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Project 2025 would be the end of the American Jewish dream

The far-right nationalist project, coordinated by the Heritage Foundation, would be very bad news for Jews

For American Jews, it’s good news that “Project 2025” is finally being talked about. Because Project 2025 is very bad news for American Jews.

Project 2025, coordinated by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, sets out to remedy a historic mistake: the Right was not prepared for Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. Few thought he would win, and even fewer thought he would govern as a far-right nationalist. Thus, the Trump White House was a clown show of constantly changing staff, palace intrigue, and criminal indictments. As the saying goes, their incompetence saved us from their malevolence.

Not this time.

Created by a Who’s-Who of the MAGA Right – including former Trump administration officials Paul Dans, Ken Cuccinelli, Ben Carson, Peter Navarro, Roger Severino, Brendan Carr, Bernard McNamee, Christopher Miller, Thomas Gilman, Dustin Carmack, Rick Dearborn, Gene Hamilton, John McEntee and Russell Vought – Project 2025 combines an 865-page, excruciatingly detailed policy agenda with a massive HR campaign. It calls for firing over 50,000 civil servants (by reclassifying their positions as political appointments) and replacing them with Christian Nationalist ideologues. The recruitment and “training” of these future foot soldiers has been going on for the last year. 

The crucial thing to understand about Project 2025 is that it is not small-government conservatism. It is big-government authoritarianism. While some agencies – the Department of Education and Department of Commerce, for example – would be eliminated, most would be pressed into service to create a Christian Nationalist state in which any non-Christian (or non-conservative-Christian) is rendered a second-class citizen.

I know this sounds hyperbolic, so I’ll do my best in this column to prove it. For more on the subject, I’ve been writing about Project 2025 for six months now; Thomas Zimmer has done an outstanding job plumbing its depths in articles, interviews and podcasts; and there are now several detailed guides to it online. Project 2025 itself is also online; This is not a secret conspiracy. Go ahead and read it for yourself. 

Or listen to its authors. We are “in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be,” said Kevin Roberts, the head of the Heritage Foundation, on July 3. And if not?

Now, of the hundreds of policy changes in Project 2025, I will ignore, for now, the rollback of all LGBTQ rights (including national bans on same-sex marriage and combating the “toxic normalization of transgenderism”); national bans on abortion, contraception, and pornography; concentration camps for “illegal” immigrants rounded up for deportation; and endless crusades against what it calls “DEI.” Rather, I will focus on five areas that directly impact the safety, wellbeing, and status of American Jews. 

Losing the protection of DOJ and FBI

As has been widely reported, Trump and Project 2025 have called for an end to the DOJ’s semi-independence from the White House. Instead, the DOJ would become a political arm of the White House, prosecuting the president’s political enemies. 

In addition, Project 2025 calls for the near elimination of the FBI, which it believes has been irretrievably compromised by the “deep state.” (Says the text: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation, knowing that claims of collusion with Russia were false, collaborated with Democratic operatives to inject the story into the 2016 election through strategic media leaks, falsified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications, and lied to Congress.”) Domestic counter-terrorism efforts would be greatly curtailed, if not ended entirely.

Consider that for a moment. The overwhelming majority of antisemitic attacks, from the Tree of Life on down, are perpetrated by right-wing Christian Nationalists. With the FBI and DOJ hobbled, who will prevent the next massacre before it takes place? 

But it gets even worse. On paper, the right-wing Christian Nationalists at the Heritage Foundation presumably condemn the right-wing Christian Nationalists shooting up synagogues with AR-15s. But Donald Trump has said the Christian Nationalist terrorists on Jan. 6 were heroes. He has vowed to release all of them from prison. These people are all part of the same movement. Do you really believe that a Christian Nationalist DOJ will go after Christian Nationalist groups, chatrooms, and networks that incubate and encourage terrorists? 

Needless to say, by the way, that there will be even more AR-15s on the street, and guns with bump stocks, and weapons of mass murder of all kinds; the NRA is on Project 2025’s advisory board.

The FBI and Department of Justice are the leading agencies tracking and stopping antisemitic attacks. They are set to be not only dismantled, but placed in the hands of Christian Nationalist ideologues. Who will protect us?

State surveillance

For conservatives who associate Republicanism with limited government, Project 2025 will come as a shock. It calls for massive state surveillance not only of “radical agents of the Left like Antifa” but also of any woman seeking reproductive healthcare, anywhere in the United States.

“HHS should return to being known as the Department of Life by explicitly rejecting the notion that abortion is health care,” the document states. “HHS should use every available tool, including the cutting of funds, to ensure that every state reports exactly how many abortions take place within its borders, at what gestational age of the child, for what reason, the mother’s state of residence, and by what method.” To combat what it calls “abortion tourism,” Project 2025 federalizes the tracking of women who obtain abortions in blue states, and creates a database of abortion providers, locations, and those seeking care.

In Zimmer’s words, this proposal would create “a unified databank with comprehensive data on every abortion in America in the hands of a patriarchal regime lusting for control over the bodies of women.”

Combine these efforts to monitor the “radical agents of the Left” and women seeking abortions with the massive efforts to monitor, round up, and deport “illegal” immigrants. Project 2025 would erect the largest infrastructure of state surveillance in American history – and again, place it in the hands of far-right Christian Nationalists. 

Obviously, this will first affect Jews who happen to be female and Jews who happen to be liberal (or left of liberal). But consider the effect on American culture that comes from agents of the Christian Nationalist state with the power to monitor and control every aspect of our lives. 

Education

Project 2025 would call for massive federal spending to shift resources from public to private schools. The terms it uses for this are “parents’ rights” and “school choice” but the stated objective of this policy is to boost religious education at the expense of secular, public education. 

At the same time, the states of Oklahoma and Florida have recently seized control of public schools — so much for local governmental control — and swiftly banned books and promoted curricula that say that slavery may have been a good thing at times. American history, science, sex education – truth is made subservient to Christian ideology and revisionist, right-wing patriotism. Is this the America that inspired my grandparents to come here?

Now, there are some in the Orthodox community who stand to benefit from these changes. After all, those public funds would support yeshivas as well as parochial schools. Dennis Prager is on the board of the Oklahoma school reform commission, for example.

But supporting this is like selling the birthright of American civil society for the porridge of tuition dollars. There are roughly 90 times as many Christians as Jews in this country, and only one-fifth of Jews are Orthodox. Will that tiny one-quarter of 1% of better-educated Orthodox Jews really matter in the face of millions of Christians educated in right-wing Catholic and right-wing Evangelical schools at taxpayer expense? What kind of society would that create? Is this, as the saying goes, “good for the Jews’?

The climate crisis and Israeli security

Project 2025 is obsessed with climate change. Says the document, “It is not a political cause, but a pseudo-religion meant to baptize liberals’ ruthless pursuit of absolute power in the holy water of environmental virtue.” As you might expect, it aims to completely undo the Inflation Reduction Act (the most significant climate change legislation in American history) and greatly expand corporate welfare subsidies for fossil fuel companies. America has an “obligation to develop vast oil and gas and coal resources,” it says.

I want to briefly note the danger that climate change poses to Israel. Due to its unique geographical position, Israel is warming at twice the rate of the global average. Water scarcity is an ever-present threat, as are the dangers of extreme heatwaves, forest fires, heavy rainfall leading to flooding, and even weird phenomena like manta ray and jellyfish population explosions.

Obviously, climate change is not atop the list of concerns for people who care about Israel right now. But while Israel is too small to make a significant difference in carbon emissions, it stands atop the list of countries who will be harmed by global climate disruption. Project 2025 would be a catastrophe for it.

American dhimmi

Finally, the overall thrust of Project 2025 is to turn America into a Christian Nation. Non-Christians would be like the dhimmi in Muslim countries: a tolerated minority who know that they are second-class citizens. Right-wing Christianity would be promoted by government subsidies; it would be taught in public schools and commemorated in public statements; and its values take precedence over fundamental governmental functions (criticizing COVID-era health regulations, the document asks, “What is the proper balance of lives saved versus souls saved?”).

Project 2025’s authors say that this is just a return to the Christian Nation that America was in the olden days.  That country never actually existed in the past, but it could be in the future if Trump wins this election. Even beyond the policy specifics, is a right-wing-defined Christian Nation a country where American Jews are safe to live our lives as we see fit?  In which, as Steve Bannon said before going to jail, we have to yoke ourselves to Christian Nationalism in order to survive? In which we have to roll over while our country turns into Gilead, or else? Or else what, exactly?

We don’t have to look very far for an answer, of course — only to the militaristic language that is routine in right-wing churches now, or the CPAC conference, or on display on Jan. 6, 2021. That is the “or else.”

Christian Nationalists are not a majority of Americans, and they know it; Project 2025 is openly anti-democratic. But due to the way our elections are held, they do have the chance, this year, to install a figurehead who has delegated and presumably will delegate the details of governance to the many functionaries in his administration. Which is why those same functionaries wrote this document: to make sure they don’t miss this opportunity again.

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