No one has ever accused Abe Foxman of being derelict in defending Israel or soft when it comes to protecting the Jewish people. A Holocaust survivor who only narrowly escaped the fate suffered by 6 million Jews, Foxman served the Anti-Defamation League for a half-century, including 28 years as its national director. A force of nature, he became the face of the endless battle against anti-Semitism, melding bluntness and fearlessness with legendary tirelessness.
Whether he likes it or not, Foxman still finds himself to be someone to whom American Jews turn to ask the age-old Jewish question: Who and what is "good for the Jews"? Presidential elections inevitably spawn this question, and this election is no exception. Asked whether it is President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden whom American Jews should support, Foxman missed even fewer beats than usual. "I have always been asked before every election: who is better for Israel and the Jews?" Foxman says. "And my answer is always the same: Israel and the Jews need a strong, stable, credible and caring America. So vote for the candidate that will secure such an America." No longer encumbered by the need for discretion that comes with running a major nonprofit, Foxman says aloud what other Jewish leaders cannot. "There is no question in my mind," he continues, "that the answer this time to all those concerns is Joe Biden."
Polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of American Jews agree with Foxman. One survey commissioned by the nonpartisan Jewish Electorate Institute earlier this year found that 68% of Jewish likely voters disapprove of Trump, and over 90% of those say they "strongly disapprove" of him. Seventy-one percent of American Jews disapprove of his "performance" addressing anti-Semitism and white nationalism.
As well they should. The president has zealously promoted a thug culture, one that threatens Jews as well as Black, Latino and Muslim Americans. This is a period of national shame, one that we will look back at with disgust. And that should surprise no one. When David Duke, the white supremacist leader and spokesman for Holocaust denial, declared in 2016 that whites would be committing treason if they did not vote for Trump, the object of Duke's desire was asked whether he would denounce white supremacy. Trump replied: "Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know."
Those with Israel's future in mind have watched Trump's embrace of her operate as a poison kiss, driving significant American constituencies away from the Jewish state in droves. Here's the problem: Narcissistic proto-fascists tend to be unappealing to those who happen to not be narcissists or proto-fascists. The damage Trump has done to Israel's standing in America, where support for Israel matters to Israel most, may be irreparable. Simply put, Israel deserves better friends than Donald Trump. It needs an American president with stature and credibility at its back. Trump isn't one. Biden is.
Foxman rightly observes that Jewish communities around the world are served well by an America that is democratic, respected and even feared, and served ill by an America that has lost its way and looks weak. Trump, himself a weakling, has turned America into a weakling as well, the object of international derision. Beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin and afraid to confront him, even when it comes to the subversion of American elections, Trump has made America not great but pitiable. Instead of pressing China when COVID-19 emerged, he gushed about it. His ring kissing of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un hasn't been merely embarrassing. It has been pathetic.
The speed at which America has plunged to laughingstock levels has been dizzying. Whether it will be able to reclaim its proper place as the world's preeminent democracy hinges on November's election, and American Jews are decidedly among those who know it.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.
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