Earlier this month, Trump asked Netanyahu to block visits to Israel of two Muslim congresswomen. The following week, he said, "Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Then he quoted on Twitter a conservative radio host who claimed that Trump is the greatest president in the history of the world for Jews and for Israel.
A few days later, Trump doubled down with this clarification about exactly to whom Jewish Democrats are disloyal: "You vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you're being very disloyal to Israel," he told reporters, "and only weak people would say anything other than that." Regarding his rabid trade war with China, Trump claimed he is "the chosen one" because no one else has had the courage to raise tariffs. I suppose he wanted to send a subliminal message that he identifies with "the chosen people."
Trump's comments and actions are attempts to use not only Jews, but also right-wing Evangelicals who support Israel, for political gain. (These evangelicals believe that Israeli Jews will war with their neighbors and that the ensuing Armageddon will trigger Christ's Second Coming.) It's about votes, not peace in the Middle East.
Obviously, Trump is trying to turn the Jewish vote Republican. The Jewish vote has been overwhelmingly Democratic for decades and he does not understand why. According to Demenico Montanaro and Tamara Keith of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Israel is not the determinative factor for most Jews and many do not agree with Republicans' approach to Israel. "Jewish people who vote Democratic care about what Democrats care about—social justice, health care, climate change, the welfare of immigrants and more," say Domenico and Keith. Moreover, Since 1968, Jewish voters have voted on average 71% for Democrats.
Trump is also using Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. In his clumsy attempt to attack them, he also went after Jewish voters. He could have condemned the boycott of Israel that the congresswomen support, and questioned, why, given all the countries worthy of boycotting, these congresswomen and others focus on Israel?
Why do they not boycott Syria for its Civil War, which is responsible for displacing 11 million of its citizens, 5 million of whom have fled the country? And the 371,222 to 570,000 dead members of opposition activist groups? Or how about Myanmar, for murdering 43,000 Rohingya, detaining 135,000 in camps, and for causing 730,000 to flee to Pakistan in 2018? What about China's Uighur Muslims, 1 million of whom have been held for 10 years in detention centers in the province of Xingiang?
Besides the treatment of Palestinians, the congresswomen say they object to generous aid the United States gives Israel––the largest to any nation, at $3.8 billion annually. In mid-August, Omar said, "Denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally," and hinted that Congress should consider that when allotting aid to Israel every year.
I would accept Omar and Tlaib's objections, had they not also questioned Jewish loyalty. Tlaib said supporters of an anti-boycott of Israel bill "forgot what country they represent."
We're getting that age-old anti-Semitic trope from both sides.
Of course, Hitler spread the myth in 1933 that Germany lost World War I because it had been stabbed in the back by Jews, even though more than 100,000 of them served in the German army. He did so to unify the German-speaking people. Feeling deprived and abused by the restrictions imposed upon them after World War I, they needed scapegoats, just like White Supremacists here do today.
But I say no one is all that pure, and what's so terrible about several loyalties anyway? Human beings are multifaceted creatures and one would hope that we can handle multiple ideas and allegiances simultaneously. But if people really believe we are that limited and must run on one-track fealty, why does no one accuse Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian immigrants, of dual loyalty? Or all Catholics, because they follow the decree of the pope. (When JFK ran in 1960, people worried that the pope would call the shots.)
Another question that should be addressed is, why the boycott now? Israel has received large sums of aid from the U.S. for years and the Palestinian-Israel conflict is as old as Israel. Quoting Stratfor and the Pew Research Center, a recent Congressional Research Service report, "U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel," makes the reason quite clear. U.S. voters who are young, religiously-unaffiliated, American Muslims, and liberal appear to hold more critical views of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians. "As a result, American public attitudes toward Israel's government are growing more polarized," the report said, "In April 2019, the Pew Research Center released survey results indicating that 'by nearly two-to-one (61% to 32%), Republicans have a favorable view of Israel's government. By contrast, two-thirds of Democrats view Israel's government unfavorably, while just 26% have a favorable opinion.'" Although, that could really be a referendum specifically on Netanyahu's leadership.
So the fight is partially about grabbing those younger, more malleable voters. But the cost is that both Trump and the so-called "progressives" are undermining heretofore bipartisan support for Israel.
Again, that does not go deep enough. Follow the money. What does Israel use all those donated dollars for? For its military. The rationale for the aid is that Israel must rely on better equipment and training to compensate for being much smaller in population size and geographically (there is no room for an army to retreat) than its adversaries. According to the Congressional Research Report, U.S. aid has helped transform Israel's armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated in the world. Today it is a top supplier in arms, exporting missile defense systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber security products, radar, and electronic communication systems. It is dependent on us for fighter jets, but we have purchased protection systems for tanks, helmets for F 35 fighter pilots, and an electronic fence along our border with Mexico. The U.S. benefits, using Israel as a research laboratory.
It's complicated. And there are double standards. What if everyone recognized each other as fellow human beings? Right now, though, we are all at the mercy of the military industrial complex. It shouts louder than human rights.