Jews No Longer Allowed to Cheer?
By David Suissa
March 23, 2016
There’s a new Jewish sin in town – it’s not heckling
or insulting or bullying.
Apparently, we’re no longer allowed to cheer, if who and
what we’re cheering offends certain Jews, mostly liberal Jews.
I was there the other night at the Verizon Center when
thousands of Jews at the AIPAC policy conference cheered Donald Trump’s
full-throated defense of Israel, including his sharp criticism of President
Barack Obama. These cheers have now become ground zero in an escalating backlash
against the crowd’s reaction.
Even AIPAC itself felt a need to apologize, as new
President Lillian Pinkus read a statement saying “we are disappointed that so
many people applauded the sentiment that we neither agree with or condone.”
Critics contend that the fact that so many Jews were
cheering for a vulgarian who has violated so many lines of decency is a sign
that these Jews are putting Israel above other Jewish values. They may harbor a
mighty distaste for Trump, but they still cheered when he spoke against Obama
and the deliberate “daylight” the president put between America and Israel;
against the Iran nuclear deal which many see as an existential threat to Israel;
and against Palestinian duplicity and the teaching of Jew-hatred in Palestinian
These Jews, of course, were doing what most Jews usually do
at AIPAC conventions: they were cheering for any message they considered
pro-Israel, whether the messenger was Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton.
Let's remember also that many of these same Jews used to
cheer for the dream of Oslo and the dream of peaceful co-existence with
Those were the heady days before Israel got ambushed by
reality, the reality of chronic Palestinian rejection and violence.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, backed by President Bill
Clinton, made a generous offer to end the conflict and got rewarded with a
Second Intifada that murdered over 1,000 Jews.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon evacuated all the Jews of Gaza
and got rewarded with 15,000 Hamas terror rockets.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an even more generous offer
and got rewarded with more Palestinian rejection and the continuous spreading of
Jew-hatred and glorifying of terrorism.
As this hard reality was shaping Israeli consciousness, the
threats to Israel only increased. The Middle East exploded with even more
radicalism and Islamic extremism. Now, ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas, all committed
to Israel’s destruction, surround the Jewish state, while an empowered and
genocidal Iran proudly declares its intention to annihilate Israel.
Apparently, none of that context seems to matter to the
critics of the AIPAC crowd that dared to cheer the pro-Israel message of Donald
Trump. They can’t imagine that maybe an urgent and sincere desire to protect
Israel against vicious enemies would be behind their enthusiastic response.
They can’t imagine that maybe these Jews were simply
relieved to hear that a potential future president would have Israel’s back
rather than be “neutral,” or that they were exercising their right to speak
truth to power when they cheered the sharp criticism of President Obama.
What seems to matter most to these angst-ridden critics is,
“What have we become?” In this view, the only possible reaction to seeing
Jews cheer a pro-Israel message from Trump is: “How shameful! How partisan!
How dare they!”
First, I must say that this whole notion of judging a
cheering crowd seems a little precious, especially coming from a people that
supposedly worships freedom of expression.
What’s next? Should we be offended by crowds who cheer
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because Bibi has shown signs of racism and
bigotry? Is this the new frontier of Jewish offense—who applauds and who
doesn’t? From now on, should we be monitoring Jewish crowds to see who is
applauding what and whom and how loudly?
Beyond that, what these critics seem to be missing is that
the “new AIPAC” crowd hasn’t become more rowdy or more partisan. On that
one night at least, it was simply more in tune with Israel.
It’s not a coincidence that over the past decade, the
peace camp in Israel has shrunk. It has fallen victim to the harsh realities of
its increasingly violent neighborhood and especially to the refusal of
Palestinian leadership to recognize a Jewish sovereign state-- no matter where
its borders are drawn. No amount of worshipping Jewish values can change the
primitive reality of having next-door neighbors who want to kill your children
rather than make peace.
It is reality that has moved to the right in
Israel, not Israelis.
The crowd that cheered at AIPAC the other night did not
cheer Trump, they cheered his defense of Israel. They did not suddenly become
more “right wing” or more “partisan.” They did not suddenly become
anti-peace or anti-Jewish values. They looked at the many threats to Israel’s
survival and became more like Israelis.
If that makes them feel like cheering a pro-Israel message
from a potential future president, even one we abhor, who are we to preach to
them that they should shut up?