Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin went back to her stomping grounds, Temple Israel of Hollywood, on February 21 (video here), and likened Donald Trump to Hitler in having an “ethno-nationalist… blood and soil” definition of America that is especially threatening to Jews, and Muslims and Hispanics too. Throughout her speech, Rubin cut a break for Israel, which is surely an ethno-nationalist society. She said Israel is doing better than the U.S. as a democracy.
Here are some excerpts. Jump to the end for the Hitler.
Trump is an ethno-nationalist, Rubin said, and he attacks the American creed that all are created equal and all can succeed, no matter where you are from or what your skin color or religion is.
This president… has adopted a philosophy that can only be compared to the ethno-nationalists of Europe, something we thought we would never see in this country, sometimes referred to as blood and soil. It matters who you are not as a person but as a matter of identity. That I think is the first big, big problem with Donald Trump. In defining America and governing and campaigning to one segment of the country, to white, primarily Christian, America, he is defining the rest of us out of the country. We are all becoming the other– whether you’re Hispanic, whether you’re immigrant, whether you’re Jewish.
She said that Jews in particular are vulnerable when Trump undermines democratic norms such as the rule of law, respect for the First Amendment, and respect for human equality:
Those should be and always have been especially important to Jews in the Diaspora. It’s what we depend upon. We had a very bad experience with authoritarians and we had a very bad experience with countries that did not hold to a rule of law. It is Jews, just like it’s any other minority group– any other unfavored, non majoritarian group– that requires the rule of law, that requires norms and a pact that puts all Americans regardless of birth on the same playing field. Without that we are subject to the whims of the president just like we are subject to the whims in historical terms of authoritarian leaders and dictators…
Jews should be at the forefront of perceiving the president’s attempt to define everyone outside of his cultlike following, as the other. That whether it’s a Muslim, a Hispanic or a Jew, once he defines someone as outside the body politic, do we think we’ll be far behind? Do we think these will be isolated instances? Of course not.
She said Jews have never had it so good as we do in the U.S.– till Trump.
When I’m asked Is Trump so bad? I say, Of course he’s so bad. He’s undermined the basis for American democracy, and with that the greatest protection, the greatest support, the greatest freedom that the Jewish people in the Diaspora have ever experienced, where they are the safest, the most protected, the most secure. And he’s put that at risk. Because the pillars of that protection, the pillars of our life in the diaspora depend upon the strength of those institutions and the strength of those norms. And without them we are not going to enjoy a position of prosperity, of peace, of security in the United States.
Rubin brought up Israel, a country she always goes to bat for, when she said that Trump even puts the special relationship with Israel at risk–by draining American democracy of meaning.
The relationship that we have with Israel is built on those shared democratic principles and values. Israel has its own troubles maintaining those, but if we throw away those principles, if we treat ourselves as like any other country and we think Israel’s defining characteristics, of democracy, of a free press, of an inclusive society, is without meaning and without purpose, then what’s the special relationship that we have with Israel? There really isn’t one. It’s just another country, like Hungary or Ecuador or Japan. It has no special meaning to Americans.
Rubin seems to be saying that Israel is maintaining its democratic ideals, and the U.S. is not. So “Israel has its own troubles” — but they’re not that serious. I don’t know where she gets her news feed. And of course she never mentioned Palestinians.
Sounding neoconservative themes, Rubin lamented the lack of an assertive American presence in the Middle East. “The US-Israel relationship is no longer the dominant one” in the region. “It’s the Russian-Iranian-Syrian one that is the dominant force,” and “that is not good for Israel.” She attacked Trump as an isolationist who “disclaims interests in large sections of the world. That mentality is not going to be good for Israel in the long run.”
But she called on the U.S. to stay in the Iran deal (which she had opposed in the event, 2015). To leave it would be “the most destabilizing move” in the Middle East. Huh.
The notion that we should leave an agreement in which Iran is essentially in compliance without our allies, without any game plan, is the most destabilizing move one can think about now in the Middle East.
Finally, here is the Hitler bit. A longtime Republican, Rubin said Trump was causing her to vote Democrat and to urge others to vote Democrat. She was asked why Republicans were going along with Trump, why they are casting aside core issues– limited government, judicial originalism, the Bill of Rights, free markets, anti-communism– so as to become “enablers for this individual.” Her first explanation was from history.
The Germans thought that they could use Hitler as well. We’ll control him. He’ll get us what we want. The other stuff he’s not serious about. Whether it’s tax cuts or whatever their issue of the day is– they were willing to tell themselves and to imagine that they would control or block all of the bad stuff and he would deliver the good stuff. As if the good stuff was good enough to outweigh the bad stuff and as if they’d actually be able to control him once he was in power.
Imagine, if they couldn’t control him during the election, did they really imagine they could control him once he won the presidency?
Rubin’s statements represent the paranoid style in the Jewish understanding of our place in American society. In my view, we are highly included in the power structure of this country, even under Trump; our status is not threatened, witness his extensive social/business connections with Jews. And it’s hypocritical to go on about the threat to us without mentioning the status of Palestinians in Israel and under occupation. It should be noted that Rubin has become a darling of the liberal media under Trump. Of course they forgive her her contempt for Palestinian rights.