By JASON F. GILBERT
Shinbone Star Middle East Bureau Chief
He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.
I stopped writing about The President after the whole Charlottesville fiasco. I realized that he was playing a cynical game with us; he would do or say something outrageous, we try to hold him accountable, and then, to distract us, he does something even more outrageous. The original sin is quickly forgotten and we start a whole new cycle of indignation at the even more outrageous thing he said or did. The President literally mocked a disabled person. But wait, The President is locking kids in cages! Huh? But wait, The President is retweeting antisemitic tropes. Wait what?!
You get the idea.
Throughout all of this, we’re talking about him. Everywhere. All the time.
For fuck’s sake, at one point, every article and op-ed on the front page of the New York Times had the “T” word in it (T for Turd, of course).
So I stopped. Heck, the only way to beat a megalomaniacal bully with small hands and a God complex is simply to ignore him. So I did my best to ignore him. Granted, it’s easier for me because I’m an American expat living in Israel. I am not bombarded with his image every time I turn on the television. Or pass a newsstand. Or listen to the radio.
Yeah, I know, we have our own brand of douche in this country. Bibi. But that’s a whole other article.
This one is about the so called Chosen One. The Messiah. The King of the Jews.
Let me qualify: Yes, I’m an American expat with a U.S. and Israeli citizenship. I pay taxes. I’m up to date on my student loans. I still root for the Eagles even though I haven’t been to the U.S. more than twice in the past five years. Go IGGLES!
I am a proud American. Have been since we kicked the commies’ butts in the Cold War. I love the U.S.A. But I’m also an Israeli citizen. And a Jew. Not a very good one, but as with most non-observant Jews, I was born into it and stuck around for the jokes and self deprecation.
So when The President tweets “. . . and the Jewish people love him like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God . . .” I am forced to reconsider my vow of editorial silence.
No sane Israeli loves Trump. No one here in their right mind believes he’s the second coming of God. Yeah, we have some bigoted, racist lunatics on the fringes who support him. These are the settlers who burn down Palestinian land and houses. These are the religious zealots who believe the entire land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people and that Arabs and Muslims are inferior. These are the cynical, hate-filled bigots who support The President’s policies. They probably really do consider him the “second coming,” but they are no different than the alt-righters in the US. They are an exception to the rule. Most Americans (I like to believe) are good people, just like most Israelis are good people.
It’s just that for some reason, these extremist voices are amplified while the silent majority sits back and hopes this awful stretch of American history will soon be forgotten.
Most of us Israelis are terrified of The President. We’re terrified because most of us have lost friends, colleagues, family and other loved ones in the never-ending conflict with our neighbors. We just want to live in peace and quiet, eat hummus, go to work, raise our kids and take a vacation once a year.
Basically, to live a normal life.
Which is almost impossible in Israel.
But The President is a political pyromaniac. He’s unhinged. He reacts emotionally. He doesn’t care what consequences his actions have, so long as they serve his purposes. Everything is fine so long as he’s “aligned” with Israel (and lines his pockets with donations from a certain mega wealthy Floridian Jew). But what happens when The President suddenly (and inexplicably) changes his mind? He’s notorious for that. He hires someone, praises them, then they dare say something that contradicts him. Knives Out! He fires them, sometimes in a tweet. Then he begins the name-calling. Take any one of The President’s former staff to understand that he’s unpredictable. Apply that formula to Israel and we’re probably goners.
And that’s the next to the last thing Israelis want.
What’s literally the last thing Israelis want?
We’re perfectly happy being the only true democracy in the Middle East. Yes, we have our own issues; the occupation of Palestinian lands, the religious coercion that stems from lack of separation between God and State and a corrupt, self-serving Prime Minister who is dangerously driving Israel towards apartheid and theocracy.
BUT we are also the only refuge for LGBTQ people from the region. We throw pride parades instead of hanging those brave enough to be open about their sexuality. We pride ourselves on our spirit of innovation and ingenuity and we ALWAYS help neighboring countries with disaster relief. We’re good like that.
The last notable monarch here in Israel was King Herod who shares quite a bit with The President; They both spent a lot of time building (Herod built The Masada Fortress, among others), both were paranoid megalomaniacs (Herod was so concerned that no one would mourn his death, that he commanded a large group of distinguished men to come to Jericho, and he gave an order that they should be killed at the time of his death so that the displays of grief that he craved would take place) and both were oddly attracted to their own family members (Herod married his own niece).
Herod The Great had an ignominious demise: He died after an excruciatingly painful, putrefying illness of uncertain cause, known to posterity as “Herod’s Evil”.
While I don’t hope for the same for anyone — not even The President — I do hope we all find it in ourselves to just ignore him.
Maybe he’ll just get bored and go away.
And we can go back to trying to live peacefully again.