In the wake of Israel’s decision to ban Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering Israel, President Donald Trump upped the ante and spoke directly to Jewish Americans who continue to vote for Democrats.
While speaking to the press in the Oval Office, Trump stated:
“Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this—even three years ago—of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people—I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they’re defending these two people over the State of Israel?
“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat—it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
Predictably, various critics immediately blasted the president for his comments. According to CNN:
“‘It’s unclear who @POTUS is claiming Jews would be “disloyal” to, but charges of disloyalty have long been used to attack Jews. As we’ve said before, it’s possible to engage in the democratic process without these claims. It’s long overdue to stop using Jews as a political football,’ Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted later Tuesday.
“Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, called the comments ‘yet another example of Donald Trump continuing to weaponize and politicize anti-Semitism.’
“‘If this is about Israel, then Trump is repeating a dual loyalty claim, which is a form of anti-Semitism. If this is about Jews being “loyal” to him, then Trump needs a reality check. We live in a democracy, and Jewish support for the Republican Party has been halved in the past four years,’ Soifer added.
“J Street, a liberal advocacy group focused on reaching a resolution between Israel and the Palestinian territories, said in a statement, ‘It is dangerous and shameful for President Trump to attack the large majority of the American Jewish community as unintelligent and “disloyal.”‘”
Although some of these critics predictably labeled Trump’s comments as anti-Semitic, this conclusion is easily refuted when viewed in the proper context, which must include the various remarks made by Omar and Tlaib.
Earlier this year, Omar suggested that U.S. supporters of Israel have an “allegiance to a foreign country.” At the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t feel that Omar should be singled out for her comment.
Prior to that, Omar suggested that pro-Israel lobbying groups were buying lawmaker support for Israel.
In May, right around Holocaust Remembrance Day, Tlaib stated that thinking about what happened after the Holocaust gave her “kind of a calming feeling.” In particular, she said:
“There’s a kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors—Palestinians—who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways have been wiped out, and some people’s passports. And, just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews …”
When Republicans called on House Democrats to bring up a resolution that specifically identified members and formally condemned anti-Semitism, Pelosi waved off such requests and, according to The Hill, “called on President Trump and GOP lawmakers to apologize to Tlaib …, alleging they took her remarks out of context” after they denounced her comments as anti-Semitic.
Omar has compared the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement to the Boston Tea Party, while Tlaib compared the BDS movement to a boycott of the Nazi Party or apartheid in South Africa.
Most recently, both women were banned from entering Israel because their itinerary was exclusively focused on meeting with hard-line BDS activists and planning a campaign to strengthen the boycott of Israel and to negate Israel’s legitimacy. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it, their visitation plan “shows that their intent is to hurt Israel.”
In their totality, these incidents paint a troubling picture for Jews and the State of Israel, given the apparent motivation and intent behind them. For example, when Omar alluded to the belief that anyone supportive of Israel harbors “dual loyalty,” she wasn’t issuing words of praise. Rather, these comments reflected her attitude towards the State of Israel and those who support it.
On the other hand, Trump’s recent comments were not analogous to Omar’s “dual loyalty” comments for several reasons.
Firstly, Trump’s comments didn’t contain any ill-will, but came from a position of compassion for the Jewish State and the Jewish people. Trump wasn’t being critical of American Jews because they are Jewish or support the State of Israel. Rather, he was questioning their loyalty if they continued to support those who want to harm the State of Israel or the Jewish people and religion.
In defending Trump’s statements, the Republican Jewish Coalition wrote on Twitter, “President Trump is right, it shows a great deal of disloyalty to oneself to defend a party that protects/emboldens people that hate you for your religion.”
Trump later clarified what he meant by disloyalty, saying, “you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you are being very disloyal to Israel.”
The president’s words were not anti-Semitic. To the contrary, they were like the words of a caring father who doesn’t want to see his children get hurt.
Historically, many traditional or “old-school” Democrats strongly supported the State of Israel. Therefore, when Jews voted for Democrats, it didn’t endanger the State of Israel because those who were elected also supported Israel. However, the playing field has significantly changed, and some of the “newer” (and older) faces of the Democratic Party have vastly different opinions.
According to the New York Post:
“Kirsten Gillibrand came out against the same Israel Anti-Boycott Bill she’d once co-sponsored. Jersey’s Cory Booker voted against the Taylor Force Act that cut off funding for the Palestinians while they subsidize terrorists and their families. And Vermont’s Bernie Sanders tried to place three anti-Israel activists on the 2016 Democratic platform committee.”
The anti-Israel sentiment should be concerning to Jews around the country. This isn’t to say that Jews cannot be critical of certain policies yet remain supportive of the State of Israel. However, Jews shouldn’t live in a vacuum. They should be weary of the language and rhetoric that is being used by some on the left and its possible impact on the State of Israel.
That was Trump’s point! His comments were not anti-Semitic. Rather, they served as a blunt reminder to American Jews to wake up.
Elad Hakim is a writer, commentator, and attorney. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Algemeiner, The Western Journal, American Thinker, and other online publications.
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Author: Elad Hakim