The American Jewish Community Doesn’t Need Trump’s Advice

By

Leonard Zwelling

On August 20, President Trump let it be known that he thought American Jews that voted for Democrats displayed a “total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

It is no longer surprising that the president makes outrageous statements. It is no longer surprising that he makes these statements about Jews and about Israel. For him, he is trying to make support for Israel a wedge issue and he is using the two Democratic Muslim congresswomen denied access to Israel as tools in his ploy to sway Jewish voters toward the GOP. The “dual loyalty” trope is an old anti-Semitic trick that The Donald is dusting off for his personal use.

Apparently a host of Jewish organizations are incensed by his comment. They shouldn’t be. What the heck did they expect from him? He’s a reality TV star in his own show about being President of the United States. The bad news? It’s no show. It is not reality TV. It’s reality. But Trump only knows how to play one way—for the jugular. This is a preview of what to expect in the race for the White House in 2020. Politics as blood sport.

There is no doubt that American Jews are in a quandary about support for Israel for a host of reasons. The plight of the Arabs living in the land between Israel and Jordan is not one to which American Jews are insensitive—some (J Street) more than others (AIPAC). Throughout history Jews have been evicted from places they thought were their homelands. That is why Israel is so special. After 2000 years we Jews finally really do have a homeland to call our own. It was fought for after the Second World War and the Jews won. It was fought over again in 1967 and the Jews expanded the land over which the government of Israel had control. Many countries don’t like this fact and believe that Israel should cede the conquered land back to the Arabs who had it before 1967. But it was the Arabs who attacked in 1967 and again in 1973. Israel won. It is as likely that Israel will return its captured land as the United States will return South Dakota to the Indians. It’s not going to happen and it is even less likely now that Area C of the West Bank has been extensively populated by Israeli settlements. I suppose Areas A and B could be turned into a Palestinian homeland, but what do you do with Gaza and why should Israel believe the Arabs won’t attack again?

Loyalty of American Jews to Israel comes in many forms. Many American Jews actively support Israeli causes with money. Israel has special meaning to us especially after the Holocaust and the many centuries of persecution at the hands of Romans, Assyrians, Persians, Germans, etc. We Jews cannot compromise on Israel and there is no question that some of the statements of the two congresswomen are offensive, particularly as they support the BDS movement and would like to see a one-state solution that would eliminate the Jewish identity of Israel. This cannot occur.

Yes, Donald Trump is probably more popular in Israel than he is here. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem and sanctioned the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Anyone who has been to the Golan knows it is definitely part of Israel and I am not exactly sure what the difference is with regard to where our embassy is. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That’s Israel’s decision. Government business will be done there regardless of where our building is.

It is the politics of both countries that are in play. Mr. Netanyahu is on a razor’s edge trying to maintain his position as prime minister. We will see what happens in the pending elections on September 17. Mr. Trump too is trying to hold onto power and is using the Israel issue, the two congresswomen and the passion of American Jews of all stripes for Israel to move voters to the GOP. Don’t fall for it.

American Jews can be loyal to the U.S. and loyal to Israel without supporting either Mr. Netanyahu or Mr. Trump. I count myself as such a Jew. I also count myself as someone who has been to Israel quite a bit, but still does not understand the subtlety of life there or the politics governing the everyday existence of its people.

I love Israel. I consider it my second home. But Texas is my first and my full loyalty is to the country of my birth, the United States. I do not see that either political party has a stranglehold on support for Israel. They both support Israel. That being said, the Democrats would be wise to marginalize the BDS support and anti-Israeli rhetoric of the two Muslim congresswomen and make it clear that the Democrats support a free and strong Israel, too.

American Jews have many things to evaluate as they decide who to support in 2020. Support for Israel should not be a wedge issue in the 2020 election. That means the Democrats have got to speak clearly in support of a strong Israel as the only real democracy in that dangerous part of the world.

I still believe that Speaker Pelosi should strip Omar and Tlaib of their committee assignments over their BDS support and anti-Semitic remarks. If she does not, Mr. Trump will continue to try to define American Jews who vote for Democrats as flawed. American Jews do not need Mr. Trump’s help in making up their minds about who and what to support.

The last person to be giving advice about loyalty is Mr. Trump, the former Democrat who bad mouths his own appointees as often as he fires them.

Thanks for the advice Donald. I will not be supporting you in 2020. Or ever.

Leonard Zwelling