infringe on free speech, that the new law is confusingly written, or that the new law extends the prohibition to goods manufactured in the West Bank, then you owe it to yourself to read my Huffington Post piece, which addresses these concerns.
Where does Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) stand on Israel, BDS and the First Amendment? Gillibrand is a tremendous friend of Israel and the Jewish community. If you've read the misrepresentations of Gillibrand's positions, you owe it to yourself to read Gillibrand in her own words. She wrote on Aug. 10 that she rejects "the notion that we must choose between equally supporting Israel and the First Amendment." She also wrote that she
voted for round after round of sanctions against Iran to address its nuclear program and its efforts to harm Israel, support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and wreak havoc across the Middle East. I have spoken out repeatedly against the well-documented anti-Israel bias at the UN, which the Palestinian Authority has used to circumvent negotiations with Israel, and last year I led a bipartisan letter joined by 87 of my colleagues opposing any one-sided efforts to pressure Israel at the UN. I continue to believe that Israel will be best served by a two-state solution reached through direct negotiations with the Palestinians...It is incumbent upon all of us to call out anti-Semitism and push back against this form of bigotry wherever it exists, whether it's coming from pockets of the BDS movement or from the so-called "Alt Right."
If Gillibrand represents what Republicans think is wrong with the Democratic Party on Israel, then we have to ask ourselves what is wrong with the Republicans who think that.
Progressives speak against anti-Semitism. Ann Lewis, president of the Joint Action Committee Education Fund, speaks for all legitimate progressives when she says "I did not march for hate." We must continue to fight for the causes we believe in even as we call out those who attempt to subvert these causes for un-progressive values.