US Jews upset with Trump’s latest rhetoric say he doesn’t get to tell them how to be Jewish

US Jews upset with Trump’s latest rhetoric say he doesn’t get to tell them how to be Jewish
Trump’s latest comments promoted harmful antisemitic stereotypes, painting Jews as having divided loyalties and that there’s only one right way to be Jewish religiously. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 26 March 2024
Follow

US Jews upset with Trump’s latest rhetoric say he doesn’t get to tell them how to be Jewish

US Jews upset with Trump’s latest rhetoric say he doesn’t get to tell them how to be Jewish
  • Trump’s core supporters include white evangelicals, many of whom believe the modern state of Israel fulfills biblical prophecy

Since the start of his political career, Donald Trump has played on stereotypes about Jews and politics.
He told the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015 that “you want to control your politicians” and suggested the audience used money to exert control. In the White House, he said Jews who vote for Democrats are “very disloyal to Israel.”
Two years ago, the former president hosted two dinner guests at his Florida residence who were known to make virulent antisemitic comments.
And this week, Trump charged that Jewish Democrats were being disloyal to their faith and to Israel. That had many American Jews taking up positions behind now-familiar political lines. Trump opponents accused him of promoting antisemitic tropes while his defenders suggested he was making a fair political point in his own way.
Jonathan Sarna, American Jewish history professor at Brandeis University, said Trump is capitalizing on tensions within the Jewish community.
“For people who hate Donald Trump in the Jewish community, certainly this statement will reinforce their sense that they don’t want to have anything to do with him,” he said. “For people who like Donald Trump in the Jewish community, they probably nod in agreement.”
To many Jewish leaders in a demographic that has overwhelmingly identified as Democratic and supported President Joe Biden in 2020, Trump’s latest comments promoted harmful antisemitic stereotypes, painting Jews as having divided loyalties and that there’s only one right way to be Jewish religiously.
“That escalation of rhetoric is so dangerous, so divisive and so wrong,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest US Jewish religious denomination. “This is a moment when Israel needs there to be more bipartisan support.”
But Matt Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the former president’s comments must be heard in context of the Israel-Hamas war and Democratic criticisms of the state of Israel.
“What the president was saying in his own unique style was giving voice to things I get asked about multiple times a day,” Brooks said. “How can Jews remain Democrats in light of what is going on?” He contended the Democratic Party is “no longer the pro-Israel bastion it used to be.”
More than 31,800 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive that followed Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, in which militants killed some 1,200 people and took hostages. Much of northern Gaza has been leveled, and officials warned famine is imminent.
Trump’s comments followed a speech by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the country’s highest-ranking Jewish official. Schumer, a Democrat, last week sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘s handling of the war in Gaza. Schumer called for new elections in Israel and warned the civilian toll was damaging Israel’s global standing.
“Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion,” Trump retorted Monday on a talk show. “They hate everything about Israel.”
A cascade of Jewish voices, from Schumer to the Anti-Defamation League to religious leaders, denounced Trump’s statement.
In a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the Trump campaign doubled down, criticizing Schumer, congressional Democrats’ support of Palestinians and the Biden administration’s policies on Iran and on aid to Gaza.
“President Trump is right,” said Karoline Leavitt, national press secretary for the Trump campaign.
Jeffrey Herf, an antisemitism expert at the University of Maryland, disagrees with Schumer’s call for a ceasefire in Gaza, but believes most Democrats support Israel — and he said a second Biden term would be better for it than a second Trump one.
“If (Trump) loses the 2024 election, his comments prepare the way for blaming the Jews for his defeat,” Herf said. “The clear result would be to fan the flames of antisemitism and assert that, yet again, the Jews are guilty.”
Sarna saw Trump as trying to appeal to politically conservative Jews, particularly the small but fast-growing Orthodox segment, who see Trump as a defender of Israel.
Also, about 10 percent of US Jews are immigrants, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center report. Sarna said significant numbers are conservative.
At the same time, Democrats face the tension between their Jewish constituency, which is predominantly pro-Israel, and its progressive wing, which is more pro-Palestinian.
Sarna said that while it may seem odd to focus so much attention on subsections of a minority population, “elections in America are very close, and every vote counts.”
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said Tuesday on his podcast that Trump “was making a point that, frankly, I have made myself, which is that Jews who are voting Democrat do not understand the Democratic Party.” Shapiro, who practices Orthodox Judaism, contended the party “overlooks antisemitism” within its ranks.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the CEO of T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization, said Trump has no business dictating who’s a good Jew.
“By insinuating that good Jews will vote for the party that is best for Israel, Trump is evoking the age-old antisemitic trope of dual loyalty — an accusation that Jews are more loyal to their religion than to their country, and therefore can’t be trusted,” she said. “Historically, this accusation has fueled some of the worst antisemitic violence.”
In his own time in office, Trump’s policy “of supporting Prime Minister Netanyahu and the settler agenda only endangered Palestinians and Israelis and made peace more difficult to achieve,” Jacobs said.
Pittsburgh-based journalist Beth Kissileff — whose husband, a rabbi in the Conservative denomination of Judaism, in 2018 survived the nation’s deadliest antisemitic attack — said it was highly offensive for Trump to be a “self-appointed arbiter” of what it means to be Jewish.
“Chuck Schumer had every right to say what he said,” Kissileff added. “Just because we’re Jews, it doesn’t mean we agree with everything the (Israeli) government is doing. We have compassion for innocent Palestinian lives.”
Brooks, of the Republican Jewish Coalition, defended the former president against antisemitism charges, pointing to his presidential record as an example of proof.
Trump pursued policies that were popular among American Christian Zionists and Israeli religious-nationalists, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and supporting Jewish settlements in occupied territories. His daughter Ivanka is a convert to Orthodox Judaism, and her husband and their children are Jewish. The couple worked as high-profile surrogates to the Jewish community during Trump’s administration.
Trump’s core supporters include white evangelicals, many of whom believe the modern state of Israel fulfills biblical prophecy. Prominent evangelicals who support Zionism have also been criticized for inflammatory statements about Jewish people.
Sixty-nine percent of Jewish voters in 2020 supported Biden, while 30 percent supported Trump, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate conducted in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago. That made Jewish voters one of the religious groups where support for Biden was strongest. Also, 73 percent of Jewish voters in 2020 said that Trump was too tolerant of extremist groups.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson said Trump’s comments are “in a complex middle zone” — not explicitly antisemitic, but reliant on such tropes.
American Jews base their votes on a complex mix of issues and values, “among them inclusion, diversity, climate change, civil rights,” said Artson, a leader within Conservative Judaism. “While they love Israel diversely, many of us also care about the wellbeing and self-determination of Palestinians.”


Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia

Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia

Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia
  • Students set up encampments at the University of Warsaw and Jagiellonian University
  • ‘We consider opposing genocide as our highest obligation,’ students say

WARSAW: Polish students have joined the global movement to end partnerships with Israeli institutions and were occupying the country’s top campuses on Saturday because of Israel’s war on Gaza.
Students and alumni of 12 universities in Poland have been calling on their management to publicly disclose which Israeli academia, research centers, organizations and companies they have been cooperating with and in what scope.
In open letters to rectors, they demanded that the universities “boycott Israeli institutions at the national and international level until the occupation of Palestine ends, recognize the right of Palestinians to equality and self-determination, and recognize the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”
As no action followed from university authorities, on Friday evening they set up encampments at the campuses of the University of Warsaw — the country’s largest academic institution — and of the Jagiellonian University — the oldest and most prestigious.
In a joint manifesto, the protesters said: “We will occupy the university space with our own bodies to demand action ... we consider opposing genocide as our highest obligation.”
Israeli airstrikes and ground offensives in Gaza have since October killed 36,000 Palestinians with more than 80,000 wounded, the vast majority children and women. Many have lost their lives as most of the hospitals have been flattened by bombardment and no medical assistance could reach them.
Protesting students say that failing to oppose the onslaught would mean tacit consent — and complicity.
The University of Warsaw is linked through a research project to the Ben-Gurion University, whose Homeland Security Institute partners with the biggest Israeli arms manufacturers such as Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Israeli Ministry of Defense. It is also linked to the University of Haifa, which runs special programs for Israeli forces and intelligence.
“As a student, I feel I should have a say in what our university is investing and what its partners are. We know that the university is tied to the Israeli army, forces and apartheid system,” Agnieszka, a sociology student and one of the coordinators of the strike at the University of Warsaw, told Arab News.
“That’s why I’m here ... I hope it will change something.”
Agnieszka was speaking from behind the university gate, which has been locked since Friday evening as campus authorities sealed all entry points, preventing anyone from leaving or getting inside.
People were coming to the gate and the campus fence to bring the students water, food and power banks, and to show support.
While no one could join their encampment anymore, the dozens of students gathered inside believed they could bring change.
“We’ve been protesting since October against the genocide that is occurring in Gaza, and now we’re sort of bringing it closer,” said Nena, who studies at the Faculty of Philosophy.
“We have more direct impact on the institutions we are part of.”
At the same time, 300 km away, students of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow were also locked up at their campus, posing the same demands as those in Warsaw, and vowing that they “will not be indifferent, will not be silent, will not be passive,” as they called for others to join.
“It’s important for me to be here,” Gabriela, an international relations student told Arab News from the Krakow protest site. “It’s important to show solidarity with other encampments around the world, so that authorities can’t ignore our demands any longer.”
The University of Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University have not engaged in any discussions with the protesters. Neither university commented on whether it would agree to the students’ demands. The spokesperson of the Jagiellonian University said that to “ensure the safety of the strike participants,” there was a person “appointed to monitor the situation.”


Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes

Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes

Millions of Indians beat extreme heat to cast votes
  • 111 million people vote in election’s penultimate phase
  • Temperature in New Delhi soared to more than 44 degrees Celsius

NEW DELHI: Voters in Delhi braved a sweltering heatwave on Saturday as they queued at polling stations in the penultimate phase of India’s general election.
The voting, which more than 968 million people have been eligible to do, started on April 19. Some of India’s 28 states and eight federally governed territories completed the process in a single day, while others have spread it out.
The sixth phase of the poll covered the capital, Delhi, as well as the neighboring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar in the country’s east, and Jammu and Kashmir.
In Delhi, voters queued to cast their ballots despite the temperature soaring to over 44 degrees Celsius — with humidity making it feel like 56 C, according to reports — prompting the Election Commission to deploy paramedics to some polling stations.
While there have been concerns over voter turnout — with the first phase estimated to have seen at least 4 percent fewer people take part than in 2019’s election — those who arrived to cast their votes said there was no way the heat could deter them.
“Voting is the only way we can convey our feelings toward governance. It is a decisive way. To spend one hour in the line after five years is not a big deal for us,” said Karan Sharma, who was voting in the East Delhi constituency.
“We were complaining about the heat, but ... it’s a duty, it’s like eating food. After every five years, the festival comes, we have to participate in it.”
For Kavita Wadhwa, who cast her vote in the New Delhi constituency, it was a matter of exercising her rights.
“We have the right to select our own leaders,” she told Arab News. “It’s important for us ... It’s a democratic country.”
The election sees Prime Minister Narendra Modi chasing a third straight five-year term in power, targeting 400 of the 543 parliamentary seats for the National Democratic Alliance led by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been in power since 2014.
He is challenged by an alliance of two dozen opposition parties — the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), led by the Congress Party, which ruled the country for close to 45 years following its independence in 1947.
Modi’s key contender is Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv Gandhi, a grandson of Indira Gandhi, and a great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru — all of whom were prime ministers of India.
Gandhi also cast his vote in Delhi on Saturday, after which he took to social media to encourage others to follow suit.
“Your vote will not only improve your life but will also protect democracy and the Constitution,” he said on X. “Come out of your homes in large numbers and vote for your rights and the future of your family.”
Around 111 million people were eligible to vote in the sixth phase of the election. Some of them, like Arohi Anand, were voting for the first time.
“I think it’s a great right ... The government is for us — if we don’t vote, it is on us,” he told Arab News. “(The heat) is a secondary thing. The most important thing is our vote, because the government is the most important thing; it will shape our future.”
The party or coalition that wins at least 272 of the 543 contested seats in the lower house of parliament will form the government.
The first five phases of the election have already decided the fate of 429 representatives. Saturday’s vote will add another 58.
The seventh and final phase of the election will be held on June 1. Vote counting will take place on June 4.


Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official
  • Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket“
  • Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store

KYIV: A Russian strike on Saturday hit a store selling building materials in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, killing at least two people, its mayor said.
“We know for sure about two dead,” Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov wrote on Telegram, saying that according to preliminary information the strike hit a hypermarket for construction materials in a residential area.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket” and “a fire broke out over 15,000 square meters.”
Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store, located in an area of large stores beside a car park. The chain of hypermarkets sells household and DIY goods.
“We have a large number of people missing. There are many wounded,” Terekhov wrote on Telegram.
“Apparently, the attack was on a shopping center where there were many people — this is pure terrorism.”
The city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest, regularly comes under attack from Russian missiles.
Strikes on the city killed at least seven people on Thursday, local authorities said.
Russia launched a ground offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region on May 10, but Ukraine said Friday that it had managed to halt its progress.


British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

LONDON: A British man who allegedly travelled to Syria to fight for the Jaish Al-Fatah group has been charged with terrorism offences, the Metropolitan Police said on Saturday.

Isa Giga was arrested after arriving in London aboard a flight from Turkey on Thursday.

He was due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday. He is suspected of traveling to commit acts of terrorism.

“We have been clear for some time now that should anyone return to the UK whom we suspect of being involved in any terrorist-related activity overseas, then they can expect to be thoroughly investigated,” Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the force’s Counter Terrorism Command told the BBC.

“We work very closely with other partners and agencies here in the UK and overseas in order to do this and help keep the public safe.”


A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an
  • The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha
  • Police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men

LAHORE: Hundreds of Muslims in eastern Pakistan went on a rampage over allegations that a Christian man had desecrated the pages of Islam’s holy book, ransacking and burning his house and beating him before police officers rescued the man and his father, officials said.
The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha, a city in Punjab province, said district police chief Ijaz Malhi. He said police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men.
Malhi said the situation was under control and officers were investigating the allegations.
The incident brought back memories of one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan in August 2023, when angry mobs burned churches and attacked dozens in Jaranwala, a district in Punjab province. Muslim residents claimed they saw a Christian and his friend tearing out pages from a Qur’an and throwing them on the ground. No one was killed. In 2009, six Christians were killed and some 60 homes burned down in the district of Gojra in Punjab following allegations of insults to Islam.
Malhi said police on Saturday dispersed the crowds and were also seeking help from religious scholars to defuse tensions. The Punjab government condemned the attack.
The man’s small shoemaking factory was also burned down, Malhi said.
Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan.
Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While no one has been executed for blasphemy, often just an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.