by: David Harris-Gershon on November 19th, 2016 | 5 Comments »
While campaigning in Iowa during the primary season, Donald Trump told a cheering crowd that he would establish a national database upon which all Muslim-Americans would be legally obligated to register. The guiding principles underlying such a registry were clear to everyone: Muslim citizens are suspect, and should be tracked and monitored both transparently and with frightening ease.
Those who might have otherwise dismissed Trump’s proposal as a vote-whipping device were forced to confront that his words should be taken literally this week, for as surrogates renewed talk of such a registry, Trump named Michael Flynn as his national security advisor, a man who once wrote that “fear of Muslims is rational.”
This prompted Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), to tell a crowd gathered on the topic of anti-Semitism that, should such a registry be created, he would sign up as Muslim:
“If one day Muslim Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”
It was a welcome and bold statement from Greenblatt, particularly given the ADL’s checkered past when it comes to fighting anti-Muslim bigotry. For as an organization dedicated both to fighting hate and advocating for Israel, a tension has long existed between these two mandates, sometimes leading it to champion Islamophobic positions in the perceived service of Israel advocacy.
This time, Greenblatt and the ADL got it right. So much so that his statement has prompted American Jews across the country to nod yes and declare that they, too, are prepared to join such a registry if actually implemented by a Trump administration.
And it’s no surprise why: American Jews know what it means to be singled out and numbered. The tattoos which marked my grandparents’ flesh, and the flesh of so many of our relatives, stand as a visceral testament to how intimately we understand the implications of floating the idea of such a database.
This is why I’ve publicly joined Greenblatt’s call, and am determined to sign my name if such a database is ever established. It’s why countless American Jews and allies have made a similar pledge.
If Trump decides to track Muslim citizens, then we will all become Muslim.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published by Oneworld Publications (London).
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.