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Scott’s Arab-Baiting Over Jerusalem

| December 3, 2017

donald trump rick scott selfie jerusalem

They’ll always have Jerusalem.

I never took Gov. Rick Scott for an Arab-baiter. But his lustful bromance with Donald Trump should have put us on our guard. Scott has been studying Trump closely, Trump’s streak for bigoted flame-throwing particularly.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive Scott thinks it’s his place to declare that the United States should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The hell with 70 years of American policy, the hell with Palestinian identity and the eclipsing of Arab Jerusalem. Lacking more substantive ways of appealing to voters, he’s exploiting the shortcuts of contemporary Republican electoral roadmaps: the primitive appeal to identity. In this case, demeaning Palestinians in the occupied lands to appeal to Jews in South Florida. He learned it at Trump’s knee.

Politicians have always known that some voters–not most, not many, but enough to make a difference, particularly in swing states like Florida–don’t vote their reason or their conscience but their prejudices. Appealing to those voters can be the difference between a winning and a losing campaign. Richard Nixon made that work with his southern strategy in 1968, when he turned white Democrats his way by appealing to their racism against blacks. The two Bushes were more subtle, but they sent enough coded messages, from Willie Horton in the first Bush’s campaign to allegations about John McCain fathering a black child in the lesser Bush’s South Carolina primary, to make the strategy work just enough to tip scales their way. The shock of the 2016 election was how easy such a strategy proved to be for Trump, who, placing identity politics above all else, adopted a nearly rote system of ticking off boxes of non-white, non-male constituencies and went to work degrading each in turn, to the delirium of his base.

The strategy can be put to work in state races too. Scott just showed how. He is angling for a Senate run in a race against Bill Nelson next year. He can’t win without swaying enough Democrats his way. So he’s taking a page out of Trump’s book.

His target this week was Jewish voters, not traditionally the easiest voters to dupe: as whole they tend to be more educated, more politically aware and engaged, and they tend to go overwhelmingly liberal. Until it comes to Israel. Then they turn more reactionary than the most virulent nationalists in the Israeli Knesset. Trump used that knee-jerk instinct to his advantage in 2006 when he portrayed Clinton, who’s often acted more as an Israeli minister than a U.S. Senator or Secretary of State, as weak on Israel. She got fewer Jewish votes than Obama in 2008, Kerry or Gore.

That’s what’s behind Rick Scott’s call this week, as out of left field as any for a governor, that the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv be moved to Jerusalem. He’s flame-throwing, hoping to reap a few votes from solidly Democratic and Jewish South Florida.

Just so you understand, moving the embassy to Jerusalem is like announcing that America’s support for a two-state solution is history. It’s like telling every Palestinian that their hopes for statehood is as good as dead, and that Arab claims to Jerusalem don’t matter. It wouldn’t be that significant coming from Israelis. They’ve been treating Palestinians like sub-vermin parasites for decades, there to be ignored, trampled, expelled or exterminated. Israelis moved the seat of their government to Jerusalem in 1949. But the move was never recognized by any other country: they all have their embassies in Tel Aviv. All of them. International law does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, nor do the United Nations. Nor have any American presidents since Harry Truman.

If the United States breaks that streak–that law–Palestinians will consider their hopes lost. Trump’s claim that he’s interested in a workable peace will have written its own epitaph. Palestinians will have nothing left to lose and possibly more to gain from reverting to violence–the method Israel’s founders used to carve their state out of self-made myths and plenty of Arab culpability. (Not to downplay the rich fount of Arab bigotry: for 20 years between 1948 and 1967, Jordan held the Old City and denied Jews access to the Western Wall, a denial Israelis did not reciprocate regarding Muslim shrines after their 1967 occupation.)

In 1995 the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an NRA-like lobby-bully that’s been intimidating members of Congress for decades, teamed up with Newt Gingrich and got Congress to pass the Jerusalem Embassy Act, “a transparent attempt,” as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote in “The Israel Lobby”, “to disrupt the peace process by requiring the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem” no later than 1999. It was Arab-baiting, pure and simple, a provocation designed to derail the peace process and signal to Palestinians that their hopes of ever locating their capital in their part of Jerusalem are as good as fantasy.

The law included an exit clause, allowing presidents every six months to sign a waiver if delay “is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.” Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and even Donald Trump have been signing it since. Trump is tiring of signing. He’s expected next week to break with seven decades of American policy next week and declare Jerusalem the Israeli capital, even though he won’t move the embassy just yet. Riding the flaming coattails, Scott on Wednesday decided to throw a few bombs of his own, declaring ahead of a trade junket he’s taking in Israel that “the U.S. Embassy belongs in Jerusalem.”

What does Scott care? He wouldn’t have to clean up the mess. His West Bank is Miami, his Gaza is Fort Lauderdale, liberal bastions he’d just as well surrender to rising seas—until his need for a few more votes from there to make 2018 Nelson’s Armageddon.

We’ve become used in the past year or so to Scott turning his governorship into a campaign platform for his Senate run. He turned even minor tropical storms into TV commercials, he jumped on the Puerto Rico aid wagon as if he were the island’s second coming, throwing paper towels from Tallahassee instead of from across the room, and he’s not missing a chance to leech off of Trump whenever he can, whether it’s weighing in on Venezuela policy or cheering any assault on Obamacare. Until now it was garden-variety pandering.

But pretending to be secretary of state for a day is playing with a fire Scott shouldn’t start, particularly with a pyromaniac in the White House. Jerusalem has burned enough times in its history. It doesn’t need Arab-baiting demagogues to light the next fuse.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

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16 Responses for “Scott’s Arab-Baiting Over Jerusalem”

  1. Pogo says:

    @I never took Gov. Rick Scott for an Arab-baiter.

    What elected Republican isn’t?

  2. Justin says:

    And Pierre guess who is leading in the polls. Rick is going to crush Nelson.

    Rick Scott 2018

  3. Anonymous says:

    Scott wants to use Trump to move up, and Trump is an idiot for surrounding himself with Scott and Bondi. This Governor is trying to do all he can to campaign while he’s still Governor hoping it will benefit him when he runs for another public office-he’s trying to stay in the news. We can see through the smoke and no matter what Scott says or does I will never vote for him. Had he had anyone decent running against him last election he would have lost. We will never forget how he made his millions off of Medicare while all of us on social security and Medicare struggle daily. Scott has no business spending our tax dollars traveling the world. He is trying to fool us and make us believe this will help Florida. A forensic audit needs to be done on the Governor’s finances.

  4. Louis L. says:

    As a Jew I think we are smart enough not to vote for Scott and his horrible political ideas.

  5. JasonB says:

    Republicans never seem to run out of dark-skinned people to hate …

  6. Edman says:

    Scott is another rich white guy who thinks his privilege is more important than actual knowledge and skills. I hope Floridians do not fall for his recent attempt to throw our tax money around to gain support. In office this is a man who tried to sell off public land to developers, gut public services and did nothing to support education or health care. His goal in life to to obtain positions of power and not public service.

  7. George says:

    Chris Rock said it best, “I ain’t afraid of Al Qaeda, I’m afraid of Al Cracka.”

    There aren’t going to be an ISIS related terror attack in Flagler County, there’s absolutely no reason to be afraid of Muslims. Your right to bare arms does not supercede my right to NOT GET SHOT. Get over you xenophobia and thinly veiled racism, American culture is more of a danger to itself than any terrorist organization, except MAYBE North Korea.

    Here are some facts for you.

    (This is just 2017)
    Total Number of Incidents 56,825
    Number of Deaths 14,319
    Number of Injuries 29,119
    Number of Children (age 0-11) Killed or Injured 681
    Number of Teens (age 12-17) Killed or Injured 3,010
    Mass Shooting 327
    Officer Involved Incident, Officer Shot or Killed 284
    Officer Involved Incident, Subject-Suspect Shot or Killed 1,909
    Home Invasion 2,293
    Defensive Use 1,870
    Unintentional Shooting 1,880

    Gun violence and crime incidents are collected/validated from 2,500 sources daily – incidents and their source data are found at the website.

    22,000 Annual Suicides not included on Daily Summary Ledger

    Data Validated: December 04, 2017

    Tell me again why I should be afraid of Muslims?

  8. a tiny manatee says:

    Big surprise, Trump’s about to get swept up in the Russia probe, netanyahu is about to get arrested for corruption, Scott backs them both. Criminals keep the same company.

  9. Terry says:

    Jerusalem is the long time historical capital of the Jewish people. The United States agreed to move the embassy to Jerusalem many years ago. We simply have not had a President with enough backbone to follow through. I do not think it is Arab Baiting – it is simply restoring what is rightfully the capital of the Jewish people.

  10. Dan Potter says:

    The United States of America does not have a love affair with the Arabs. The West Bank is illigitiment in its government and actions. I don’t like Arabs!

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Dan, you have it wrong, as usual. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is what international law considers illegal. Israel itself signed off on what minute crumbs of autonomy it allowed the Palestinian Authority in the Oslo Accords. And normally I would applaud your honesty about not liking Arabs. At least you’re willing to own your bigotry. But what I take issue with is your dishonesty: when you were running for county commission here in 2016 you blew quite a bit of smoke up my Arab ass, knowing it was sculpted by Arabs. What changed?

  11. smarterthanmost says:

    To Terry, Pierre doesn’t always include “all the facts”.

    Definition of anti-Semitic: relating to or characterized by anti-Semitism : feeling or showing hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a cultural, racial, or ethnic group.

    “His West Bank is Miami, his Gaza is Fort Lauderdale”, really Pierre, which is it, you hate Scott, Trump, or Jews the most.

    This was decided by Congress over 20 years ago, it’s about time a President has the balls to follow Congress’s lead. After all, every President since then has use this in the election platform, and none, have followed through.

    This is probably the most distasteful thing I’ve read in a long time.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Don’t like anything critical about Israel or Israeli matters? Cue Pavlov and just call the author anti-Semitic. End of story.

      Not here. I don’t fall for those hollow attempts to silence a criticism that, particularly in this case, is shared by the quasi totality of the planet but for that tiny minority of hypocrites who think demeaning Arabs (and denying Palestinians their rights) is an acceptable defense of Israel. Distasteful is absolutely right. You just have the wrong target, smarterthannone.

  12. Pogo says:

    @Pierre Tristam

    Proud to agree with you. And I’ve a lifetime of hearing, “…don’t get me wrong – some of my best friends are Jews…” since I was a small child.

    Trump is pandering to Jews like Adelson:

    Sheldon Adelson calls on US to nuke Iranian desert

    Washington should then threaten to drop nuclear bomb on Tehran if it fails to comply with Western demands, powerful casino magnate says

    It’s no secret that Trump and brother Pence pander to the Christian Taliban and its ilk:

    tim lahaye

    The world IS heading to hell – led by greedy criminals drunk on petrodollars, war profiteering, blind nationalism, chauvinism, racism, xenophobia, and religious fanaticism. Trump is a monster loved by and for all of the aforementioned.

  13. Sherry says:

    Excellent article, Pierre! And, great retorts to the “tribesmen”.

    We recently visited our incredible 97 year old Jewish friend in Connecticut. She still has an amazing intellect and is very active doing historical research on the internet for her son in law who has his own publishing company.

    Among the many wise things Miriam has taught and said to me over our 20 year friendship . . . her most recent words were the most profound: “We would be much better off without any religion at all”.

  14. Sherry says:

    Pogo. . . as usual, your are telling it like it is. Thanks!

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