A loyal mess: 7 things to know for August 22
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A loyal mess: 7 things to know for August 22

Trump’s comments about US Jews and loyalty set pundits on fire, though some backers don’t get the uproar over using an anti-Semitic canard that has never ended well for the Jews

US President Donald Trump speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on April 6, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on April 6, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP)

1. Loyalty club: US President Donald Trump has found himself in a true-blue meltdown thanks to comments in which he accused US Jews who vote Democrat of being disloyal.

  • While many Israeli politicians, especially on the right, have refused to comment on the matter, the Israeli press has definitely taken notice, at least to some degree.
  • In Haaretz, Trump’s comments make the top story, with the headline also noting the “the community is demanding an apology.”
  • “The U.S. president’s claim that Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal shook American Jewry to its very core and forged a new and distressing landscape,” writes Chemi Shalev in Haaretz.
  • In Yedioth Ahronoth, which places the story on its front page, but at the bottom, Ben Dror Yemini writes that Trump “aligned himself with the anti-Semites whom he had come out against, notably Ilhan Omar,” given her remarks about dual loyalty.

2. Hail to the king: Rather than apologize, Trump tried to clarify that his comments were directed at loyalty toward Israel rather than him or the US, but then he went and quoted someone calling him the King of Israel, so yeah, kind of a wash.

  • “Trump’s rhetorical gymnastics would be impressive if it weren’t so threatening – he manages to weaponize Zionism, dogwhistle antisemitism and land on his feet, calling himself “the king of Israel”. He’d haul home all the medals if bigotry were an Olympic sport,” Emma Goldberg writes in the Guardian.
  • “All he’s doing is making himself toxic to American Jews and many other Americans who are more and more horrified by what he’s doing,” Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for the progressive American Jewish group J Street, is quoting telling the Associated Press.

3. He’s certainly the King of Israel Hayom: The tabloid is published by Miriam Adelson, who has expressed hopes for a biblical-style Book of Trump.

  • The paper buries the story and runs as its headline on it: “Trump was right, he loves the Jews,” misquoting from a statement from the Republican Jewish Committee.
  • Columnist Avraham Ben Tzvi explains that Trump thinks harming Israel harms the US (which by transitive property would mean he thinks US Jews disloyal to Israel are hurting the US).
  • Ben Tzvi writes that by questioning Israeli policies on the Palestinians and other issues, liberal American Jews “have turned what was once unconditional affection for Israel into an area of disagreement and ire.”
  • The paper also runs a lengthy quote from ZOA’s Mort Klein defending Trump and asking what the big deal is.

4. So what is the big deal? Luckily for Mort, there’s no shortage of think pieces explaining the big problem with accusing Jews of being disloyal.

  • If he hasn’t canceled his subscription, he can check out The New York Times, which takes a look at the long sordid history of disloyalty charges being leveled against Jews and how they really never end well, at least for the Jews, from the Middle Ages to the Nazis to Charles Lindbergh.
  • “The dual loyalty canard that has plagued Jews is the fertile soil in which centuries of these stereotypes have taken root and grown,” Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt tells the paper.
  • Even the gentiles get it. Michael D’Antoni writes for CNN that “With his “lack of knowledge” and “great disloyalty” smear, Trump again picked up his favorite playthings — dangerous words — and threw them around recklessly. Those who identify with neo-Nazis chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ during the awful white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville would find in Trump’s comment confirmation that he is with them,”
  • The Forward notes that in 1950 David Ben Gurion made clear that Israelis only represented Israel and not worldwide Jewry and American Jews were only expected to be loyal to the US: “[That] should put an end to any idea or allegation that there is such a thing as ‘dual loyalty’ on the part of American Jewry,” he’s quoted saying.

5. Bad Jews: Andrew Silow Carroll in JTA writes that Trump may have been insinuating that Jews are disloyal as Jews, i.e., bad Jews, which may be just as bad as a disloyalty canard.

  • “Few Jews appreciate others, including fellow Jews, telling them how they should be Jewish. If they are loyal to anything, it is to the idea that all Jews get to decide for themselves what kind of Jew they want to be,” he writes.
  • In New York magazine, Ed Kilgore points out that Trump was really appealing to Evangelicals anyway.
  • “When he accuses American Jews of ‘disloyalty,’ he really means they are not playing the role Christians have assigned them in the great redemptive saga of the human race. Voting for Democrats, from this point of view, isn’t a matter of abrogating Jewish self-interests as reflected in Israel’s interests (as exclusively vested in Trump and his close ally Bibi Netanyahu), but is an unholy betrayal of God Himself, who wants confrontation, not peace, in the Holy Land,” he writes.

6. Go join yourself: By Thursday, Israel has mostly moved on to its next scandal, that of Joint List of Arab-led parties chief Ayman Odeh telling Yedioth Ahronoth he would consider joining a government.

  • “I’m ready to join a center-left coalition,” he says in a quote splashed across the paper’s front page.
  • The actual quote doesn’t appear in the accompanying story, which is a preview of an interview set to appear Friday, but the headline is enough to kick up a gale of reactions.
  • Haaretz notes, “The comments drew ire from across the political spectrum, ranging from Odeh’s own allies in the Joint List to members of Kahol Lavan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.”
  • Chief among those rejecting Odeh’s openness to joining the government were members of the hard-line Balad party.
  • “We won’t be part of a blocking maneuver for a government of generals and we won’t be in a government that is not a real alternative to racist right-wing rule,” tweets MK Heba Yabzak.
  • The feeling is mutual. Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid tells the Kan broadcaster that “Ayman Odeh can’t say ‘we will sit with them in the government’ and then join forces with Balad, which is a gang of Israel-haters who don’t recognize the Jewish state,” he told the Kan public broadcaster. “This is doublespeak that is not acceptable to any of us.”
  • Former general and senior Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi tells Army Radio: “We think Israel’s Arab citizens are equal and that’s how we should treat them,” but “we won’t be able to sit [in a government] with the Arab parties that don’t recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”
  • Sharing a picture of Lapid and Gantz and a headline saying they won’t sit in a government with the Joint List, Otzma Yehudit’s Bentzi Gopstein tweets “and they call me racist…”
  • Yes they do.

7. What’d you bring us? With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back from Ukraine, ToI’s Raphael Ahren, who accompanied him, looks at all the diplomatic spoils he brought back and finds little more than crumbs and grains of salt.

  • “In a briefing to the traveling press on Monday evening, Netanyahu hailed his visit as ‘historic,’ but struggled to convincingly explain it was necessary in light of the rather underwhelming accomplishments,” he writes.
  • In Tablet, though, Vadislav Davidzon notes that the meeting was at least big on symbolism, with Netanyahu breaking bread with another Jewish foreign leader for the first time as prime minister, and paying homage at Babi Yar.
  • “There was enough symbolism in the meeting between the head of the Jewish state and the Jewish head of Ukraine ‘to choke a horse,’ according to one observer,” he pens. “But there were also practical and tangible matters, some lofty and others not as much—including the upcoming elections in Israel, and the political theater in which both leaders are practiced.”
  • Netanyahu was asked to recognize the Ukrainian Holodomor as a genocide, which he shrugged off. But he also did not confront his hosts regarding their approach to Holocaust memory and collaboration, ToI’s Sam Sokol writes: “While Ukraine has indeed made efforts to commemorate the Holocaust in recent years, especially at Babi Yar, its record on memory is far more complicated than Netanyahu’s statement indicated.”
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