This is rich. At a time when Trump has said that Jews who vote Democratic are “disloyal” to Israel, a Trump-aligned media service is suggesting that the young leftwing Jews of IfNotNow are anti-Semitic because a member of the group challenged a Democratic politician who has shown lockstep support for Israel: You represent Americans, not Israelis.
The Jewish News Service article is headlined, “IfNotNow activist hurls dual-loyalty charge at Democratic Jewish congressman.”
Here’s the story. IfNotNow is a young Jewish group that opposes the illegal Israeli occupation, and has been bird-dogging Democratic political candidates at public appearances to get them to take a stand. One recent target is Rep. Brad Schneider, a Jewish congressman from Illinois, who lately went on a trip to Israel sponsored by AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group.
IfNotNow posted a video from an August 22 town hall with Schneider, at which a young man named Nathan asked:
I have family in Israel, as I’m sure you do, so your Israel policy is of particular concern to me. When Donald Trump opposed BDS, moved the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, signed the Taylor Force Act into law, withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, and recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, you celebrated every single one of these moves. How is your policy toward Israel different from President Trump’s?
“My policy towards Israel is supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Israel is without question our best ally in the… region. Israel is one of our most important allies in the entire world. So we go down the list. Let’s start with the embassy… Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. If you would talk to Israelis, they think the U.S. should move its capital to Jerusalem, they would say yes, and not just the U.S., every country should move their embassy to the capital.”
Nathan responds: “You represent American Jews, not Israelis.”
“No, I represent the United States,” responded Schneider.
Nathan continued: “Prime Minister Netanyahu prevented Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country. Do you maintain confidence in Netanyahu’s administration?”
Schneider said he opposed the ban of Tlaib and Omar but he criticized the Democratic congresswomen, not Netanyahu:
“I disagree with Tlaib and Omar’s position on almost virtually, probably, exactly every single position they have with respect to the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
The Jewish News Service is funded by Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s biggest donor, and a Netanyahu backer. It reported the encounter: “An activist with the anti-Israel group IfNotNow accused Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) of dual loyalty…” and noted that IfNotNow has circulated the video.
The incident takes place at a time when Jews are openly debating the issue of loyalty to Israel, at last. Demonstrating loyalty to the Jewish state is Zionist doctrine, sounded by Alan Dershowitz, Elliott Abrams, and Bari Weiss. There is one Jewish people, its homeland is Israel, which is in a bad neighborhood, so American Jews must offer unconditional support.
Merely for challenging Israel’s occupation, the American Jewish Committee has tried to ostracize IfNotNow as a “radical” fringe.
An unidentified anti-occupation Jew with the handle “BBR” writes at Jew School that he/she has repeatedly been labeled disloyal by the Jewish community.
[W]e should hopefully take from the President’s outrageous charge a reminder that our own community has been willing to use this charge of “disloyalty” from within for a long time. And that needs to end.
BBR says he/she has been so hurt by these accusations they’ve not wanted to participate in Jewish community events.
Our loyalty to Israel and to the Jewish people has been questioned routinely and consistently because of our stance that the Occupation of Palestinian Territories is contrary to our Jewish beliefs and Israel’s interest…
[The accusations] have hit at a much deeper and far more painful level, causing me to recoil, at times, from attending synagogue or fully participating in the activities of our boys’ Jewish day school. Or from supporting mainstream Jewish organizations doing good work in local communities or in Israel because of the feeling that they see me as disloyal.
Frank Newport at Gallup echoes the point: American Jews are by and large “highly loyal” to Israel:
The data show that despite Trump’s commentary, Jews in the U.S. are both highly likely to identify as Democrats and vote for Democratic candidates and to express views that are highly loyal to Israel.
There’s nothing wrong with having loyalties and affinities in politics and culture. The issue is when those loyalties are binding in ways that oppress Palestinians and distort U.S. foreign policy, the signal achievements of the Israel lobby.
Sheldon Adelson has said that he wished he fought for the Israeli army not the American one, and that he considers himself a “citizen” of Israel. He and his wife are the biggest donors to the Trump/Republican cause at $175 million and counting; and not surprisingly, every move Trump has taken in the Middle East has been in line with Adelson’s beliefs. Adelson has more power than the Secretary of State (per an NYT columnist).
The Adelsons also plays a large role in the Jewish News Service. Eli Clifton at Lobelog reports that the Adelsons contributed $300,000 to JNS in 2017, the “majority of JNS’s contributions.” In 2015, Josh Nathan-Kazis reported at The Forward that the Adelsons’ foundation was the largest funder for the JNS, committing over $1.2 million to the JNS over several years.