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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/2/22

The Jewish Schism Deepens-An Analysis

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Trump uses anti-Semitic tropes to criticize Jewish Americans CNN's Jake Tapper and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt discuss former President Donald Trump's use of ...
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Part I Trump Lectures the Jews

Donald Trump has always admired the leadership style of a tough-guy dictator-type. This is because a tough-guy dictator was and still is what he aspires to be. Thus, he publicly applauded the leadership of Egypt, the Philippines, Russia and, yes, Israel as well. Israel, in particular, was important to him because of the power of the Jewish lobby in the United States, and until recently, Trump considered the authoritarian Benjamin Netanyahu something of an alter-egosomeone fighting to assert himself against democratic fetters.

It should come as no surprise that Trump's support for Israel has nothing to do with the country's increasingly suspect claim to being "the only democracy in the Middle East." Instead, Trump adopted Israel's discriminatory domestic policies and aggressive foreign goals as causes to sponsor. But then, because those same practices have alienated many Jews, Trump has periodically taken it upon himself to lecture and castigate Jewish Americanshe does this even though he now holds no official office and has been reduced to the "president" of a community sowing lies and harvesting hate.

In mid-December, Trump declared that U.S. Jews "don't like Israel or don't care about Israel." This reiterated earlier claims such as "Jews don't love Israel enough" and "Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are being disloyal to Israel." Oddly, Trump's complaints imply that U.S. Jews are at fault because they do not exhibit sufficient dual loyalty.

Israelis: What do you think of Haredim?
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Part II American Ultra-Orthodox Heading for Israel

In the meantime, the English edition of the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz announced that the American "Ultra-Orthodox Aliyah [immigration] to Israel Is Breaking Records." This would indicate that there is at least one sub-group of U.S. Jewry that doesn't warrant Trump's charges. This particular migration to Israel is surprising because the Haredim, as they are also called, traditionally remained aloof from Zionism. They once insisted that there could be no legitimate state of Israel until the coming of the Messiah.

Why should these U.S. Jews, the most religious of them all, now be moving to Israel? The reasons given range from anti-Semitism in the U.S. to economic issues such as the increasing cost of living. Significantly, many cite Donald Trump's defeat in 2020 (75% of the Orthodox are Republican or lean Republican) and the "rise of the progressive left" as a reason for leaving. Haaretz noted that "Haredim in the United States were among Trump's staunchest supporters, sharing many of same 'family values' - i.e., opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights - as his evangelical base." One Haredim leader is quoted as saying, "Today, we are witnessing the rapid decline of morality and values in the U.S."

Just to complicate this part of the story, one can note that as the U.S. Haredim rationalize their move to Israel with "the rapid decline" of American morality, at least some Orthodox Jews native to Israel are questioning the alliance between religious Jewry and the Israeli state. They fear that this alliance has undermined traditional Jewish moralityessentially asserting that when religious leadership becomes too closely wedded to state power, ethical values become corrupted.

Part III Orthodox Judaism's "Addiction to State Power."

In Mikhael Manekin's The Dawn of Redemption: Ethics and Tradition in a Time of Power (Evrit, 2021), the author says the main challenge of Zionism has always been the "integration of political power into a religious vision that would maintain a moral compass developed over centuries." Manekin, who is at once an Israeli progressive and an Orthodox religious Jew, concludes "that religious Zionism has failed that test." Instead, it has brought forth a new sort of Jew, "convinced that power, not mercy, stands at the epicenter of religious life." So, while the "ritualistic practices" of Judaism "remain operational " its moral foundations have collapsed into a vision of sovereignty through conquest." One of the more recent false prophets leading this march into hell is none other than the American-educated (MIT Sloan School of Management) Benjamin NetanyahuDonald Trump's Israeli alter-ego.

Manekin's conclusion is not new or unique. It follows in a long line of Jewish religious thinkers, both rabbis and lay leaders. Yet, these warnings have been to no avail when it comes to most contemporary pious Jews, among them the Haredim now exiting the U.S. for another promised land where "power is perceived as a divine gift."

Part IV Reform Judaism's Fractures

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Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest
; America's
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.

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