EIGHTY-TWO per cent of American Jews say antisemitism in the US has increased during the past five years, according to a new poll.
But with Americans going to the ballot box next Tuesday, the American Jewish Committee survey indicates the political divide between secular and Orthodox Jews extends to their views on antisemitism, with 69 per cent of American Jews generally saying they believe the Republican Party holds antisemitic views, while 66 per cent of Orthodox respondents said the Democratic Party holds such views. A frequent criticism of incumbent US President Donald Trump is what is perceived as a reticence to condemn right-wing extremists.
However, The Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan told an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council webinar last week that a re-elected Trump would be better than a victory for Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
But Sheridan said his preference for Trump is “not an unqualified judgment”.
The Australian’s Greg Sheridan told AIJAC that a “good” Joe Biden presidency would be centrist and focus on alliance building.
A “bad” #Biden presidency would resurrect the failed Iran nuclear deal, cut military spending and weaken US power around the world. @australian pic.twitter.com/v2s7FxZ1Sg
— AIJAC (@AIJAC_Update) October 26, 2020
Asked by The AJN how he sees widespread perceptions that Trump soft-pedals on white supremacism and has coarsened public dialogue, Sheridan responded that “there is a moral failing in Trump in that he doesn’t ever want to exercise or emphasise a condemnation of anyone who supports him, no matter how horrible they are.”
“I detest the way Trump speaks … But the world gives us very difficult choices. And elections are binary choices,” Sheridan said.
“I thought Ronald Reagan was much better than Jimmy Carter. That was a 99-to-1 judgment. Choosing Trump over Biden is sort of a 52-to-48 judgment.”
On how Israel would fare under a second Trump term, Sheridan predicted Trump would expand the Abraham Accords and retain Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. “But on the other hand, you might get a bad Trump,” he argued, who would fill key positions with “ideologues or absolute sycophants”.
In turn, Sheridan mused about “a good Biden and a bad Biden”, depending on who he appoints. He cautioned about Biden potentially becoming influenced by Democrats Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren – and the “squad” of four left-leaning Congresswomen some of whom have anti-Israel postures – which could see him refocusing on the Palestinian issue.
However, Biden would retain US commitment to the Abraham Accords and follow the “good, sensible, hard-headed social democratic, alliance-centric tradition” in the Democratic Party. “He will have a lot of goodwill from the international community because he’s not Trump.”
Meanwhile, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington correspondent Ron Kampeas, addressing a NSW Labor Israel Action Committee webinar on Sunday, forecast possible tensions between a Biden administration and Israel if Biden revisits the Iran deal with modifications.
But he said Biden “would himself get along with Bibi” and noted the Democratic challenger’s “50-year relationship” with Israel and friendship with Golda Meir.
Noting Biden’s endorsement of Israel’s recent normalisation deals, he predicted he would not press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, but would also not support unilateral annexation of the West Bank.
The divide between US Jews and Netanyahu on relations with Trump could not be starker, said Kampeas, noting some 70 per cent of American Jews said Trump’s fudging on calls to condemn right-wing extremists led in part to the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre, “and then Bibi’s ambassador here, [Israel’s US envoy] Ron Dermer, gave Trump a hechsher [stamp of approval]”.
Kampeas said American Jewish communities are battening down for massive civil unrest as election day approaches, particularly with Trump’s call for Republican supporters to be “poll watchers … and the people who are listening are groups that are at least rhetorically committed to a certain level of violence. That’s a very big concern for the Jewish community here”.