An earlier version of this article misstated Jewish beliefs on the Messiah. Some Jews accept the idea of a Messiah in human form. This version has been updated.
President Trump on Tuesday said that any Jewish people who vote for Democrats are showing “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” prompting an outcry from critics who said the president’s remarks were promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes.Trump made the comment in an exchange with reporters in the Oval Office ahead of a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. ...“Yesterday, I noticed for the first time, [Rep. Rashida] Tlaib [D-Mich.] with the tears,” Trump [also] said. “All of the sudden, she starts with tears, tears. ... I don’t buy it for a second, because I’ve seen her in a very vicious mood at campaign rallies, my campaign rallies, before she was a congresswoman. I said, ‘Who is that?’ And I saw a woman that was violent and vicious and out of control.”
The latter comment is cruel and obnoxious, and the first tells us what we need to know about Trump — in case his refusal during the campaign to condemn outright David Duke, his reference in a speech to a group of American Jewish Republicans that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “your prime minister,” his statement that there were “very fine” people among neo-Nazi marchers chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and his white nationalist lingo (not to mention his slanderous accusations that the Democratic Party is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic) were not enough to tell you what he actually thinks of Jews.
To make matters worse, Trump tweeted approval of a racist conspiracy-monger’s assertion that Trump should be treated as the Jews’ Messiah (an affront on many levels, not to mention that many Jews do not believe in a Messiah in human form):
....like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God...But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense! But that’s OK, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s good for.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019
Trump’s indulgence of Israel stems not from any love of the Jewish people, but from a desire to help a kindred nationalist leader and an even greater desire to thrill his evangelical followers. If he damages U.S.-Israel relations in the process or earns the scorn of American Jewish groups for imploring Israel not to admit Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) into the country, or neglects his oath of office, it’s of no concern. Through the lens that the only thing that matters is what accrues to Trump’s psychological and political benefit, we can see how little he cares for American Jews.
In the request for Israel to ban two U.S. congresswomen, Trump was willing to use the Jewish state as a battering ram to advance his own brand of nationalism, Islamophobia and racism. (Recall that he told the two nonwhite congresswomen to “go back” to where they came from.) Only Trump sycophants think he was publicly pressuring Netanyahu to advance the cause of Jews either here or in Israel.
Trump’s ugly comment met with immediate condemnation. Former vice president Joe Biden tweeted, “Mr. President, these comments are insulting and inexcusable—just like your previous dual loyalty insinuations. Stop dividing Americans and disparaging your fellow citizens. It may not be beneath you, but it is beneath the office you hold.” Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared, “I am a Jewish man and I have no concerns about voting Democratic, and, in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president.” Beto O’Rourke also denounced Trump’s anti-Semitic remark.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) observed, “To suggest that Jewish Americans, in their preference in voting, are disloyal is an old anti-Semitic trope," and it is precisely what those neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville would echo. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) weighed in as well. “What the President is doing is creating an environment in which anti-Semitism can flourish. ... When you suggest that Jews are being disloyal to America ... there’s no valid reason to say that," he said in a CNN interview.
Jewish groups — with the exception of the quisling Republican Jewish Coalition, which had the chutzpah to defend Trump — condemned the president. I must say that Trump is quite successful in forging common bonds between the far-left J Street and more mainstream groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. A few conservative pundits blasted Trump as well.
Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) tweeted: “Anti-Semitism is always reprehensible, and it’s perhaps most disturbing when it comes from the president of the United States. President Trump’s ‘disloyalty’ comment mirrors divisive words that have come from members of Congress. This language has no place in political discourse.”
However, we have yet to hear from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who claimed to be oh so concerned about anti-Semitism when the issue was statements by Omar. It comes as no surprise to anyone paying the slightest attention that their concern about anti-Semitism appears to be entirely situational.
Don’t expect Netanyahu to condemn the remarks, either. As with Trump, his own reelection is what really matters.
There is a reason that American Jews overwhelmingly voted against Trump. These Americans voted their values, which include opposition to racism in all forms, a concern for the poor and the stranger, and a reverence for the rule of law. That certainly would rule out voting to reelect Trump, but increasingly, it seems, it logically rules out casting votes for Republicans who carry Trump’s water.
Marc A. Thiessen: If Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib can boycott Israel, why can’t Israel boycott them?