On behalf of all my Jews, I’d like to say a few words about our alleged “disloyalty” toward Israel, except I wouldn’t dare. I can only speak for myself. If I attempt to speak for any other Jews, I’ll have half of them hollering so loudly you wouldn’t believe it.
Because, as the old saying goes, “Two Jews, three opinions.”
So I’ll just try to give you my sense of what President Donald Trump’s getting at lately when he says any Jews who vote Democratic for president, he’s got to question their “disloyalty” to Israel.
What he really means is we’re being “disloyal” to Donald Trump, since he considers himself the best friend Israel ever had in the White House.
“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said early this week. A day later, doubling down despite outrage from many Jews, he added, “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.”
Are Jews, in fact, loyal to Israel?
Yes, of course. It’s loyalty of the heart that millions of Jews feel toward extended family. It’s a loyalty toward tribal members dispersed around the globe for 2,000 years, who returned home and openly took up their ancient faith, and found new life only moments after near-annihilation while much of the world seemed utterly indifferent.
But that’s not necessarily the same as blind loyalty to the politics of Israel – and it’s certainly not the same as loyalty to Trump.
On this, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can look at the numbers. Polls show American Jews have plenty of problems with Israeli politics, particularly in the contentious era of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The numbers also show more than 70 percent of Jews voted Democratic in the last presidential run. That nearly 80 percent voted Democratic in the 2018 midterms. And that in every presidential election going back to Warren G. Harding a full century ago, the Jews have voted Democratic.
And are likely to vote Democratic in 2020.
All of this is eating away at Trump, who thinks we should vote for him next year because he moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, took a hard line on Iran – and took a stand against a few newly elected Democratic congresswomen who have criticized Israel.
Are Jews “disloyal” to Israel if we happen to disagree with some of these Trumpian moves? Are Jews “disloyal” if we happen to like those moves, but still want to vote Democratic? Do we not have the right to disagree?
The fact is, Jews are no more single-issue voters than anyone else. We live in a big world. We’re loyal to America. And we know Donald Trump for what he is, and what he’s doing to our homeland, and we know that so much of who he is violates not only Jewish values but human values – on race, on ethnic slander, on treatment of children, on sexual aggression, on justice.
As for Trump being a friend to Israel, consider a few words from Tom Friedman’s column earlier this week in the New York Times.
“Trump, with the knowing help of Netanyahu, is doing something no American president and Israeli prime minister have done before: They’re making support for Israel a wedge issue in American politics.
“Few things are more dangerous to Israel’s long-term interests than its becoming a partisan matter in America, which is Israel’s vital political, military and economic backer in the world.
“Trump’s campaign to tar the entire Democratic Party with some of the hostile views toward Israel of a few of its newly elected congresswomen … is part of a process that will do huge, long-term damage to Israel’s interests and support in America.”
Sometimes “disloyalty” is just a misnomer for disagreement. Jewish voters can make the distinction, even if Donald Trump wants to imagine otherwise.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).