Donald Trump Isn’t the President Who Accused Jews of Dual Loyalty

August 27, 2019 | John Podhoretz
About the author: John Podhoretz is the editor of Commentary. His movie criticism appears regularly in the Weekly Standard.

For the duration of his presidency, writes John Podhoretz, Donald Trump has sided with Israel. Yet not all American Jews—sometimes out of genuine concern, sometimes more disingenuously—think this is a good thing. It is in this context that Podhoretz weighs the reaction of American Jews to the president’s statement that Jews who support Democrats are “disloyal”:

Donald Trump is a great friend of Israel. The only real way to argue otherwise is to say that he isn’t a great friend of Israel because the only true friends of Israel are those who oppose the policies Israel has decided (through its own political system) are in its best interest. By these lights, Barack Obama was a great friend of Israel and Trump isn’t.

In 2015, when Obama struck his nuclear deal with Iran, the aides tasked with selling the deal essentially accused those who opposed it, in part because of the danger it posed to Israel, of disloyalty to the United States. This charge could not have been levied without Obama’s knowledge. It was disgusting—a sign of deep intellectual rot. Funny how so few people on Obama’s side pointed out this classic anti-Semitic canard, given how readily they call out Trump.

This past week, Donald Trump openly mused about the loyalties of American Jews. The outrage was all but universal. As Abe Greenwald pointed out, Trump’s words were so imprecise people chose to take them as anti-Semitic—as an accusation of dual loyalty, the very accusation of dual loyalty Barack Obama . . . had so easily hurled. Trump did no such thing.

What he was doing was calling out the disloyalty of Jews who vote Democratic to their own people. Not to the United States.

Now that is a weird thing for him to have done. First, it’s a bizarre subject for a president to opine about. And it’s a discomfiting subject for a non-Jew to offer an opinion about. Basically, it’s none of his business, either when speaking as a public figure or as a Gentile. But . . . Trump was in no way calling the loyalty of American Jews to America into question.

But what of Trump’s point? Do I think Jews should be “loyal” to Israel? No, because I think “loyalty” is the wrong word here. Jews have an obligation to protect and defend Israel because it is the ingathering of the exiles after two millennia. . . . We American Jews are not disloyal when we turn our backs on Israel and insult its friends and treat them as though they are enemies—or when we treat its enemies as though they are our friends. . . . At best, we are blind fools. . . . At worst, we are far lower than merely disloyal. We are serving as active collaborators with those who wish our destruction.

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