The Dangers of Donald Trump’s Talk of Jewish Disloyalty

August 22, 2019 | David Wolpe
About the author: David Wolpe is rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and the author of, among other books, Why Be Jewish? and Why Faith Matters. He can be found on Twitter @RabbiWolpe.

Asked at a press conference on Tuesday about Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib’s and Ilhan Omar’s most recent display of anti-Israel vitriol, President Trump responded that “Jewish people that vote for a Democrat—I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” David Wolpe comments:

It is the mark of a well-managed mind that one can hold principles that are independent of the people who espouse them. So it is possible to believe, simultaneously, in the following: (1) the move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was both necessary and overdue; (2) some of the statements of Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and some of the organizations and individuals who support them are anti-Semitic; (3) the president’s statement . . . is both foolish and dangerous.

The accusation of disloyalty has a long history in the Jewish experience. Those who have hated Jews, from the biblical stories of Egypt onward, have catalyzed their nefarious plans by declaring the disloyalty of Jews to whatever country they inhabit. In Germany, despite having fought for the country in World War I, Jews were [during the 1930s] treated like a cabal of traitorous outsiders. That trope is one of the most reliable ways to mobilize anti-Jewish sentiment. In this paranoid, delusional world, Jews are not native—they are interlopers and disloyal ones at that.

[T]he danger of accusing Jews of disloyalty—since over 70 percent of Jews vote Democratic, wisely or not—cannot be remedied by other aspects of his presidency that Jews find congenial or praiseworthy. . . . The president should have the maturity and graciousness to admit he ought never have suggested that Jews are disloyal to their country or their tradition. That is not a judgment for a president [to make].

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