There lately seems to be no escaping Jews in the news. And the political climate that is pitting politicians against Jews is pitting Jews against Jews too. Worse, it may be pitting Jews against their own Jewish interests.
Last week, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri rephrased the late Prime Minister Golda Meir. Tweeting about Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s refusal to visit her grandmother on a humanitarian trip to Israel, he wrote, “Her hatred for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.” A twist on Meir’s famous quip, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”
This week, the barrage of criticism leveled against President Trump by many American Jews evokes a different twist — some Jews hate Trump more than they love themselves.
Trump’s words about Jews and Israel, taken both in and out of context, are shaping the debate on a highly charged issue precisely by ignoring its sensitivity and approaching it head on. Never having been accused of being a diplomat, Trump’s instinctive support of Israel and Jewish causes seems to hit some Jews in their gut because it’s emanating from his own.
His criticism of the increasingly dangerous anti-Semitic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, and by extension the Democratic Party for sheltering them, is being slammed by some Jews who seek a political narrative at odds with the president’s. Inexplicably, this narrative seems to be at odds with their own religious one. In addition to representing many values antithetic to authentic Judaism, the Democratic Party harbors progressives with anti-Semitic bona fides that threaten not only Israel but Jews worldwide.
Trump commented on the unaccountable Jewish support for a party that endorses members who promote BDS and Israel “apartheid” conspiracies. “Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they are defending these two people over the State of Israel?” Trump told reporters. “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
Just in case you were unsure who that disloyalty was directed at, Trump clarified his words the next day when he doubled down on his charge, “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel.” For these comments, Trump is being widely and wildly indicted for invoking the ever-expanding anti-Semitic canard of “disloyalty.”
It seems ludicrous to accuse a president, who is hailed as Israel’s greatest friend, of being a Jew-hater. The Palestinians, at the heart of the matter, must be flummoxed. Here they are, refusing to deal with a president who outwardly favors the Jews, while being confronted with supporters who are claiming otherwise. Which one is it?
Critics censuring Trump for using Israel as a political football in a reelection season are readily turning Trump’s pro-Israel record from an asset into a liability. And Jewish critics among them are quick to convert the Democrat’s use of that same political football the other way around.
Despite Congressional bi-partisan support for Israel, as evidenced by the overwhelming passage of the recent anti-BDS bill in Congress, the very fact that anti-Semites are not outed and ousted by their party signifies a willingness to let them flourish. Note the outpouring of support for Omar and Tlaib by party members and presidential candidates. Silence is acquiescence. And it begets more silence. The anti-Semitic element in the Democrat Party is hijacking the debate and stilling dissent by mainstream Democrats.
The active participation of many American Jews — politicians, organizations and laypeople — is key to enabling this spreading of Jew-hatred. If Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Ted Deutch denounce Trump’s statements on Jewish loyalty, who are non-Jews to dispute it? If Representatives Elliot Engel and Nita Lowey seek to punish Israel’s ambassadors Ron Dermer and David Friedman for barring Tlaib and Omar from entering Israel, in order to better destroy it, who are non-Jews to dispute it? And if Jewish organizational leaders from the ADL, AJC, J Street, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, among others, condemn Trump for pulling the loyalty card, who are non-Jews to dispute that?
If Jews cannot recognize the threat, it is because they do not want to recognize it. Israel’s clumsy handling of Omar and Tlaib is regrettable in its method, not its message. Their hesitancy might have resulted from their own insecurity and their incredulity at having a supporter in the White House who is more vocal in their defense than they are. If Trump is guilty of anything, it is in believing that Jews are more self-preserving than they are. Or than they should be.
There are some Jewish groups who hesitate to speak out for fear of endangering the [great aspiration]of bi-partisanship. While no one suggests the wholesale abandonment of the Democratic Party, with some of its very pro-Israel members, putting politics uber alles threatens Jewish safety.
No, Trump is not the “King of Israel,” as his retweet of radio host Wayne Allyn Root suggested. But in a world of accusatory Jewish “kings” and leaders, he just might be the boy who pointed out that those are the emperors who have no clothes.