Dear Commons Community,
A New York Times editorial this morning takes aim at President Trump’s recent comments about Jews, loyalty to Israel, and voting for Democratic candidates. The editorial reminds readers that in the history of modern anti-Semitism, one of the most common justifications for violence is the inflammatory canard that the loyalty of Jewish citizens is suspect.
President Trump has repeatedly used that libel in recent days as part of a verbal assault on the Democratic Party. Such language is traditionally used to invoke anger against Jews. Mr. Trump, surreally, is employing it in an effort to win Jewish votes.
“If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel,” he said Wednesday.
This is nonsense on several levels. While many American Jews strongly support the Jewish state, such support is a choice, not an obligation. And those who do support Israel may reasonably conclude that there’s not much difference between the Republican Party’s longstanding and vigorous support for Israel and the Democratic Party’s longstanding and vigorous support for Israel — or they may place greater weight on other issues in casting a ballot. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:
“…the president’s words are dangerous.
His demonization of minority groups and his equivocations about white supremacists has coincided with a sharp rise in hate crimes against Jews.
Gunmen have opened fire on Jewish congregations in Pittsburgh and in Poway, Calif., and the F.B.I. says hate crimes against Jews increased in each of the last three years. By subjecting Jews to a reckoning of loyalties, Mr. Trump toys with fanning those flames.
The president has a habit of speaking about Jews as different from other Americans, and specifically of suggesting that their loyalties are divided.
In April, addressing a gathering of Republican Jews in Las Vegas, he referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as “your prime minister.”
Responding to criticism of his latest remarks, he said Wednesday that his talk “is only anti-Semitic in your head.” But that’s precisely where anti-Semitism resides: in the minds of people who see Jews as somehow alien.
Mr. Trump, who has an undoubted eye for the weaknesses of his political opponents, is seeking to exacerbate emerging divides in the Democratic Party over America’s alliance with Israel. The dangers extend well beyond his recourse to anti-Semitic statements.
Even incremental movement toward polarizing Americans over Israel undermines the long-term security of the Jewish state, which has long rested on the firm foundation of bipartisan American support.
Mr. Netanyahu appears blind to this danger. He has chosen to reap the short-term benefits of Mr. Trump’s embrace, delighting in small victories like the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem and, at Mr. Trump’s urging, preventing two Muslim congresswomen, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, from making an official visit to Israel.
Mr. Trump is also doing Israel no favors over the long haul by discarding long-running American efforts to address the hopes and grievances of Palestinians and Israelis through a negotiated deal.
For Democrats, the challenge is to resist the easy gratification of reflexively opposing what Mr. Trump supports — or supporting what he opposes.
Mr. Trump wants to keep Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib in the spotlight because they are outspoken critics of American support for Israel. Ms. Omar has invoked anti-Semitic language in support of her arguments. Both support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is silent in its official documents about Israel’s right to exist, and which seeks to use economic pressure to extract concessions from Israel that the United States has long maintained should be negotiated as part of a peace agreement.
Leading Democrats have rightly criticized Israel for barring Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, while making clear that their views on Israel are not widely shared.
The right road forward is for Democrats, and Republicans, to maintain strong support for democracy and liberal values, both in Israel and in the United States.”
In sum, it is dangerous and despicable for Trump to imply that Jews owe allegiance to another nation.