We could not ignore the irony in the fact that the kerfuffle triggered by President Trump’s recent observation that those Jews who vote for Democrats were “disloyal” to the State of Israel coincided with the news that for many weeks, Israel has been hammering Iranian weapons centers in Syria and of its surrogate Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The president’s comments followed the condemnations by leading Democrats in Congress, including local Jewish member Jerry Nadler, and several major Jewish organizations, including AIPAC and the ADL, of the Israeli government’s denying entry to Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar over their vocal support for the BDS movement.
Trump, in reacting to the Israeli decision, first repeated a comment of a talk show host who said that American Jews “don’t know what they’re doing.” And then Trump said, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A day later, he said, “If you vote for a Democrat you are very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.”
The president’s critics were somewhat circuitous in their claim: to say someone is “disloyal” is to presuppose that there is a “loyalty” in the first place, to a country other than the U.S. So the reference to “disloyalty,” they say, is to ineluctably invoke the notorious “anti-Semitic trope” that American Jews have a “dual loyalty” and that their allegiance to the U.S. is diluted or compromised by an allegiance to Israel.
Yet, who says that these allegiances compete or are mutually exclusive? And this is where the aforementioned irony comes in.
Do the Democrats and Jewish organizations really think there is any significant daylight between the United States and Israel? Indeed, don’t the interests of the U.S. as a global power and Israel as a regional power coincide? Doesn’t Israel keep Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and yes, even Russia, on the straight and narrow? Isn’t it in the best interests of the U.S. for Israel to obviate the need for boots on the ground in the Middle East?
And aren’t the U.S. and Israel the closest of military allies? Don’t they share with each other intelligence and military technology to a degree far greater than with others?
Thus, to say, as Trump did, that Jews should vote with their positive feelings toward Israel in mind, he was not implying that they dance to the tune of a foreign country. Indeed, what of the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who consistently support Israel on virtually all issues. Cynics and Tlaib/Omar would say otherwise, but we believe they are well within the bounds of classic decision-making regarding allies and are acting in the best interests of the U.S.
Do the elected officials and the Jewish organization joining them in criticizing Trump believe they themselves are routinely guilty of “dual loyalty” when they support Israel? How then can they find that notion implicit in the Trump comments?