The Jewish community has good reason to be disturbed by Trump’s assertion that the Jews who vote Democratic and not for him (the vast majority) are “disloyal.” We can only imagine how his comments will affect nationalist wingnuts who already think Jews are “replacing” them.
But the allegation by many Jewish organizations and individuals that Trump is echoing an antisemitic European trope of the disloyal, transnational Jew, rings hollow. Trump has no idea about that history. Trump has heard that Jews who criticize Israel are disloyal from his own dear Jewish friends, rightwing Zionists, everyone from Sheldon Adelson to David Friedman to Elliott Abrams to Alan Dershowitz.
If there’s a trope here, it’s the Zionist claim that Jews must be loyal to Israel, no matter where they live.
Bari Weiss says so directly in the NY Times: “If you’re pro-Trump or Trump-curious,” she allows, “you’ll generously hear an assertion that Jews should be loyal to Israel.” She hastens to add, “If you’re anything like me, you can’t help but hear echoes of the sinister charge of dual loyalty.”
But Weiss has just made my point for me, generously: It’s a good thing to say that American Jews should be loyal to Israel.
Weiss stated the same principle in a forum after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre last year. We are all one, Am Yisrael, the people of Israel– from leftwing Jews to rightwing Israeli Jews.
Our values are other things than civil rights… Our values are also the fact that we are alive for the Jewish return to political sovereignty– the idea that we would celebrate that! … Even among the Jews who were showing up [in Pittsburgh] for [leftwing groups] IfNotNow and Bend the Arc and protesting Trump– you better believe they liked the fact that Ron Dermer and Naftali Bennett showed up… It’s sending a message that we are all one, Am Yisrael.
The young Jews of IfNotNow promptly scoffed at Weiss’s claim; they felt no affinity to rightwing Israelis Dermer and Bennett. But Weiss just laid out a central tenet of Zionism. There is a Jewish nation. We are loyal to the countries that we live in but we have a higher loyalty to the Jewish one. And by the way, the center of Jewish life is Israel, where the Jewish nation regained sovereignty in the 20th century.
Elliott Abrams, a Trump foreign policy aide, laid out the same principle in 1996:
Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart–except in Israel–from the rest of the population.
Melvin Urofsky laid out the same idea– American Jews must be loyal to the Jewish state– in his Zionist history, “We Are One! American Jewry and Israel” (1978).
An old Hebrew maxim holds that Klal Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh–All of Israel are responsible for one another– a statement which affirms the unity of the Jewish people, a sense of historical oneness transcending temporal or spatial differences of nationality, language and customs. In the United States, this old saying has taken on a new form: “We Are One!” … [I]t celebrates those ties that bind, those patterns which have emerged not only out of four thousand years of Jewish history and culture and tradition, but also out of the twentieth-century struggle for Jewish survival and for the re-creation of a Jewish state in its ancient homeland.
Let me inject that all these Zionists extol Zionism because it will keep Jews from marrying non-Jews. Urofsky:
There has been and continues to be hope that Israel will provide the ballast keeping Judaism in America stable, an anchor holding fast against the strong currents of assimilation…
Bari Weiss calls assimilation “self-mutilation”:
We are increasingly a people apart. Which self-mutilation, so many of us wonder, is worse? Abandon the universal values our community has always championed? Or abandon the particularism without which we cease to be Jews at all?
The main thrust of this ideology, though, is what Trump is saying: American Jews need to support Israel in the United States, because Israel depends on the U.S. as a lifeline.
And if you don’t support Israel, you’re a self-hating Jew, or a bad Jew. As I noted yesterday, Alan Dershowitz smeared an eminent South African Judge, Richard Goldstone, as an “evil, evil man” and a “moser” — a traitor– because he had accused Israel of war crimes. Goldstone was then pressured not to attend his own grandson’s bar mitzvah, because his community in South Africa was so angry.
Zionist ideologue Ben Shapiro makes Trump’s point:
Batya Ungar-Sargon of the Forward put it well last year: “Trump was saying the messaging that we have been telegraphing for 50 years.”
Ungar-Sargon was responding to that occasion in 2017 that Trump was asked by a Jewish reporter about the government’s failure to respond to an uptick in threats against Jewish institutions. Trump got angry. I love Israel! “So here’s the story, folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life…. I hate even the question because people that know me — and you heard the Prime Minister, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time…”
Ungar-Sargon said Trump was echoing a Jewish idea of what it means to be Jewish.
For fifty years the Jewish-American community has outsourced its identity to Israel…What does it mean to be a Jew? It means to be uncritical of Israel and to give unconditional support to Israel.
She hastened to assure her synagogue audience, We are all Zionists! But now we can criticize Israel, a little bit anyway.
I think 95 percent of the American Jewish community is pro Israel. We are all still pro Israel. What we are not is willing to give it unconditional support… You can be pro Israel and criticize Israel, that is what it means to be an American Jew. We are no longer willing to give unconditional support.
All this indoctrination has worked. Here’s Bret Stephens of the New York Times saying a lot of American Jews are bad Jews because they’re not supporting Israel:
Thank God I was born a Jew because otherwise I’d be a raging anti-Semite… [be]cause I tear my hair out all the time at my fellow Jews… it is a scandal, it seems to me, if we fail to live up to the promise of our American citizenship to do all we can to assure the survival of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s biggest donor, has called himself an Israeli citizen and said that he wished he had fought in the Israeli army, not the American one.
Another of Trump’s biggest donors, Bernie Marcus says American Jews need to support Israel unconditionally because it’s the center of Jewish life.
We’re so proud of the fact that Israel is here and Israel is now THE place for Jews and the place that we have to look for, and I now do everything in my power to help the state of Israel. And anything I can do I will do because it’s good for Jews all over the world.
While rightwing Zionist Irving Kristol anticipated Trump more than 40 years ago when he called on Jews to stop voting Democratic, because there was now a Jewish “interest” in having big U.S. defense budgets to keep the “knife” from the “heart of Israel.”
Senator McGovern is very sincere when he says that he will try to cut the military budget by 30%. And this is to drive a knife in the heart of Israel… Jews don’t like big military budgets. But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States… American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.
All of this indoctrination has worked out in some bad ways. Kristol’s son Bill has said he won’t criticize Israel because he has a desk job while those Jews are on the front lines.
Bernard Marcus says that Israeli Jews are superior to American Jews.
The state of Israel was formed and they weren’t like the other Jews, they fought, they didn’t walk into the ghettos and the concentration camp… into the ovens. Israelis would have killed every soldier that was guarding them…I heard [Holocaust] stories about 15 soldiers guarding 1000 people… Now the Israelis have said we will never… allow that again, we will fight to the last man. That’s why Israel is so strong…
Even liberal Zionist Batya Ungar-Sargon says she is “grateful” to those militaristic Israeli Jews for restoring American Jewish pride in 1967.
Jews… were still sort of like a hated minority in America and saw themselves that way, as sort of like this weak, stooped– you know they could still see that image reflected at them from WASPs, and there was the Six Day War, and suddenly it was like, Oh my gosh, we had this like, really really strong cool cousin. You know and it was like, If you beat me up, my cousin is going to come over here and mess you up! You know, and it was like, it gave us back something we didn’t have for millennia, which is national pride.
So it won’t surprise you to hear what happened to liberal Zionist journalist Leonard Fein when he dared to say in the 1970s that rightwing Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was lying about settlements:
The reporter from the Post [asked] “are you calling Begin a liar?” I said, “Use whatever word you want, that’s all I have to say.” The next day, front page, Jerusalem Post, “American Professor calls Begin a liar.” And my roof fell in. I depended on wealthy liberal Jews to support Moment magazine. Money was withdrawn right and left from its support…
Benjamin Netanyahu called on that same loyalty to a rightwing Israeli prime minister in 2015 when he urged American Jews, left and right, to rally against Barack Obama’s Iran deal. We are one people, he said, and after the Holocaust we got our shit together thanks to Israel:
It wasn’t long ago, certainly not that long ago, that the Jewish people were either incapable or unwilling to speak out in the face of mortal threats, and this had devastating consequences. I’ve been very clear – the days when the Jewish people could not or would not speak up for themselves, those days are over. Today we can speak out. Today we must speak out. And we must do so together.
Senator Chuck Schumer then voted against the deal and told a Jewish audience that he did so because of the “threat to Israel.” P.S. Schumer ends his speeches at the Israel lobby group AIPAC by proclaiming, ala Bari Weiss, Am Yisrael Chai. The people of Israel live!
Jeffrey Goldberg heard Netanyahu and said that J Street was stabbing Israel in the back by supporting the Iran deal.
And Trump’s good friend and bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman called J Street “kapos” — Nazi collaborators. He’s now the ambassador to Israel. Friedman’s voice is in Trump’s ear.
Sorry to go on so long. But this is an inherent problem in Zionism. The Jewish state asserts that all Jews are members of the Jewish nation no matter where they live, that nation was reborn in Israel in 1948, and Jews in other nations have a duty to support Israel– especially in the U.S., because U.S. support is an existential issue for Israel. So you’re a self-hating Jew if you don’t support Israel.
Donald Trump has heard that doctrine from his rightwing Zionist friends, and he’s parroted it.
Thanks to Scott Roth, Yakov Hirsch, Donald Johnson, and James North.