President Trump certainly knows how to get a discussion going in the Jewish Community. The problem is that a large part of the Jewish Community is blind to understanding what he is saying. What he said for Republican Jews was not a surprise nor something that has not been said previously, but let’s break it down.
Those of us who have been long-time Jewish Republicans have been queried for years by other Republicans as to why many Jews vote for Democrats. That is particularly so since the Republicans asking have been strong supporters of Israel.
In fact, years back, when AIPAC (the well-known group that supports Israel and lobbies politicians for the interest of Israel) organized people at our temple, I was asked to get involved. They knew my significant involvement in politics and the fact that I was a presidential appointee. I politely declined, but they persisted. I then told them “alright I will tell you what — you get everybody organized and you lobby the Democrats in the local area; I will lobby the Republicans. I don’t need any help. A Republican who does not fully support Israel is a very rare breed.”
In fact, I have been working the fields of Jewish Republican politics for forty years and have yet to meet a Jewish Republican who does not support Israel. While they may question some decisions, they are fully supportive of Israel no matter who the Prime Minister is at the time. Not so Democrats. The last two Democrat presidents interceded in Israeli elections against a candidate they did not like. They were not chastised for their behavior by Jewish Democrats.
What Trump seems to understand particularly when he invoked the word disloyalty is what Israel means to Jews and Americans. When you ask Democrats why they don’t support Republicans when they are so supportive of Israel, they will immediately invoke that Jews vote on an array of issues. No. There is no issue for Jews as important as Israel.
What these people don’t seem to understand is that today and forever forward, Israel is a central core aspect of Judaism. This is not new. For generations we have said at Passover, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We did not have Jerusalem for the first half of the 20th century and it cost us dearly. In the second half, we did and we will never ever give it up. Israel is as central a core aspect of Judaism today as is the Shema (the most important Jewish prayer). Thus, when someone invokes Israel and the other person starts talking about other issues, you question their commitment to your religion.
Of course, the Jews who do not support Trump found his comment a shanda (scandalously shameful). Jonathan Greenblatt, who was a special assistant to President Obama and now heads the ADL which he has turned into an arm of the Democrat Party, was representative of the statement saying Trump “made it clear he thinks Jews have a dual loyalty to Israel. This #anti-Semitic trope has been used to persecute Jews for centuries & it’s unacceptable to promote it.” A rabbi I know jumped the shark and stated “President Trump is dividing Jews into good Jews (those who will bow to Trump) and bad Jews (those who are either ignorant or disloyal.) Wow. Ugly, dangerous stuff. I sure hope his ultimate plan is not to round up the bad Jews.” I know this Rabbi and he is a supporter of Israel. How could he state that a man who wants Jews to support Israel and questions them for not calling out people who do not support Israel would round up Jews?
Let’s address this canard of dual loyalty. Damn straight I have dual loyalty. I wear that as a badge of honor. There is not an American alive who loves this country and cherishes everything we stand for more than me. But if Israel’s existence was mortally challenged I would be on an airplane tomorrow. And every committed Jew I know would do the same thing. Every Gentile we know who supports Israel would be fighting us for seats on the plane. They don’t question our commitment to America, but they completely understand our commitment to the survival of Israel. They have a similar commitment.
So when Trump brings up loyalty, of course, we have loyalty to both – not equal loyalty as we are Americans first, but loyalty to both. I have said for years support of Israel is not a Jewish value; it is an American value. If you don’t support Israel, you don’t understand America. When someone like Greenblatt invokes that dual loyalty is an anti-Semitic trope my question to him is you don’t have a dual loyalty? Why are you running a major Jewish organization without a total commitment to both America and Israel? It is because of people like yourself who refuse to denounce people like Tliab and Omar and work for their defeat in the coming election that Jews need to protect themselves by protecting Israel.
My temple jumped into the fray with this meaningless statement “We are Republicans, Democrats, and independents. But we should all share the belief that we can disagree with each other about matters of policy or political ideology and, at the very same time, respect and love one another and the State of Israel.” That is true on its face, but it does not address the issue. There are very few members of my temple, if any, who are not supporters of Israel no matter what is their political affiliation.
This is about the non-affiliated Jews. Jews do not affiliate with a temple in my experience for two reasons. Republicans who cannot stand being preached to at religious ceremonies by Rabbis who are invoking their left-of-center political beliefs. They grew tired of listening to the partisan rants and stopped paying dues. All of these people are ardent supporters of Israel.
Then there are the other non-affiliated Jews. The ones who call themselves Jews, but don’t actually do anything to further the religion. The don’t participate or raise their children Jewish. They are the ones in question certainly because someone is telling the pollsters that they are Jewish and don’t support Israel.
But it is also the party. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed the Democrats equally divided in support of Israel and Palestinians. Other polls have been even more supportive of the Palestinians. So when a party supports a group that wants to eradicate a close ally of our country and a central core of Judaism, you must question their thinking. In the poll the support for Israel vs. Palestinians has shrunk during the Trump Presidency. If the support for a country hinges on the president, then you have to question these people’s real intentions.
The fact is that AIPAC has been worried of recent about keeping their group bi-partisan. They see support amongst Democrats shrinking. The fact is to my knowledge not one Democrat has called out Congresswoman Tliab or Omar as anti-Semites. They issued that feeble, water-downed resolution that called out hate of every kind too weak-kneed to address the real issue. The fact is Speaker Pelosi could have addressed the issue of the two anti-Semites being turned away from their Israeli visit, labeled as a trip to Palestine, intended as a propaganda attack on Israel by saying “Majority Leader Hoyer just led a mission to Israel and those members should have joined Mr. Hoyer and their fellow Democrats.” The fact is when you point out these matters to Democrats, they don’t say you have a point; they attack Trump.
What Trump said was rather stern, but these side antics and attacks on him are by people who attack Trump for anything he does. They have become Johnny One Notes. If Democrats cannot call out their Israel hating anti-Semites, then you must question their commitment. They need to understand that Israel is a core belief of Judaism and someone who questions that is not truly supportive of the Jewish faith or Israel. Republicans have no problem doing it.
Jewish Democrats instead of hating Trump maybe you should spend more time calling out the haters of our faith. When the EU is poised to have warning labels on Jewish products and Jews are fleeing France because of rampant anti-Semitism, you find it a priority to attack a man who questions whether people have a high enough commitment to Israel.