Photo Credit: Courtesy Rabbi YY Rubinstein
Rabbi YY Rubinstein

On December 6, President Trump announced that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and planned to relocate the U.S. Embassy there.

“Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do,” he said from the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room.

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He added: “After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”

The world’s reaction was predictable and swift. European leaders, having told the press for days that they were worried he might do it, condemned him when he did do it.

The media – New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, et al – did what they have been doing from the moment Trump appeared on the presidential radar. To quote Holman W. Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal, they invoked the new Highest Journalistic Principle: “All true things about Donald Trump are bad, all bad things about Donald Trump are true.”

And they all sang from one carefully rehearsed hymn sheet – this policy shift was bad – very bad.

Russia and China condemned the move, the United Nations had a hissy fit, and the member nations of the Arab League stopped hating each other for just enough time to make ominous noises before getting back to hating each other again.

Even the Vatican weighed in. When Pope Francis visited the Holy Land in 2014, he flew directly by helicopter from Jordan to what the Vatican program called the “State of Palestine” and visited Israel last. The pope indicated that he too was miffed about President Trump’s Jerusalem announcement

Unsurprisingly, American Jews were split. J Street called it “A profound mistake.” The BDS website made it plain that its supporters, especially its Jewish ones, were apoplectic at the announcement.

The Forward recently trembled with pride that (quote) “The New York Times just explained why the Forward matters so much.” The Forward doesn’t like Trump any more than the Times does and was, predictably, not happy with his announcement. (That’s one of the reasons the Times thinks the Forward matters so much).

But this is so strange. It wasn’t very long ago that these same people were implying or claiming that Trump was anti-Semitic and that his team was thoroughly infiltrated with people sympathetic to the Klan. Gosh! Those alleged Klan sympathizers in the White House must have been across the Mason-Dixon line engaging in a spot of cross burning for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to have slipped past them.

So leaving aside the Forward, J Street, BDS-type Jews and Israelis (and there are enough of those), and Neturei Karta, which threatened to leave Israel in protest (not really), who was pleased at the change in American policy?

Well, most Israelis thought it was a wonderful and historic moment. Most others who proudly call themselves Zionists thought so too. Anyone else? There are evangelical Christians, of course, and they tend to like Mr. Trump and ignore The New York Times.

I decided to visit the Rev. Thomas T. MacThomas of Oilspill Gulch, Texas, to get a sense of the evangelical reaction.

Rev. MacThomas leads the Second First New Methodist and Real Baptist (Don’t Confuse Us With No Mormons) Church of the Second Revelation and Rapture Alliance.

The Reverend was at pains to emphasize that his church disagrees with many in the evangelical movement who believe that Jews must eventually become Christians and that those who refuse to will be eternally damned.

He was also keen to point out that he and his followers do not engage in missionary work among Jews as he offered me a cup of tea (he had spotted my British accent) and a copy of a pamphlet he wrote three years ago. I noticed this line on the first page:

“Jews who refuse to accept our faith will not be damned…but their life will be P-R-E-T-T-Y awful if they don’t. Just saying.”

I accepted his pamphlet and began our interview.

YYR: Rev. MacThomas, you have enthusiastically welcomed the president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Can you tell us why?

Rev. T: Shucks, any darned fool could see its the right thing to do and is a huge step toward bringing the end of days.

YYR: And what about the Jews’ intrinsic right to their historic homeland?

Rev. T: Of course there’s that too, and the fact that they will come to the conclusion that their life will be P-R-E-T-T-Y awful if they don’t accept our faith…just saying.

YYR: Let me pose a hypothetical question to you. If the Jewish people do not eventually accept your faith, will you still support their right to have their own homeland with Jerusalem as their capital?

At that, Rev. MacThomas cut the interview short as he remembered he had to go and bless a congregant’s new Humvee.

Of course there isn’t any actual Rev MacThomas but there are millions of evangelical Christians who are passionate supporters of Israel. Like my fictitious minister, though, a considerable number of them support Israel because of their agenda and beliefs, not ours.

Times of London columnist Melanie Phillips wrote about the real reason for the world’s outrage over President Trump’s acknowledgment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

The refusal by Western countries to recognize the unique Jewish right to Jerusalem makes Israel into a second-class country, uniquely prevented from asserting its own capital.

By their opposition to Trump’s speech, the British, French, Germans, and the rest have revealed that, like the Palestinians, they don’t think the Jews have the right to any part of Jerusalem at all. They appear to think that Jewish Jerusalem can be bargained away to those who would destroy the Jewish homeland altogether.

So I’ll fine-tune my question: Who supports Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because they accept the Jewish people as having the same rights as any other people, not because we play an adjunct role in their narrative and other people’s stories but the central role in our own?

The answer, sadly, is there aren’t all that many who do.

After the Second World War the Jewish people came to a somber realization. We knew we could not rely on any other people. We needed to rely on ourselves.

Today, even the number of Jews the Jewish people can rely on has been reduced dramatically. Many Jews on the left will join the world in denying our people the right to their ancient homeland and its capital.

The truly amazing thing about President Trump’s announcement is that despite the media’s incessant counter-narrative, there are still enough individuals, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who believe that the only people who have ever called Jerusalem their capital deserve to do so again. And who believe, as the president said, that it’s “the right thing to do.”

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Rabbi YY Rubinstein has been a regular broadcaster on BBC National TV and Radio for over twenty years. The author of ten books – the latest is “Jewish Life and Jewish Laughter” – and a contributor to several Jewish publications, he lectures on Jewish topics around the world. His Jewish Press column appears monthly.
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