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President Trump’s incredible friendship with Israel is one to applaud

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The news on Wednesday afternoon that President Trump had commuted the unjust 27-year sentence of Shalom Rubashkin followed Trump’s warning to United Nations member states that those who vote against America’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be punished by a diminishment of American foreign aid.

At first glance, these are issues that primarily affect the Jewish community. Rubashkin was the largest provider of kosher meat in America, and Jerusalem is the 3,000-year-old central city of the Jewish people founded by King David. But, in truth, these are universal stories that affect all people, with Jews merely serving as canaries-in-the-coal-mine.

First, Rubashkin: A Hassidic Jewish father of 10, he was a significant philanthropist and communal activist noted for his fair and reasonable prices to make kosher meat more affordable and available throughout the United States. But when he was found guilty of more than 80 counts of financial fraud, this first-time non-violent offender was essentially given a draconian life sentence, much longer than big-name corporate CEOs convicted of major financial crimes. To give you an idea of just unjust Rubashkin’s sentence was, Mark Turkcan, the president of First Bank Mortgage of St. Louis, misapplied $35 million in loans, an amount similar to the Rubashkin charges, and was sentenced to one year and a day in prison. Sholom Rubashkin, however, was sentenced to 27 years, scheduled for release at the age of 74 in 2033.

{mosads}In the fall of 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court — ignoring six amicus briefs urging the court to review the case, including 86 former federal judges and Department of Justice officials, two FBI directors, four deputy U.S. attorneys general and one solicitor general — formally declined to hear Rubashkin’s appeal.


Many alleged anti-Semitism in the unbelievable sentence and, for years, Rubashkin’s treatment was a terrible wound in the orthodox Jewish community. But with the stroke of a pen, and citing vast bipartisan congressional and legal support, Trump commuted the sentence without pardoning Rubashkin, making him a free man after eight years served. There was jubilation in the streets of Monsey, Crown Heights, and Boro Park, where orthodox Jews gave thanks to Trump for correcting a monstrous injustice and allowing justice to be served.

Then there is Jerusalem. Why is it that Israel alone is singled out to have its capital not recognized by the nations of the world? Who are Sweden, South Africa or Thailand to tell Israel where its capital should be? Imagine the inanity of France placing its embassy in St. Petersburg, Russia, rather than Moscow because it decided that it knew better than Russians where the government center should be.

Congress already voted in 1995 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but, strangely, provided a security waiver to presidents to delay the move. Every president since has campaigned on the promise to move the embassy, then broken their promises. That is, until Donald Trump.

And why should any of this matter to non-Jews? Because, as Martin Luther King, the greatest American of the 20th century, famously said: “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If a Hassidic Jew with a long beard and large brood can be treated differently by the justice system than polished Wall Street executives, then all of us are at risk. And if a Middle Eastern country, which is daily threatened with annihilation by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, can lose the support of the international community — which daily assails its reputation even though it remains the only democracy in the Middle East — then who knows which country is next.

I’m well aware of how many people hate Donald Trump. Many are friends of mine; they speak to me of his crassness which, they say, is an affront to the presidency. Many of them are Jewish.

I wonder, however, if they likewise acknowledge one of the great friends the Jewish people have had in the Oval Office. Do they acknowledge that, since taking office, Trump and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have almost completely changed the tone of the U.N. toward Israel? That this international body, long distinguished as a place that practiced anti-Israel bias and blatant anti-Semitism, now has as its champion the most powerful nation on earth?

Who would have believed that just one year after President Obama and his U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, allowed Israel to be condemned by Resolution 2334 for building condominiums in Shiloh, a new president would warn U.S. allies that if they turned on Israel and condemned America’s proclamation on Jerusalem, they would be punished by diminished U.S. support. Obama and Power brought shame to America by choosing to condemn Israeli settlements while the city of Aleppo, Syria, was bombed to smithereens and Arab children were murdered before the eyes of a world that could not see their suffering because they were blinded by irrational hatred of Israel.

President Trump is not perfect, and I have offered my share of criticism. But to overlook the incredible friendship he continues to show Israel and Jewish people is to violate the core Jewish principle of gratitude. I, for one, am grateful that in this era of Trumpian foreign policy, Israel is no longer standing alone.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (@RabbiShmuley), whom the Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the author of 30 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior.”

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Israel Judaism Nikki Haley Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Samantha Power Sholom Rubashkin Zionism

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