According to recent reports, President Trump has said that Jews who vote for Democrats are either ignorant or disloyal. Though it’s unclear whether he is suggesting that a vote for Democrats is disloyal to him, to the United States, or to Israel, I will wear the badge of disloyalty with pride. In fact, I am neither ignorant nor disloyal. I am, by contrast, a well-educated, well-read, independent thinker who is desperately loyal to the ideals on which both the United States and the State of Israel were founded and governed, at least until the leadership of Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.
Historically, Republicans have tried to claim the honor of being a better friend to Israel than Democrats. And this seems to have been a politically successful claim among the minority of Jews in the United States who appear to be single-issue Israel voters. Yet even as single-issue voters, I would suggest that this group of 13% to 34% of Jewish voters in the U.S. who have voted for Republicans on the promise of a stronger defense of Israel have been misled. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that any Democratic or Republican Administration or Congress has been any more or less supportive of Israel, her right to exist, her right to self-defense, or the U.S. role in preserving Israel’s security.
While I may or may not agree with the sentiments of Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, or how those sentiments have been expressed, I support their right to express their perspectives and points-of-view. If anyone is ignorant or disloyal to the principles on which these two countries were founded, I must start with Mr. Trump’s urging of Mr. Netanyahu to refuse admission to Israel by these two democratically elected members of Congress. What better way to dispel any misperceptions about Israel and its record on civil rights held by these two than to invite them to visit and see for themselves that they are misguided and wrong. But perhaps Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu are rightly worried that such a visit will further highlight their own ignorance and disloyalty to the principles of their own countries.
It is nothing new to hear about or talk about the persecution of Jews throughout human history. And for those of us who have not lived in Israel since its founding in 1948, it is difficult to imagine how this small group of Jewish people has mostly lived a strong history of defending the civil liberties of all of Israel’s citizens and residents alike in the face of constant attack and the threat of obliteration by her neighbors in the Middle East. But despite this history of persecution, the Jewish people, wherever located around the world, strive to first and foremost do what is right. If it weren’t for the obvious religious disconnect, nothing would describe the Jewish people’s worldview better than the Christian phrase, “what would Jesus do.”
Ignorance is a funny way to describe a people who are dedicated to, and have been historically persecuted for, their quest for education and knowledge. While the Old Testament may be the most recognized religious text of Jewish religious life, Jewish law and theology are derived from the Talmud – a literal series of debates between Rabbis in search of the right, moral and ethical way. Perhaps the only ignorance and disloyalty is the unquestioning loyalty to the belief that neither the United States nor Israel can do wrong. And if anyone can and has shown us such evidence of disloyalty, it is Messrs. Trump and Netanyahu. One need look no further than Mr. Trump’s failure to condemn the white nationalists among his supporters who, among so many other atrocious acts, chanted “Jews will not replace us,” or Mr. Netanyahu’s statement that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that I passed (in 2018), Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People – and them alone.”
The world is a complicated place and nothing Mr. Trump says will change that. Whether it is the divergent opinions of the 330 million of us living in the United States, or the existence of the State of Israel at the very heart of a group of nations that deny her right to exist and are committed to her extinction. Nevertheless, the vast majority of U.S. Jewish voters – between 66% and 87% in recent elections – have chosen to carefully weigh which candidates and parties will not only defend the State of Israel, but the civil rights and liberties of all of us. And in doing so, they have consistently chosen to vote for Democrats. If that makes us ignorant or disloyal in the eyes of Mr. Trump or Mr. Netanyahu, it is a badge I will wear with honor.