The media has willfully misinterpreted Donald Trump’s words to portray the most pro-Israel US president in history as an anti-Semite. It makes more sense to chide him for sacrificing US interests to please Benjamin Netanyahu.
Here is the full Trump quote from Tuesday, in which he rejected Democrat Bernie Sanders’ idea that Israel should stop accepting American aid, after its reluctance to let in congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who have publicly endorsed the BDS campaign.
“The concept of even talking about this – even three years ago – of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people – I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation,” Trump said.
“Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they’re defending these two people over the State of Israel? I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
There is no ambiguity to this quote. Trump says that it is bizarre that Democrats prioritize Omar and Tlaib over maintaining Washington’s historic good relations with Israel. And that those Jews who support the Democratic Party are being “disloyal” to either fellow Jews or the state of Israel.
Trump is not using the dual allegiance trope deployed since ancient times, in which Jews living in foreign countries are accused of putting their ethnicity and religion above their citizenship. On the contrary, he is urging American Jews to show MORE of a dual allegiance, to remember their roots and back their historic kin, living in Israel.
The media has either pretended that the two above sentiments are the same, or that the “great disloyalty” mentioned by Trump related to the United States itself or to him personally, which makes no sense within the context.
To perpetuate the confusion it has leveraged Jewish voices to deliver the judgment. Though notably, the ostensibly neutral ones actually stopped short of calling the US president an anti-Semite. The American Jewish Committee called the comments “divisive” and the Anti-Defamation League merely urged him to “stop using Jews as a political football.”
It is the leftist Jewish organizations that have unsurprisingly joined in the chorus of condemnation, with pro-Palestinian Jewish group J Street calling them “disgusting” and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the biggest such liberal group, that has accused Trump of “weaponizing anti-Semitism.” In turn, Republican Jews defended the White House.
Perhaps the harshest charge that could be fairly leveled at the president here is lumping together American and Israeli Jews – same as when he referred to Netanyahu as “your prime minister” in a speech to Jewish US Republicans in March – but that still doesn’t make Trump an anti-Semite.
Moreover, it could be argued that if anyone could be accused of having a dual allegiance it is not American Jews, but Trump himself.
He has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, sought to limit the definition of Palestinian refugee and cut funding to UNRWA, pulled the United States out of the Iranian nuclear deal, condemned by Netanyahu, and is widely expected to imminently recognize permanent Israeli claims to Jewish settlement territories in the West Bank.
Whether he has done this due to his affinity with the Israeli prime minister, with whom he shares political DNA, or as a principled ideological stance, he has risked his relationship with Europe, the Muslim world and international bodies at every turn.
No wonder that he is surprised that despite all this, nearly four in five Jews continue to vote Democrat, despite most of them telling pollsters that they feel close ties to their ancestral homeland.
American outlets have occasionally challenged Trump’s unabashed support of Israel, as part of its campaign to portray him as a dangerous maverick in the international arena. But the media also wants to keep the anti-Semitism card in its back pocket at all times, pulling it out as part of the increasingly relentless drive to portray him as a white supremacist-baiting racist. While the foreign policy criticism is more substantive, the race stuff is juicier and sells better to a domestic American audience.
But by alternating between calling him a crazed Zionist and an anti-Semite, the media has defused the power of its indiscriminate assault on Trump, shown itself to have less consistency and integrity than the US president himself, and has given him an oddly easy ride on his Middle East policy.
Writer Igor Ogorodnev is a Russian-British journalist, who has worked at RT since 2007 as a correspondent, editor and writer.