Sometimes, only your friends can tell you when you’re going off the rails. No one else can do it. It may strain or even break the bonds of friendship, but it is necessary.
According to the polls, you, Israeli Jews, preferred Trump overwhelmingly. We, American Jews, except for the Orhodox, voted overwhelmingly for Biden. This is not something to paper over. It is a rupture that threatens Jews everywhere, the trust between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, and in the long run, Israel.
We are true friends of Jews and Israel. We were both Senior Fulbright Scholars to Israel five years ago. For each of us, it was a dream accomplished to work and live in Israel with our families. We each continue to aid colleagues in Israel and to introduce colleagues and students to Israel.
We believe in your cause. We do not agree on everything. One of us wrote a book explaining why the Iran deal was good. The other changed his affiliation from Democrat to Republican in protest of the same. But on this vital matter we agree. If the Jews of Israel continue to support Trump’s style of politics, they will find themselves on the wrong side of history. The consequences will be dire.
The election has torn the US apart and the damage will not easily be repaired. Our protracted election process is concluding, but even once the electoral college votes, nearly half the population - who feed on Trump’s falsehoods – will continue to disbelieve the results. This will make governing difficult for any president. The leaders of the Republican party seem unable or unwilling to call out what we see as simply lies. In the beginning, they may have believed they could control the wild behavior that is Trumpism (a new name for Fascism, in our view), but now it controls them.
By failing to understand the threat posed by Trump, you Israelis betray the Jews of America and betray our democracy. Jews, of any people in the world, should be able to spot emerging Fascism. But where is your sense of history now?
The white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville and Washington are Trump’s Brown Shirts. They traffic in intimidation. Trump alternately excused and encouraged them. It is no coincidence that hate crimes have risen. Trump denies the dangers of the pandemic, he savages the efforts of America’s scientists and public health experts to combat it. It is no coincidence that the US is among the countries with the highest COVID death rates per capita.
Israelis congratulate themselves on having the only democracy in the Middle East. But this point is an empty shell if you fail to see the threat to democracy in the US. If America cannot reverse its descent into autocracy and kleptocracy, it weakens its claim to world leadership and squanders its power to aid Israel. Israelis love to highlight the dysfunctionality of the Palestinian Authority by noting that Abbas is in the sixteenth year of his four-year term. But how does that square with your support for Trump who continues to try every democracy-defying trick to extend his reign to an unelected second term?
Siding with Trump is not merely siding with Conservatives over Liberals. It is not politics as usual. The Conservative movement in the US has been swallowed whole by Trump and the forces that he has unleashed. These forces separate asylum seekers from their children, brandish guns in public and shoot innocent people exercising their right to protest. They promulgate conspiracy theories based on antisemitic lies. In the not-too distant past, the asylum seekers would have been Jews. Many of the protesters for social justice still are Jews.
You have been ill-served by your boorish prime minister who withheld his congratulations from President-Elect Biden until the last moment.
It is axiomatic that antisemitic lies will bring harm to the Jews of America. How can these practices, which would be scorned in Israel, be acceptable in the US?
Israel is perennially mistreated by the international community. You see the long-overdue movement of the embassy to Jerusalem, you sense the encouraging cracks in the “Three Nos” and you feel vindicated. You think, “Trump gets us.” We understand. But Trump is not a reliable ally and could never be. The Soviet Union cast an early vote in the UN for Partition and an independent Israel. But no one would confuse Stalin with a trusted ally of Israel. Like autocrats before, Trump sees enemies everywhere, brooks no opposition, and surrounds himself with sycophants. While president, he has turned on every one of his friends or appointees who dared to cross him. Given the right circumstance or perceived slight, Trump would turn on Israel.
You have been deceived by your pundits who claim that Trump won the election. You have been ill-served by your boorish prime minister who withheld his congratulations from President-Elect Biden until the last moment. In doing so, Netanyahu is playing with fire and may incinerate the chance to work productively with the Biden administration. Biden won fair and square. He won by more votes than there are Jews in Israel. He will win, officially, in the electoral college. Heed your American Jewish friends when we say: Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the President on January 20. If not, the US will cease to exist as a democracy.
Even Biden’s defeat of Trump does not make matters right between us, American and Israeli Jews. You showed yourselves willing to ignore the very real threat to our democracy, to our way of life and safety, just to help advance your own parochial needs. This fissure will not soon heal. Any visitor to Israel has seen the popular olive-green t-shirts for sale with the IDF emblem and a bit of Jewish irony, “Don’t worry America. We have your back.” Sadly, we are not so sure.
Prof. Evan D. Morris is a Prof of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Psychiatry, Yale University
Prof. Dennis C. Jett, is a Prof. of International Affairs, Penn State University. US Ambassador, Retired.)