Mr. President, what did you mean this week when you said Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal?
We ask, because we know that when Jews are accused of disloyalty, it is not just an anti-Semitic dog whistle. It is a sonic boom.
When Trump made these offhand remarks on Aug. 20, he sparked a maelstrom of outrage from just about every Jewish corner in the country.
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called on Trump “to stop such divisive rhetoric and to retract his disparaging remarks,” calling them “shockingly divisive and unbecoming of the occupant of the highest elected office.” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt correctly said that charges of disloyalty and dual loyalty have long been used to attack Jews.
Only the Republican Jewish Coalition publicly defended Trump’s comment, saying the president was referring to “disloyalty to oneself.”
What does that mean? That because a few congressional Democrats endorse BDS, that means any Jewish Democrat is disloyal to Israel? And that disloyalty to Israel equals disloyalty to oneself as a Jew?
Charges of disloyalty and dual loyalty have long been used to attack Jews.
The convoluted thinking here is mind-boggling, but not as troubling as the fact that Trump’s comments suggest he supports the dual-loyalty canard that anti-Semites have long used to justify their sentiments — and actions.
It also underlines his encouragement of divisive tribalism, of “me-and-mine” politics, rather than the universalist, democratic norms that are foundational to this nation, and that have been bedrock values for the American Jewish community.
Perhaps, indeed, he meant that certain Jews are disloyal to America. In the past he has labeled Democrats “enemies of the state,” and since more than 70 percent of American Jews vote Democratic — the figure approached 80 percent in last year’s midterms — then according to his logic, most American Jews must be disloyal to the state.
Let’s be clear: He also surely meant Jewish Democrats have been disloyal to him personally. As Trump has made evident throughout his business career and political tenure, above all else he values loyalty in his underlings, and he gets rid of those who don’t comply (after incessant mockery).
Whatever he meant, we are still left with that incendiary word “disloyal.”
Using such a term to describe Jews could further incite neo-Nazis and white nationalists with itchy trigger fingers. Inspired by the man in the Oval Office, this guerilla army of haters has already committed mass murder of Jews worshipping in Pittsburgh and Poway, and of Latinos shopping in El Paso. Multiple recent arrests of several fellow travelers bent on racist slaughter prevented the next massacres.
A groundswell of hate-fueled fear and violence is forming, and comments like those made by the president this week do nothing to discourage it.