Frum: American Jews Are Being Tested By Trump

As are all groups:

It’s becoming almost a daily occurrence: President Donald Trump denouncing anti-Semitism and expressing solidarity with the state of Israel.

Gone are the days when Trump tweeted out a Star of David atop stacks of money. The Trump White House has purged itself of oddballs with troubling backgrounds and even more troubling friends.

The larger MAGA universe may still pulse with anti-Semitic animus. Pro-Trump trolls may traffic in grotesque online slurs and threats. Hate crimes against Jews seem on the rise. A deadly anti-Jewish mass killing occurred on Trump’s watch. Although the Pittsburgh killer is often described as despising Trump, that’s not quite accurate. It would be more correct to describe the Pittsburgh killer as disappointed in Trump, whom he viewed as a promising racist naively duped by Jews. In one of his postings, a word bubble is drawn over a photograph of Trump receiving a visitor dressed in Orthodox garb. “Your character will appear to the public as a white racist,” the visitor seems to say to Trump. “It’s how we control Whites.”

“Anti-Semitism has no place in our country or anywhere in our world.

The Trump Administration is working every day to oppose and eradicate anti-Semitic hate crimes and ideology.”

The Trump presidency seethes with hostility toward many different minority and subordinated groups. But Jews have been elevated to a special protected category, exempt from the lines of attack deployed against Muslims, non-Norwegian immigrants, women Trump deems unattractive, and so on and on.

This special exemption poses a moral quandary for communally concerned Jews quite unlike anything in our collective experience.Jewish collective life in America has been built on the assumption that people who espouse any form of bigotry—whether against African Americans, or gays, or the disabled—will, sooner or later (and probably sooner!), also turn upon Jews. The famous Martin Niemöller poem begins, “First, they came for the socialists”; only in the third line do they “come for the Jews.”

But what if a new generation of bigotry arose, attended by a strong, take-it-to-the-bank guarantee: This time, they are not coming for the Jews—not sooner, not later. That ancient obsession is laughably out of date. Today we have other concerns. Here’s a photograph of me posing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He likes George Soros even less than we do!

What if American Jews found themselves facing people who practiced a politics of incitement, but not against Jews—indeed, who found it more useful to cast themselves as allies of Jews?

Trump usually has, at most, a perfunctory word for mass shootings and hate crimes. But Trump traveled in person to pay respects to the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter. Vice President Mike Pence had led the way, personally helping to restore a desecrated Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, early in 2017.

When Trump attacked Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, he specifically cited her record of tweets and statements about Jewish money supposedly swaying Congress in favor of Israel. Among other pieces of classic anti-Semitic language, Omar had said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Statements like that goaded President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to write here in The Atlantic: “No one is questioning the right of members of Congress and others to criticize Israeli policies. But Omar is crossing a line that should not be crossed in political discourse. Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.” Her words set in motion a resolution in the House of Representatives to condemn anti-Semitic and other bigoted speech.

By contrast, the Trump administration has more than fulfilled the wishes of many American Jews on issues from moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem to condemning Palestinian incitement to countering the Iranian nuclear program. At the Department of Justice’s conference last week, Barr said:

“Far too often, Jews and Jewish communities in America suffer outside the spotlight. New York City, this past year, has seen a sharp uptick in attacks on Orthodox Jews, particularly in the Crown Heights neighborhood. People are attacking Jews in the streets and vandalizing synagogues. In Massachusetts in March, vandals desecrated 59 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery, knocking over headstones and scrawling swastikas and hateful graffiti.

While the tragic attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway appropriately drew national attention, these attacks and others like them in communities across the country are, sadly, less well known outside the Jewish community. But they form the daily background of concerns about security and safety that many in the Jewish community feel.

As attorney general and a fellow citizen, I want to assure the Jewish community that the Department of Justice and the entire federal government stands with you and will not tolerate these attacks.”

As measured by polls, the large majority of American Jews recoil from Trump and his administration. Yet if you spend time in the organized Jewish world, you have probably noticed an early but unmistakable warming to the president. The warming is most pronounced among the older, more communally committed, and more Israel-focused part of the Jewish world.

In western Europe, Jews have been pushed away from their historic home on the secular left toward new alliances on the nationalist right. Under Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party has been stained by anti-Semitism—to a point where past leaders such as Gordon Brown have taken a public stand against Corbyn.In the United States, mercifully, Omar remains a marginal figure within the Democratic Party. On July 23, all but 17 members of the House of Representatives voted to condemn Omar’s project of anti-Israel boycotts; the “squad” member Representative Ayanna Pressley voted with the House majority. But an important part of Trump’s plan for 2020 is elevating Omar’s profile, and prodding American Jews to compare him not with the actual Democratic nominee, but with the target he has singled out for attention.

It’s part stunt and scam, as James Kirchick recently argued. But it’s not all stunt and scam.

At a conference in Washington, D.C., last week, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri delivered a speech denouncing cosmopolitan elites. Some who listened to the speech thought they heard a slight against Jews. Yet the conference had been organized by an American-born Israeli, Yoram Hazony—and at every turn, the conference communicated Jewish inclusion in the new cross-border nationalist movement Hazony hopes to create. Hawley replied to his critics: “You’ll have to carry me out on a slab before I compromise my defense of the Jewish people, their greatness, their history, their safety, and the state of Israel.” That’s the language of committed friendship.

There is a message for American Jews in all this: These attacks on the other are not aimed at you. You can be part of us. We’d like you to be part of us. All you have to do is stop worrying about them. And after all, they don’t worry about you!

The comedian Chris Rock performed a classic comedy sketch about how bigotry always accelerates toward the Jews at the end. “That train,” he quipped, “is never late!” But what if that train is late? What if it’s been canceled altogether, at least insofar as it departs from Trump Station? What if the old community of interest between American Jews and other minorities is dissolving, leaving only the weaker tie of a community of values?

And not only American Jews! Many illiberal authoritarians around the world have tried to gain indulgence for other hatreds by friendship with Israel. Even the Viktor Orbán government in Hungary—which often theatrically glorifies violently anti-Semitic figures from the nation’s past—quietly assures that country’s still surviving Jewish community: None of this will translate into real-world actions against you. And indeed, thus far, that assurance has been honored.

Jews generally believe ourselves to be bound by an ethical code of tolerance and decency larger than our own parochial interests. Trump seems intent on putting that belief to the test. Will we meet it? Will we meet it as a united community? Or by tempting Jews with privileges denied to other, more marginal groups, will he split religious Jews from secular; more communally minded Jews from more universalist; more conservative from more liberal—embittering American Jews against one another, as he has sought more generally to embitter American against American?

Source: American Jews Are Being Tested By Trump

Note to David Frum: Americans Actually Really Like Immigrants

Pretty effective counterpart to Frum’s earlier missive by Jordan Weissman. His footnote is particularly strong:

Earlier this week, David Frum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter turned never-Trump scribbler, published a long article in the Atlanticarguing that the United States should massively reduce legal immigration by cutting the number of green cards it issues each year by about half. How come? Mostly because he thinks it might mollify white working-class voters, whose anti-immigrant rage he believes led them to back the authoritarian galoot who now occupies the Oval Office. “If liberals insist that only fascists will enforce borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals refuse to do,” Frum, who immigrated from Canada, writes.

Oddly, in all 7,800-ish words of his piece, Frum never once mentions that Republicans have introduced a piece of legislation that would do exactly what he’s recommending. It’s called the RAISE act. It was written by Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue in 2017 and backed by the president himself. Frum may not admit it out loud, but he’s basically arguing that the best way to defeat Trumpism is to cave on some of its most extreme policy demands. It’s Clintonian triangulation, but for white nationalism.

There are many reasons a reader might object to Frum’s argument.

One could object on moral grounds. If you believe that Trump’s immigration stance is racist and repugnant at its core, then accommodating it in the name of political expediency probably doesn’t sound like a hot idea.

Or one could object on economic grounds. Frum tries to downplay immigration’s benefits to growth, but the bottom line is that mainstream analyses of the RAISE Act have shown that it would make the country modestly poorer over the long term. (By 2040, the Penn Wharton Budget Model shows per capita GDP would be 0.3 percent lower.)

One could also object on political grounds. After all, Frum doesn’t actually provide any evidence that cutting immigration would make white working-class voters less likely to vote for demagogues like Trump in the future. He simply asserts that it might. Yet his own piece offers reasons to think otherwise. Early on, he cites academic evidence showing that white voters become more authoritarian in the face of ethnic change. Later on, he admits that ethnic change is already inevitable, even if we slash how many green cards Washington issues annually. “Under today’s policies, the U.S. will become majority-minority in about 2044,” he writes. “Even cutting immigration by nearly half would postpone that historical juncture by only one to five years.” Will giving caucasians an extra half-decade in the majority really be the magic bullet that saves us from being overrun by MAGA hats? Count me skeptical.

And finally, one could object to Frum’s piece on the simple grounds that most Americans really like immigration. Frum might think the whole Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor”thing is just “nostalgia,” as he puts it, but just Thursday, the Pew Research Center released polling showing that 59 percent of Americans think immigration makes us a stronger country, while only 34 percent think it’s a burden. Most Americans also think immigrants want to assimilate culturally; only 19 percent think immigrants are more to blame for crime than native-born residents. You want an anti-immigrant country? Check out Poland, or Russia, or Greece, not the U.S.

Meanwhile, Gallup’s most recent survey results show that only 31 percent of Americans think immigration levels should be reduced, versus 30 percent who think they should be increased and 37 percent who believe they should be kept the same. Immigration restrictionists don’t even make up a plurality of this country, yet Frum thinks we should cater to them, largely on the hunch that it might make white voters less likely to back the next Fox-addled demagogue who runs for president.1 The U.S. electoral system might hand disproportionate power to a minority of voters in this country. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should cave in on our values to them.

1 Frum does try to make a wider case about the downsides of immigration, but it is astonishingly weak—and mostly shows that once you strip away the Ann Coulter–style bile, there’s little left in the restrictionist position. He admits up top that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or indulge in substance abuse than native-born Americans. He tries, halfheartedly, to cast doubt on the economics literature that has consistently shown that the arrival of new immigrants doesn’t hurt the wages of other workers much, if at all (other immigrants, or people without high school degrees, may see their wages drop slightly in the short term), before suggesting the issue isn’t that important. (“Neither the fiscal costs nor the economic benefits of immigration are large enough to force a decision one way or the other,” he writes.) He tries to claim that immigrants are lowering Americans’ average education and skill levels, but fails to mention that today’s new arrivals are now more likely to have a college or graduate degree than native-born Americans. In the end, he’s left arguing that the presence of unnaturalized immigrants has encouraged companies to abuse their employees—blame the victim, much?—while making the U.S. more hierarchical, sort of like Dubai. There’s also an odd Malthusian aside about how bringing more people to the United States could hasten global warming. Suffice to say, once you’ve given up on economics, public health, and public safety as battlegrounds for this subject, there isn’t a whole lot left to stake an argument on.

Source: Note to David Frum: Americans Actually Really Like Immigrants

The New Yorker, The Economist and Steve Bannon’s squad of useful idiots: Balkissoon

Find it hard to disagree with her fundamental points (although I have respect for David Frum):

Steve Bannon is going on tour, and venerable institutions are lining up to host him.

This week, the 93-year-old New Yorker and the 175-year-old Economist announced plans to have their editors-in-chief interview Mr. Bannon at separate live events this month. Organizers of the Munk Debates revealed that their first decade will be celebrated by having him debate “the rise of populism” with David Frum at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall in November.

Mr. Bannon is on the “pro” side: He’s a flashpoint figure in the populist wave washing over the globe. His past occupations include investment banker, vice-president of Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump’s chief strategist and co-founder of Breitbart News, a web publication that he personally called “the platform for the alt-right” in 2016.

His White House appointment brought criticisms of anti-Semitism from the Southern Poverty Law Center. His time there included constructing the “travel ban” restricting movement into the United States from seven countries, most of them with majority Muslim populations. Just before his departure, the NAACP labelled him a “well-known white supremacist.”

To observers both inside and outside of the two publications, giving Mr. Bannon a platform was a bad idea.

Notable figures dropped off of both magazine agendas: At press time, The New Yorker had rescinded its invite, The Economist hadn’t and the backlash against Munk was just beginning. Tech entrepreneur Anil Dash said on Twitter that he’d still talk at the Economist event but would ditch his original topic to focus on “the consistent, immoral attacks Bannon has directed against the South Asian American community.”

Mr. Dash also said The Economist’s executives “are either foolishly getting exploited by providing a platform without any accountability, or are complicit in an awful agenda.” Let’s stick with the first idea today: that despite the big brains inside these institutions, they’ve become, in this instance, useful idiots.

The term refers to someone whose hubris prevents them from seeing they’re being used to spread the message of a nefarious actor. That’s always been Mr. Bannon’s goal – in February, he told Bloomberg News that he was never fighting the Democrats in the 2016 election. “The real opposition is the media,” he’s quoted as saying. “And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

It’s a dark plan, and it’s worked. Supposedly savvy outlets across the globe have been beaten at their own game by far-right propagandists time and again.

Richard Spencer got the left-leaning publication Mother Jones to call him “dapper.” Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie started out with gaming videos, got a Disney contract and evolved into a virulent racist: Although Disney dropped him, he hasn’t lost his popularity. Multipronged attacks by multiple extremists have made it so that journalists – including me – often seem to have no choice between ignoring them until something terrible happens, or helping to introduce their message to a new audience.

I’m not the first to say that the far-right onslaught is shaking the very foundations of journalism. This past May, the New York-based Data Society, which studies how new technologies affect culture, released “The Oxygen of Amplification: Better Practices for Reporting on Extremists, Antagonists and Manipulators.” It’s a detailed, 125-page outline of how pillars including open debate, free speech and balance have been twisted to sneak hate into the mainstream.

Take the belief that a debate of reasonable ideas helps get us out of our echo chambers. No insular bubbles are being popped at these events: Mr. Bannon, Mr. Frum, New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick and his Economist counterpart Zanny Minton Beddoes are all Ivy League graduates. New Yorker tickets start at US$17, but The Economist is charging US$49, and Munk seats go up to $100. If populism is about the working class, it would be good to have them in attendance.

More to the point, racism and xenophobia are not reasonable. They aren’t ideas, but harmful actions, happening now. Ask the Latin American migrants still separated from their children, or the people in Puerto Rico mourning their 3,000 dead while living without basic services almost a year after Hurricane Maria.

A woman was killed at last year’s white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., and it was after repeated consultations with Mr. Bannon that Mr. Trump responded. The President eventually blamed “both sides” for the violence – a false equivalency that equates resisting violence with starting it, and manipulates the journalistic tenet of balance.

The world has “debated” hateful ideologies time and again – choose your genocide, and the “never again” declaration that came afterward – and letting them be revisited is, quite frankly, stupid. It’s not an opportunity for intellectual discourse. It’s allowing violence to go unchecked, to sweep up vulnerable people, and to grow.

Mr. Bannon knows it, so why don’t experienced journalists? The answer is ego: the desire to go head-to-head with infamy, the belief that their personal smarts can’t be outsmarted and the inability to admit when one is being used. Pride comes before a fall, and it’s revealing supposedly intelligent people as idiots.

How the crazies and the pundits give IS exactly what it wants: Tabatha Southey

Great piece by Southey, and take down of those who should know better (David Frum) and those who don’t (Ezra Levant), although she is being unfair to Premier Wall:

Also working overtime for IS’s PR machine this week was former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and current senior editor at The Atlantic, David Frum. Despite the fact it appears that none of the people involved in the Paris massacre were Syrian refugees (statistically, refugees are among the groups least likely to commit acts of terror), Mr. Frum tweeted: “We must accept these peace-loving refugees from ISIS or else they will get very angry and try to kill us.”

What was the thought process there, Mr. Frum? “Good morning, I helped to provide justification for the Iraq war but I still don’t have quite enough blood on my hands, so I’d like to take a moment to characterize an entire nation of people as terrorists, thereby helping to ensure that the most vulnerable among them will suffer”?

Were you simply constrained by Twitter’s character limit there, Mr. Frum? Basic human decency and professionalism were clearly not issues for you.

Mr. Frum’s tweet may literally be the worst joke ever made, and it would be even if it didn’t spread just the kind of disinformation that actual IS murderers labour to disseminate.

What he should know, or admit to knowing, is that IS is not overly keen on Syrians escaping Syria. The optics are bad.

If you’re trying to position yourself globally as a utopian caliphate, Muslims running away from you as fast as they possibly can at grave risk to their lives is seriously bad press.

Muslims fleeing, not embracing you as an even marginally better alternative to the government that won’t stop bombing them, does not look good, and IS is acutely aware of this; no one wants would-be Syrian refugees kept in Syria more than does IS.

David Frum, among others, appears happy to help them out. David Frum: Unpaid Intern of The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

There’s method to IS’s macabre dramaturgy. They want to be depicted as the authentic Muslims, as some evil mystical empire with whom the West is at war, and volunteers queue up to help them.

In reality, IS’s progeny is recruited more at the malls than at the mosques and, in both their youthful demographic and their disaffection distorted into a kind of grotesque idealism, the recruits can seem more like murderous groupies than anything else.

In mentality and, to a certain extent, military capability, IS is more massive Manson family than major martial force.

Their lifeblood is the gratuitous message amplification so many proffer.

Big IS shout-out to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, as well, for helping to stigmatize Syrian refugees and for suggesting that the appropriate response to terrorist intimidation tactics is to drop everything and be intimidated.

That’s exactly what his calls for additional security screening of Syrian refugees on top of the measures already in place do – measures that Michel Coulombe, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, this week called “robust … and appropriate.”

The grassroots efforts on IS’s behalf should not be overlooked this week, either; every vile, racist tweet sent is like a bake sale held on IS’s behalf; and, speaking of sales, Sun TV detritus YouTube channel, Rebel TV, is offering black-and-white, very much IS-on-brand “Fuck ISIS” hats, T-shirts and coffee mugs.

This Christmas, Rebel TV wants you to say it with massacre merch.

Former Sun TV personality Ezra Levant high-tailed it to Paris this week to whine that its citizens continue, in the aftermath of last week’s horror, to be philosophical and resolutely secular, and to drink wine in the cafés. Why must they be so French?

Mr. Levant, disappointed rage-tourist and unofficial ambassador for the IS agenda, did not seem to like the fact that the attacks did not bring Paris to its knees. He is perturbed by your joie de vivre, France, by your determination to not let terrorists change you into a vicious, angry, funhouse mirror of your attackers.

President François Hollande announced the country will accept 30,000 refugees as planned.

Vive la France, and, terrorism dilettantes, go find meaningful employment.

Source: How the crazies and the pundits give IS exactly what it wants – The Globe and Mail

Prominent Muslim cleric urges imams to vet new Islamic converts

Imam Soharwardy being pro-active:

A prominent Muslim cleric says he intends to reach out to other imams to make sure that new converts to Islam are watched closely for signs of radical beliefs.

While authorities have made links to extremism in both the Ottawa and Quebec attacks, Imam Syed Soharwardy of Calgary says he is concerned about media reports that the two perpetrators were recent converts to Islam.Soharwardy, the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said imams should look for warning signs, such as a criminal record or drug abuse, before allowing an individual to convert.

“I’m not sure who helped them to convert to Islam. Who was the imam? What kind of relationship did those people have with those people who converted them to Islam? Those very important questions need to be answered,” said Soharwardy.

“They should take on the responsibility of checking backgrounds and staying in touch and make sure this person is not being recruited by any radical organization or terrorist organizations.”

Prominent Muslim cleric urges imams to vet new Islamic converts | CTVNews.

From Quebec, reporting on discussions between the Quebec government and representatives of the Muslim community, on security cooperation (already ongoing) but also raising integration issues for Canadian Muslims:

Mais cette conversation ne doit pas être à sens unique, prévient Salam Elmenyawi, président du Conseil. L’écoute doit être réciproque et d’autres sujets doivent être abordés, dit-il, comme une meilleure intégration des musulmans dans la société.

«S’il s’agit d’une conversation à sens unique, elle sera rejetée», dit-il. Et si cela vise juste à recruter des informateurs, cela ne marchera pas non plus, prévient-il.

Et bien qu’il reconnaisse qu’il y a des problèmes dans la communauté, «il n’est pas question d’une épidémie. Il s’agit de cas isolés», soutient-il. Mais, évidemment, un cas est déjà un cas de trop, ajoute-t-il.

M. Elmenyawi souligne qu’il ne faut pas sauter aux conclusions et que tous les faits de l’attaque de mercredi ne sont pas encore connus.

«Les médias cherchent toujours la mosquée la plus près», déplore-t-il. Mais il fait valoir que les gens peuvent être influencés par des idées radicales ailleurs.

La religion des musulmans n’est pas un problème, c’est la façon dont certains la pratiquent et la détournent qui est en cause, a souligné de son côté Hussein Nehme.

Il affirme ne jamais avoir rencontré de jeunes dans son centre qui auraient évoqué des idées de violence. Il assure que si c’était le cas, il discuterait avec lui pour voir d’où proviennent ces idées, et que s’il découvrait qu’un centre ou un groupe d’ici diffuse de telles idées, il contacterait les autorités.

«C’est notre devoir», dit-il.

Il se dit inquiet lui-même de ce que les extrémistes religieux peuvent faire à sa communauté. Il songe d’ailleurs à demander la protection de la police à quelques jours d’une fête, désapprouvée par certains.

Personnes à risques: des musulmans du Québec prêts à coopérer

Shallow, descriptive commentary by David Frum in the Atlantic, trying to explain Canada to American readers, without saying much in The Allure of Radical Islam in Canada.