Diary

Some American Jews Are Ungrateful

This afternoon, I’m thinking of two in particular.  Bari Weiss of the New York Times, and Duke professor David Schanzer.

Here’s a link to Weiss’ recent Op-Ed where she slings personal insults at President Trump.  She says he has a “small mind” and is “loyal only to himself.”  And here’s the link to Schanzer’s piece in The Hill, where he also unloads on President Trump.  Both sound incensed about Trump’s recent comments about Jews and disloyalty.

American Jews frequently criticize President Trump.  Fortunately for them, Israel has billions of friends worldwide, and many nations that will support it, and send money (and even troops, if need be) to defend it.  At least, that’s what those commentators must think.

I can’t help but think that many (not all, but many) American Jews are ungrateful,  They seem to feel entitled to American support for Israel. I’m sorry to have to say that, but I can’t help but think that.

The Obama administration held Israel at arms’ length.  Many American Jews fretted about that, and begged a president they liked to embrace Israel.  Then, a man many American Jews dislike became president, and he embraced Israel.  Many of those same American Jews do thank President Trump for that, but tepidly at best.  At the same time, they slam him personally, even viciously.   To me, and I suspect to many other people, that’s ingratitude.

Schanzer justifies American Jews’ hesitation to show loyalty, by pointing to their history.  He talks about how Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years (they have) and have to be suspicious of strong government leaders (they do, as do we all).

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be grateful.  Right now, Donald Trump and his administration is the most potent and beneficial friend Israel has on Earth.  And, again in my opinion—-but I’m sure I’m not alone—at least some American Jews have no problem smacking at the hand that’s protecting the Jews’ biblical homeland.

Many Americans support President Trump.  We don’t worship him—well, OK, a few people do—but we do support him.  We see him bending over backward to help Israel, and we can’t help but notice that a fair number of American Jews apparently prefer to sling personal insults at, instead of show at least some gratitude to, him.

President Trump has recommitted America to Israel’s security.  Potential foes of Israel, who sensed indifference to Israel in the Obama administration, don’t get that sense with President Trump.  That makes Israel safer…

…and it also makes Americans worldwide a bit more vulnerable to anti-Israel sentiment.  If you’re seen as the primary protector (and in some minds, enabler) of a pariah nation—and, being honest again, Israel is a pariah nation in most of the world—then some of the resentment against that pariah gets directed at you.  Sometimes violently, even lethally.  I hope President Trump’s critics in the American Jewish community appreciate that.

Many Americans feel lots of ingratitude from the rest of the world.  Especially from places where we fought bad guys (Nazis, Tojo’s Japan), protected innocents, fed starving locals and left thousands of our sons and daughters in graveyards far from home.  Yet, the Germans trip over themselves to point out our flaws, while counting on our Air Force to protect their skies.  Anti-American feelings used to be on display frequently in South Korea, a country that wouldn’t even exist if it hadn’t been for us.  America had to send its Army, to include many of its best Reserve divisions, to the Balkans to do the jobs that European militaries couldn’t or wouldn’t do.  Many Americans have gotten to the point where they feel they’re being taken advantage of.  And they resent it.  They’re fed up.  That makes them a little less accepting the next time they perceive ingratitude.

Ingratitude can eat away at you.  If you put yourself at risk for someone, and they respond with qualified thanks, coupled with strident (and often nasty) criticisms, you might find that, over time, you’re less and less willing to stick your neck out for that person.  (Or country.)  That’s human nature.  And America is peopled by humans.

I’ll stipulate this important point.  Weiss, Schanzer and many other critics direct their barbs at President Trump personally, not America writ large.  But, that’s being a bit too clever.  They are still slamming, in very personal terms, the man who recommitted America, unequivocally, to Israel’s security.  That should count for something.  For many American Jewish critics of President Trump, it seems to count for nothing.

I’ve always thought that Bush 43 went into Iraq, largely because of Israel.  Here’s why I think that.  By 2002, it was obvious that (a) Saddam Hussein was an evil person who made dumb, irrational decisions and (b) his sons, one of whom was going to sure to succeed him, were definitely evil (and most likely dumb and irrational) too.  By contrast, the Soviets were evil but rational.  They closely managed the building of the Berlin Wall, so the East Germans wouldn’t get out of hand and provoke a war with the U.S.

I think the U.S. could have coexisted with the evil-but-dumb Hussein clan.  Iraq is on the other side of the world from us.  It didn’t have missiles or other weapons that could threaten our shores.  But Iraq could threaten Israel.  In fact, Iraq had already attacked Israel once, during the First Gulf War—when Israel hadn’t done anything to it.  And let’s not forget Hussein paying blood money to the families of suicide bombers during the intifada.

I’ll bet that Bush 43, in 2002, looked at Iraq and Israel and was reminded of Khruschev’s quip:  “When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.”  I’ll bet the Husseins thought the same thing, but replaced “Berlin” with “Israel.”

You can’t coexist peacefully with people who are evil and dumb.  At the very least, you’ll always have to watch them, and keep yourself ready to fight them .  You’ll be doomed to a lifetime of worrying about them.  And America would have had to worry, constantly, about the Husseins squeezing Israel.

As long as America remained committed to Israel’s security, we would always have had to be ready to deal with Iraq.  As long as the Husseins remained in power, Israel and the Middle East would never have had peace.  (Unless Israel went to war on its own with Iraq, which—let’s be honest here—very few wanted to see.)  Unless we want to engage in the shallow wishful thinking that Democrats and progressives excel at, the Hussein regime had to go, and we were the only ones who could take him out.  So, America stepped up and did what had to be done, given the situation the world found itself in in 2002. Now the Husseins are gone.  At a cost of eight years of war, 4000+ American dead and billions of American dollars.

To be fair, Donald Trump said the Iraq War was a bad idea.  In my opinion, he’s wrong. But, for those American Jews who don’t confine their critiques to President Trump, but instead remind all Americans about the many reasons why Jews in America have to be careful over which political leaders they will or will not support—well, they might want to remember that, if Israel didn’t exist, the U.S. might have been able to avoid war in Iraq.  (I could be wrong about that, but I don’t think so).  At the very least, I suspect that many Americans feel that our ties to Israel made it impossible to avoid conflict in Iraq.  I’m one of those Americans.

I am not saying that Israel owes America anything.  It doesn’t.  But those who support Israel should acknowledge that America’s security relationship with Israel has not been risk-free or cost-free for the U.S.

President Trump’s critics have every right to call him every name in the book.  But they don’t have the right to insist on customizing their benefactor to their own exacting standards.  They don’t have the right to insist on a political leader that will protect them and please them at the same time.   This isn’t Burger King.  You don’t get your presidents your way.

The president’s critics also don’t have the right to expect that Americans will send troops to protect the borders of another country, or aircraft to safeguard its skies, or have American taxpayers help pay their defense bills.  Americans have to want to do that.  They have to desire to do that.  And, it’s hard to work up the desire to put yourself at risk to help someone, if that someone then insists on pointing out all the ways you fall short of their expectations.  That is, again, human nature.

For those American Jews who don’t care for Israel, I can’t begrudge you criticizing President Trump.  Or, perhaps some American Jews support Israel, but don’t want America to exert itself helping Israel.  Maybe they feel that Israel can stand on its own, and doesn’t need American help.  Maybe they just want America to leave Israel alone. I can’t begrudge those folks slamming President Trump either.   I’ll stipulate that I have not studied Bari Weiss’ or David Schanzer’s past writings on Israel’s security relationship with America.  If they fall into either one of these groups, they’re under no obligation to show President Trump the slightest consideration or courtesy.

But for those American Jews who do care for Israel, and do want American defense support, but also slam President Trump personally, I do begrudge you that.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and has the right in America to express that opinion freely.  And my opinion is, those who want America to support Israel, but insult with gusto the person who’s actually directing and executing that support, shouldn’t be surprised if they’re perceived as ingrates.

To be very, very frank, Israel is a pain in the ass for America.  It’s a pain that I, for one, gladly bear.  Worthwhile, meaningful things often are pains in the ass. But it’s hard to overlook the ingratitude, insufferable arrogance, and sense of entitlement from some quarters of the American Jewish community.