By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
In a review in a recent issue of “The New York Review of Books” of Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich – the book has recently appeared in English – the distinguished Holocaust historian Christopher Browning writes: “There are sufficient areas of similarity in some regards to make the book chilling and insightful reading about not just the past but also the present.”
Browning is at pains to “stipulate emphatically” that “Trump is not Hitler and the American Republic in the early twenty-first century is not Weimar.” Yet:
“However unequal in severity the situation in the two countries were, large numbers of Germans and Americans perceived multiple crises of political gridlock, economic failure, humiliation abroad, and cultural-moral decay at home. Both Hitler and Trump proclaimed their countries to be ‘losers,’ offered themselves as the sole solution to these crises, and pledged a return to the glories of an imagined golden past. Hitler promised a great ’renewal’ in Germany, Trump to ‘make America great again.’ Both men defied old norms and invented unprecedented ways of waging their political campaigns. Both men developed a charismatic relationship with their ‘base’ that centered on large rallies. Both emphasized their ‘outsider’ status and railed against the establishment, privileged elites, and corrupt special interests. Both voiced grievances against enemies.”
There’s enough in the above paragraph to explain, for example, the pivotal role of Steve Bannon as “the chief strategist of his administration and his easy resort to racist rhetoric – the birther myth, Mexicans as rapists and criminals, the Muslim ban, Lindbergh’s ‘America First’ slogan.” Though, perhaps thanks to his daughter and her husband, Jews aren’t included in the list, Browning writes that there’s enough to suggest that Trump “is perfectly comfortable stoking racism.”
In other countries, reactionary leaders are less restrained as they’ve no Jewish relatives. They feel free to give vent to anti-Semitism either as collateral damage to their anti-Muslim tirades or in the guise of opposition to Israel. All in all, there’s much to worry about, including, alas, ominous traces of reactionary politics of the same ilk in Israel itself.
Many Jews seem to believe that Trump’s anti-Semitic propensities don’t concern them. When he comes to Israel later this month he’ll be received as the trusted protector of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. All evidence to the contrary is being obscured.
For example: the president seems to be anxious not to upset his Saudi Arabian hosts with his ostensible pro-Israel stance. That’s why his entourage chose not to list Israel as part of the tour. No doubt there’ll be other signs of double-speak before, during and after Trump’s stay in Israel.
And that’s only the beginning. Jews everywhere and Jews in Israel in particular should expect many disappointments, because for all the rhetoric, Trump has bigger fish to fry than Israel’s interests and expectations.
The Psalmist warns us not to put our trust in princes but only in God. It’s a warning we all should heed. This is particularly true in the case of this prince. Christopher Browning lists some of the reasons why.