Trump’s Ethnic Incitement Falls on Fertile Soil at AIPAC, Bringing Pro-Israel Crowd to Its Feet
A few minutes into Trump's address to roughly 18,000 delegates at the AIPAC Convention at Washington DC’s Verizon Center, I sensed that something was off. Was it the guy in front of me exclaiming, "Republicans get it!" between yelps of approval and a seemingly endless number of selfies? No, that was annoying but expected. Was it the fact that a proto-fascist demagogue was drawing multiple standing ovations from an arena full of Jews? That was alarming, sure, but my earlier conversation with a Trump-supporting Jewish couple on the way over made the sad spectacle less surprising than it could have been.
Then I realized what it was: Trump was reading an actual speech! Not a loose collection of riffs about how everything was going to be "so great" with him in office or how his fingers aren't even that short, but an actual speech (written largely by his Jewish son-in-law, New York Observer owner Jared Kushner) that he was reading from a Teleprompter. It was obvious that Trump had come prepared, not just with his cocky swagger and a collection of zingers but with a carefully rehearsed speech full of anti-Iran saber rattling and pledges to preserve the ethnic purity of the Jewish state.
It took Trump less than a minute to invoke 9/11, and barely a minute after that to declare, with no shortage of irony, "I didn't come here tonight to pander to you about Israel. That's what politicians do: all talk, no action." He proceeded to spend 20 minutes pandering like the most craven member of Congress, hitting all major bullet points from Iran ballistic missile tests to a sick Palestinian society that makes heroes of those who murder Jews. The only thing that may have rankled AIPAC, in the end, was his attack on President Obama, which went against the "Come Together" bipartisan motto of this year's conference. "He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel," Trump declared, adding his signature "believe me" to drive home this completely unfounded statement. But much of the crowd approved, responding to Trump’s attack on a sitting president with profuse applause.
Trump's speech proved that, contrary to conventional liberal wisdom, his base is not limited to Coors-swilling hicks in the boondocks and rabid white nationalists who drape themselves in the confederate flag. Many Jewish Zionists, including the effete coastal variety, find themselves drawn to Trump when he unites his brand of white American nationalism with Netanyahu’s bellicose Jewish nationalism. They are birds of a feather, and for all the neo-Nazis in Trump's base, they will inevitably fly together when it comes to their shared nativist aims.
Indeed, the Israeli flag represents essentially the same values as the Confederate flag: segregation, inequality under the law and an ethnic superiority bestowed by no less an authority than God himself. While Trump promises to "Make America Great Again" by building a wall on the Mexican border and deporting millions of Muslim immigrants, Israel has already built a wall around the West Bank (Israel has no internationally recognized borders) and routinely evicts Palestinian families from their homes to replace them with settlers representing the state’s Jewish ethnic hegemon.
Trump is the golem of American Zionism come to life, a shameless bigot with a rabid hatred of Muslims and a desire to preserve his nation's whiteness at all costs. The only that that has separated Trump from the Israel lobby in the past is his refusal to take their money and follow their script; in his December speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition, he infuriated the neoconservative crowd by attempting to relate to them as a fellow dealmaker. While many RJC supporters complained that Trump was trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes, they may have been more offended by the suggestion that Israel should make a deal with the Palestinians.
But this time was different. At AIPAC, Trump’s carefully rehearsed appeals to ethnic hatred and paranoia unleashed the tribal passions of a crowd incited into an anti-Palestinian frenzy. The repeated standing ovations sent a clear message: The power of Trump’s demagogy is not limited to white middle America, nor is the raw racism on display at his stadium-size rallies exclusive to the caricature of a troglodytic Trumpeteer. After decades of Zionist indoctrination, affluent Jewish suburbanites in suits and ties are prone to the same authoritarian mob mentality.