I grew up in a second-generation Jewish family in the 50s in a small Republican village on Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee. Jews in America had not yet come into their own and there was still a lot of anti-Semitism.
Albert Einstein was considered America’s greatest intellectual and its most prominent Jew. So we had that going for us. My mother used to put quotes from famous Jews on the refrigerator. Jonas Salk, who invented the polio preventing vaccine was one of them. Albert Einstein was another.
With the ascendancy of Jared Kushner as Trump’s adviser, especially on Israel, he is now perhaps Americas most prominent Jew. He was featured in an above-the-fold front-page article in last Sunday’s New York Times. This was the callow 35-year old Kushner, whose main experience has been in real estate, who along with his father-in-law, met Netanyahu at the White House when he arrived on Wednesday this week.
Is there any hope that in the course of their meetings there was a wider reopening of minds about the nature of the state of Israel? Not a chance.
Kushner has met Netanyahu before. His father was a big contributor to Netanyahu’s election campaigns. Attorney David Friedman, who specializes in bankruptcy law and who has done a lot of work for Trump, has been appointed by Trump as American ambassador to Israel. Friedman is a big financial supporter of a settlement on the West Bank. Kushner’s family has also contributed to that settlement, believing as they do in the cause of a greater Israel, in the further colonization of the West Bank, and in moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Young Jared is being touted as the man who will try to bring peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But the New York Times editorial advises that for Jared the situation is “complicated.” I’ll say.
The United States and Israel want to get Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both Sunni Islamic countries, involved in its aggression against Shia Iran. That will be tricky. Remember that Osama bin Laden, when asked why he organized the 9/11 attack, replied that one of his reasons was American support for Israel. Bin Laden was a Saudi Arabian. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Supporting Israel against the Palestinians is not something that sits well with the Saudi population and the Saudi monarchy knows it.
What if instead of the young, inexperienced, colonial-minded, super religious Zionist Kushner, Albert Einstein was Trump’s adviser?
It is useful to know that Einstein advocated a binational state in Palestine with equal rights and equal power for Arabs and Jews. In 1946, two years before the establishment of the state of Israel, Einstein wrote that “the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power…. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks.”
In 1955, the year he died, Einstein wrote that “our stance towards the Arab minority is a true touchstone of our moral standard.”
On March 13, 1955, in Einstein’s last media statement published in the New York Post, he wrote “we had great hopes for Israel at first. We thought it might be better than other nations, but it is no better.”
Long gone are the days when the great astrophysicist and mathematician was a moral beacon for American Jewry, a quarter of whom voted for Trump. But Einstein remains a moral force for the great majority of us who see the pre-fascist Trump phenomenon for what it is. The first edition of the venerable socialist magazine Monthly Review in 1953 featured an article by Albert Einstein titled “Why I Am a Socialist.” Einstein had fled Europe in the 1930’s. He knew the ugly nature of a narrow nationalism. He understood that the world had out-grown nationalism and that a universalism, the solidarity of humankind, was what must come about.
He recognized with his fellow Jew, Rosa Luxembourg, that the future was either “socialism or barbarism.” Creating and arming the new nation state of Israel and overwhelming the Palestinians was a project Einstein understood to be an unfolding disaster.
Kushner would have no idea what Einstein was writing about. Can whatever advice he gives to his father-in-law help the situation?
To pose the question is to answer it. Solidarity with the Palestinians is needed now more than ever. Einstein, I am sure would’ve welcomed the boycott, divest and sanction movement. “BDS.” That’s a sign I can put on my refrigerator.