The Trouble With Trump’s Tribalism: It’s the Perfect ISIS Recruiting Tool

The Trouble With Trump’s
Tribalism: It’s the Perfect ISIS Recruiting Tool


Leonard Zwelling

         The United States that I know and love is not a tribal
nation. The only tribes ensconced by law in the American fabric are the Indian
tribes and even they are called “nations” in statute. America is a melting pot.
Tribal nations are more like beef stew, groups swimming in a common thin broth
in isolated chunks, rarely interacting until devoured. We cannot become a beef
stew of a nation and survive as the America we all love.

         Donald Trump is trying to turn us into beef stew.

         The message of Trump is not that there is a WE and a THEY in
world affairs but that there is a WE and a THEY in domestic affairs. This is
intolerable. There simply cannot be a religious litmus test for entry into this
country. If we need to heighten screening—OK. Heck, why not check the Facebook
pages of all applicants wishing to enter the country? If we need to cancel the
American passports of citizens traveling to lands occupied by radical Islamic
jihadists, I am for that. You want to go to Syria? Knock yourself out, but you
ain’t coming back. If we have to put those on the no-fly list on a no-gun list,
that’s just a reasonable idea. And if we have to deny Americans the right to
have weaponry that can match the SWAT teams of their local constabulary, well
let’s get on with it. But, we cannot revert to tribalism for if we do, we have
not only allowed our opponents to win, we have strengthened them. That is
exactly what ISIS wants, a tribal war with the West.

         I personally belong to a group of people often accused of
tribalism. Jews. I know, I know, how could I say that? Have you ever heard the
phrase MOT? It stands for member of the tribe and refers to Jews. We should be
ashamed. We Jews emerged from tribal societies that worshipped idols. Abraham
taught us better and we should remember our heritage. No tribes for Jews in
America. That tribalism used to be used against us to exclude us from jobs,
clubs and colleges. We cannot fall for invoking the idea of WE vs. THEY when it
comes to our neighbors who may well dress differently (although who are we Jews
to talk?) or worship differently or on a different day (again, who are we to

         Donald Trump is probably on posters in Iraq and Syria now
under a banner of Uncle Donald wants you to join the ISIS tribe so that you can
fight his tribe, the Golden Manes. He claims not to be a racist. He is. He
claims not to be divisive. He is. A Frank Luntz focus group for CBS News
revealed the basis for his appeal—tough talk and take no prisoners. This is
American tribalism at its worst. When NBC dissected Trump’s appeal it boiled
down to a majority without college degrees and a majority of blue collar
workers. There is nothing wrong with not having a college degree (some of the
dumbest people I know have them) or being a blue collar worker (my family is
full of them). But there is something wrong with a system that seems to lay out
two choices; the elite erudition and indecision of Obama vs. the bellicosity of
Trump’s division of not just the world, but Americans into tribes.

         Men like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz are every bit
as dangerous as ultra-liberals who would give away the American store to feel
better about themselves while eating themselves silly around a camp fire
gorging on brown rice with S’mores. There is a middle ground between
appeasement and blowing them all up. We must find it. But first, we must end
this tribalism that would pit American against American. We tried that 150
years ago and it was the costliest war in the nation’s history and took place
totally on this side of the Atlantic.

         Mr. Trump is just another rich bully. We have had enough of
these people from Rupert Murdoch to Bernie Madoff. They are not the best of
this country. Now it may be true that none of the current people running for
the Presidency represents the best of America either. But the rest are all
better than Trump, Carson or Cruz.

         We must remain one nation. No tribes, no sects, no errors.

         When Nasser, our Palestinian guide, was taking us through
the market in Nablus in the PLO-controlled West Bank in October, he asked the
BW and me when we were going to move to Israel with the rest of the Jews.


there is no chance that that will happen.”

         “Why not?” he asked. “I thought all American Jews want to
move to Israel.”

         “Not this one and here’s why. Before I am anything, I am an
American and always will be. I would never give up my chance to live in
America, ever. It is the greatest gift ever given to me by my grandparents.”

         If you really believe as I do that we Americans are the one
last hope for freedom on this planet, we need to stay together as Americans,
make room for new ones of all kinds, and resist those who would drive us back
into tribes.

         Donald. Never again.

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