State of the Union is Pro-Jewish
By Abe Greenwald
February 6, 2019
On Tuesday, President Trump used his State of the Union
address to celebrate the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, call
out Iran on its genocidal Jew-hatred, confront anti-Semitism generally, and tie
his conception of American greatness to the liberation of the Nazi concentration
camps. This was one pro-Jewish speech.
For Trump, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was,
as he put it, a matter of “principled realism.” Based on that realism, his
administration “proudly opened the American embassy in Jerusalem.” Nothing
here about both sides having to bend or about Israel now having to “do its
part for peace.” The president of the United States simply noted that he
recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because it is. And that’s the most
powerful thing he could have said on the matter.
On Iran, Trump did something remarkable—he spoke the
truth. The president called Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of
terror” and emphasized that “it is a radical regime.” He went on: “We
will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants ‘death to America’ and
threatens genocide against the Jewish people.” No garbage about make-believe
moderate mullahs, no specious conflation of the Iranian people and the regime,
no wishful fantasies about Iran’s tyrannical theocracy showing heartening
signs, and, finally, no equivocating about the nature of its obsessive
anti-Semitism. In all, a welcome return to moral sanity.
After that, Trump talked briefly about anti-Semitism in
general. “We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who
spread its venomous creed,” he said. “With one voice, we must confront this
hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.” He didn’t couch this point in a
larger abstract discussion about accepting people who are different from you,
etc. Trump focused on anti-Semitism as the singular phenomenon that it is. And
as a result, his concise remarks actually meant something.
In talking about anti-Semitism, he moved on to last
October’s shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Trump honored
Timothy Matson, one of the SWAT officers who went into the synagogue and
apprehended the killer. He also celebrated the life of Judah Samet, an
81-year-old survivor of both the synagogue shooting and the Holocaust.
This brought Trump back around to his opening theme—the
heroism of American soldiers on D-Day. He introduced a second Holocaust
survivor, Joshua Kaufman, along with Herman Zeitchik, an American sergeant who
stormed the beaches at Normandy. “Almost 75 years later, Herman and Joshua are
both together in the gallery tonight—seated side-by-side,” Trump said,
“here in the home of American freedom.” The two men—liberated and
liberator—rose together for a round of applause.
Trump talked about a great many other things, but it’s
remarkable the extent to which his speech acknowledged, celebrated, and urged on
America’s doing right by the Jews. It would be welcome enough if he emphasized
such things in an address to an exclusively Jewish audience, but this was a
State of the Union speech, and so his righteous words were meant to shape our
very understanding of America. This takes on additional importance because
Congress is now
home to some anti-Semites of unprecedented ferocity and because the larger
left has failed to call out the Jew-hatred that now permeates its ranks. Say
what you want about Trump, this was glorious.