By Lisa Woolfson
President Trump criticized American Jews who vote for Democrats a few weeks ago by saying, “It shows either a total lack of knowledge or complete disloyalty.”
Trump is only the most recent public figure to assume all Jews have a “dual loyalty” to both America and Israel. This anti-Semitic trope in fact goes back thousands of years to the Middle Ages when Jews were accused of being untrustworthy because of their ties to other Jews around the world. More recently, Jews have been accused of having a dual loyalty to Israel since the nation’s founding in 1948.
“Dual loyalty” is sort of a misnomer. It does not mean that someone is loyal to two places. Rather, it means that someone is not loyal enough to either place.
What a lot of non-Jews do not realize is that the Jewish community has an extremely complex and varied relationship with Israel. Trump may believe the myth that all Jews feel loyal to Israel just because of their religion. But in reality, there is a wide spectrum of American Jews’ feelings on the issue, from people who are full-fledged Zionists (believe that Jews have the right to all of the land that makes up Israel) to Jews who support BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel) with many layers in between.
But even to suggest that the most Zionist, Israel-loving, settlement-supporting, Birthright-promoting American Jew has “dual loyalty” or isn’t fully loyal to the U.S. is disgustingly anti-Semitic. Jews have undergone persecution and hate crimes from our very beginning. Of course, we like the idea of having a country for people like us when we make up such a small percentage of every other country on Earth. Israel is a special place to many of us, even if we don’t all fully agree with everything that’s happening there. But feeling a connection to another country doesn’t mean you are less loyal to the country that you actually live in simply because of your religion.
According to a Pew Research poll taken in 2013, 76% of American Jews said they were “at least somewhat emotionally attached to Israel.” However, another Pew Research poll taken this past May revealed that around 42% of American Jews think Trump “is favoring the Israelis too much.” That statistic clearly shows the idea of American Jews being more loyal to Israel than the U.S. is a myth.
The poll shows Trump’s complete misunderstanding of the Jewish American community. He thinks that if he supports Israel, Jews will become single-issue voters and switch to the Republican Party. His anti-Semitic comment seemed to come from his apparent surprise that there were not more Jews casting their ballots for him.
It’s also important to analyze why Trump is actually supporting Israel by doing things like moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and backing out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. It’s not because he loves American Jews so much. It’s simply for political clout so he can strengthen his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. It’s also so he can attack Democratic politicians and call them anti-Semitic for not supporting Israel enough.
Many Israeli Jews were against moving the embassy to such a controversial place, and it ultimately resulted in violence. Ending the Iran Deal left Iran with more freedom to build nuclear weapons without being checked on, and Iran has made clear its very public hatred of Israel. So when Trump acts like he’s supporting Israel, he is really making things worse for the country. If any Jews really did have the ridiculous notion of a “dual loyalty” to Israel, they would be better off voting Democrat.
Trump made it abundantly clear immediately after the Charlottesville march that he doesn’t actually care about American Jews. He publicly used the term “alt left” and compared people protesting racism and anti-Semitism to neo-Nazis who were shouting chants that Hitler used against Jews during the Holocaust. Jews feel more scared now during the Trump administration than we did before it. Hate crimes against our community have gone up. We do not feel like Trump has our backs, so why should we vote for him?
Once again, American Jews have just been used as political pawns, this time with a side of blatant anti-Semitism. We will not forget Trump said this, and his comment will be reflected when we go to the polls next November.
Lisa is a senior broadcast journalism and government and politics major. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.