How Trump Finally Made Me, an Israeli Arab, Feel at Home in the USA – Sayed Kashua | HAARETZ

How Trump Finally Made Me, an Israeli Arab, Feel at Home in the USA

I was afraid of losing the feeling of being persecuted, and feared that the disappearance of my political paranoia would play havoc with my writing. But, praise the Lord, Trump is here.

Opinion - commentary -analysis

At long last, after two-and-a-half years, I’m finally starting to feel at home here. Of course, it’s not the real deal yet, far from it, but it’s definitely a good start, and gradually, with God’s help, amateur racism will morph into professional racism and our acclimatization process here will be complete.

I was really afraid of losing the feeling of being persecuted, and was truly apprehensive that the disappearance of my political paranoia would play havoc with my writing. But, praise the Lord, everything is starting to work out.

These days, when I wake up in the morning I’m less inclined to check what our leaders in the Holy Land have wrought, and instead start my routine with the local newscasts, eager to learn about the latest Executive Order from the elected president, may God increase his days.   

For two-and-a-half years, I took only passing interest in American politics, avoiding the news in favour of sports broadcasts and sitcom reruns. Instead of MSNBC, I watched the History Channel, and could stare for hours at the vendors in antique stores who bargained with clients over swords from some world war and baseball cards from the last century. Instead of Fox News, I watched two “American pickers” who travel to remote towns in a van looking for antiques in family attics and in the storage rooms of oddball collectors.

Recently I feel that life has restarted, that there’s a reason to get up in the morning and find out how the horror is developing; I’m starting to recognize the names of politicians and to mark the local Bibis, the Erdans and the Ayoub Karas. It’s still new, this story, so I still need points of reference from Israel to organize my thoughts, but my feeling is that I’ll quickly be able to forgo the comparisons and the need for Israeli equivalents.

At first, I complained that I just didn’t feel alive, that in contrast to Israel there were no figures here that really frightened me – no politicians or media people that I hated and regarded as the personification of human evil. I started off by looking for drivers on the road or parents from the kids’ schools whom I could fear, hate and accuse of racism, but nothing happened. They’re not even capable of cutting across lanes in this drowsy town in order to earn a juicy curse.

But now I have at least two Steves (Bannon and Miller) whom I can’t stand, and there’s Kellyanne Conway, who fills the void that the absence of Miri Regev created in my soul. I have the powerhouse Rachel Maddow of MSNBC to replace Israel Radio’s Keren Neubach, and Chris Hayes, who will fill in for… umm, I’m not sure who’s considered a left-wing television presenter in Israel – it’s been a while, you know.

And Sean Hannity in place of Israel Radio’s Arel Segal, and Bill O’Reilly instead of… well, any TV presenter in Israel, even if he calls himself left-wing.

Then there are the Muslims, of course, those who go on television or radio and in amazing English express their fears of the new regime. They call themselves Americans and say they are raising their children according to the American “spirit,” adding that they are proud of the country and think the American people are the greatest nation in the universe.

There are the unfortunates who tend to believe that everything will be fine, after all there’s a constitution. Wow, they talk so much about the Constitution here, and how to interpret it, going to such lengths that I’m starting to be glad that Israel doesn’t have one. There are those who believe in the concept of citizenship and still think that America can accommodate everyone. They remind me of someone from Israel – errr, maybe me?

There are also the Muslims who support Trump – the conservative pro-life TV stations prefer interviewing Muslim women in this case – and talk about the need to uncover the truth about repressive Islam, and say that it’s wrong to go on hiding under the shelter of political correctness. They’ll use words like “fundamentalism,” “terror” and “patriarchal,” thinking that will give them immunity when the time comes.

There are many things that remind me of the warm and the familiar, but still, this is a devil I don’t yet know well. I will make use of the same survival methods of helplessness and self-respect. For the kids, I will refresh the procedures of deployment and identity camouflage. I will check that the instincts that were acquired over the years to identify dangers based on having the wrong origins haven’t been eroded by the illusion of universality, which can confuse you in the United States of America, and that the skills of faking an accent and of adopting other religions and ethnic and national origins as the situation requires are still sharp.

But sometimes I’m apprehensive that what somehow worked in Israel might not be enough. I’m concerned mainly about those who have never experienced persecution, about pure, uncompromising whiteness. I’m afraid when I see just how little screen time is devoted to the massacre in a mosque in Canada, not to mention the brevity of reports, if there are any at all, of mosque burnings and harassment of minorities and Muslims across the USA.

I’m afraid when the most liberal programs on radio and television, the ones that oppose the government of Bibi – or whatever they call the leader here – in the coverage of a commando raid in Yemen, focus on the American killed in the operation, adopt the army’s version of events and ignore the killing of women and children. I’m afraid of those who think that America is the most moral nation in the world, even as the killing of millions in Iraq is reduced to little more than a domestic debate revolving around the question of who was for and who against.

I’m afraid of a country that brought about the killing of four million Vietnamese, but where what’s been burned into the public consciousness are a few movies according to which U.S. Marines were the only victims. A country that supported Middle East dictators due to calculations involving self-interest, and that stood and stands behind every Israeli government.

I know, by heaven I know: America is not Israel, you mustn’t compare and you mustn’t project. After all, clear, strong and courageous voices are heard here all the time, those of Democrats and even from a few Republicans, asserting that the banning edicts of the new administration are contrary to everything that this country stands for, and conflict with the underlying essence of the United States of America.

All that’s left is for me to understand what the essence they’re talking about is. And until I grasp it, I’m going to hide within the house, memorize the national anthem, and if asked, will reply that the American people are absolutely marvelous and that America is the greatest nation in the world.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On February 4, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Opinion: Trump Needs a Holy War

    It’s an inconceivably scary thought that the Trump administration is simply winging it, breakneck, disrupting and detonating and taking America apart – and all of it without a plan. But here’s the even scarier possibility – that there is, in fact, a plan.

    Bradley Burston | Haaretz [in part]

    It’s an inconceivably scary thought that the Trump administration is simply winging it, breakneck, disrupting and detonating and taking the United States of America apart – and all of it without a plan.

    But here’s the even scarier possibility – that there is, in fact, a plan.

    A plan which would dramatically concentrate and expand Donald Trump’s power, inflame and mobilize his base, whip up and leverage racism, Islamophobia and, at a later stage, if needed, anti-Semitism, in order to slough all shortcomings onto scapegoats.

    Donald Trump NEEDS A WAR.

    He needs a war to reconcile the contradictions of a populist and extravagantly self-contradictory election campaign, in which he vowed to rebuild the military to historic levels while also slashing government spending.

    He needs the kind of war that could make good his vows to revive heavy industrial manufacturing and the mining of “beautiful coal.”

    A war would free him to green-light mammoth corporate monopolies, and to provide the ultimate pretext, the emergency imperative, for abrogating on a massive scale the most basic of constitutional guarantees to individual freedoms – gun ownership exempted.

    A war would make it clear that it’s not mass casualty shootings by loner white males that makes Americans unsafe.

    It is, rather, the specter of the swarthy Muslim we have never met, which should keep us up at night – even if that Muslim is in actual life a saint among physicians or a decorated former brother-in-arms of U.S.A. troops overseas.

    Donald Trump needs a war. But not just any war. He needs just the right global non-Christian, all-powerful, all-frightening, non-white, non-negotiable enemy.

    Donald Trump NEEDS A HOLY WAR.

    And he needs a doomsday weapon he can rely on. As it happens, he already has one. It’s called Steve Bannon. And Steve Bannon, ideologue, impresario, scorcher of Republican earth, has been talking Holy War for years.

    The 2014 Bannon speech to the Christian Conference bears close study. Not only does it predict the imminence and inevitability of a war pitting Christianity against Islam, it obliquely suggests that Jews could find themselves a target for U.S.A. Christian anger somewhere down the road.

    When he worked at Goldman Sachs, Bannon says in the speech, he could see that “there are people in New York that feel closer to people in London and in Berlin than they do to people in Kansas and in Colorado, and they have more of this elite mentality that they’re going to dictate to everybody how the world’s going to be run.”

    A few minutes later, Bannon exuberantly responds to a question about the 2014 Republican primary defeat of then-House majority leader Eric Cantor – at the time, the sole Jewish Republican in either the House or Senate.

    Bannon, calling Cantor’s defeat “monumental” and “the biggest election upset in the history of the American republic,” speaks at length about how much money Cantor had raised for the campaign, comparing it to the modest amount raised by his victorious opponent, Tea Party candidate David Brat – whom Bannon does not name, but does point out that he is an evangelical Christian.

    “And the reason that this guy won,” Bannon said, “is quite simple: Middle-class people and working-class people are tired of people like Eric Cantor who say they’re conservative, selling out their interests every day to crony capitalists.”

    The speech sets out others of Bannon’s goals as well, one of which Trump began to fulfill in one of his first acts as president:

    “On the social conservative side, we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement, and I can tell you we’re winning victory after victory after victory. Things are turning around as people have a voice and have a platform of which they can use.”

    The war may not be underway just yet, but the Crusade certainly is.

    The Muslim Ban was just the staging area. The first target of conquest is already in sight: The Supreme Court.

    And what about real war? Trump may well consider it a positive option precisely because he has no clue in the world what it’s like. What the horror of war means to the people whose lives are destroyed by it, whether they physically survive or not.

    He thinks he does. He’s seen wars won against racial discrimination claims and non-payment of working people. He’s fought and won wars against humility, civility, humaneness, basic human moral conduct.


    His only experience with the innocent victims of war, is sending them back to Syria, then going to bed with that satisfied smile on his face.

    God help us all.

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 5, 2017 at 1:17 am

    Donald Trump fails to mention white man who killed six Muslims in Quebec mosque

    The man charged with the attack is a white 27-year-old. Mr Trump has instead focused on implementing the Muslim ban on seven foreign nations

    Rachael Revesz New York | Independent UK

    Donald Trump has failed to give a statement in one week about the white man who burst into a mosque in Quebec and shot dead six Muslims.

    The man charged with carrying out the attack is French-Canadian Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old white student who supported Mr Trump and far-right French politician Marine Le Pen.

    Mr Trump has not tweeted about or provided a statement on the shooting which rocked Canada and the world.

    The President instead tweeted that the US needs to “get smart” following reports that a man armed with two knives and a suitcase lunged at a French solider in the underground shopping area of the Louvre Museum in Paris, shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

    The attacker is 29 years old and believed to be an Egyptian who arrived in France last month from Dubai on a visa he obtained last November, according to the Paris prosecutor. Another soldier received a minor injury but no one was seriously injured or killed during the incident.

    None of these three aforementioned countries were included in Mr Trump’s travel ban.

    In Quebec, Bissonnette was charged with six counts of murder. He was also accused of injuring at least 17 others, five critically.

    On Wednesday, Fox News was forced to delete a “false and misleading” tweet that claimed the suspect in the attack was of Moroccan origin, following a call from the Mr Trudeau’s office for the network to remove the post.

    Mr Trump’s so-called Muslim ban, which barred nearly all travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, was temporarily overturned by Washington State Federal Judge, James Robart, who said the executive order was unconstitutional.

    Joe Coscarelli reported in the New York Times, some more Alternative Facts from Kellyanne Conway:

    Kellyanne Conway, the adviser to President Trump who coined the phrase “alternative facts,” is facing another round of criticism and fact-checking after she falsely spoke of a “Bowling Green massacre” by Iraqi refugees. She acknowledged and corrected her statement Friday morning on Twitter.

    Ms. Conway made the comment during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Thursday night as she discussed with the host, Chris Matthews, the executive order by Mr. Trump that suspended immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

    “I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” she said. “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

    ALTERNATIVE FACTS, indeed – Get Used To It.

    The executive order, signed by President Trump, indefinitely suspends Syrian refugees, and bars nearly all travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Sudan – for 90 days.

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