When Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) argued that Americans needed “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country”, President Donald Trump was quick to criticize the Muslim congresswoman, calling her anti-Semitic and even suggested that she resign from congress. This was in context of a conversation regarding pro-Israel lobbying. Yet just last month, Trump sat in the Oval Office and proceeded to tell reporters that any Jewish person that votes for a Democrat is “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” In the height of white-nationalist philosophy that is creeping in on the U.S., there continues to be an ardent attempt from the right and the left to trim the distinction between Israel and Judaism. They are not the same.
To assume that the fifteen million people that identify with the Jewish faith either as a religion or a race, also identify with the political views of Israel’s government is in and of itself a translucent form of anti-semitism. Judaism dates back to 1812 BC. The established government of Israel dates back to 1948. Surely there is a large time frame between these two timeline marks that clarifies any confusion between human beings and a single authority. Dehumanization of the Jewish community in the United States-or any community for that matter- begins with this monumentally false narrative.
Progressive Jews, such as communications director for J Street Logan Bayroff in a recent statement, have quite a bit to say:
“It is dangerous and shameful for President Trump to attack the large majority of the American Jewish community as unintelligent and ‘disloyal.’ But it is no surprise that the president’s racist, disingenuous attacks on progressive women of color in Congress have now transitioned into smears against Jews.”
President Trump’s statement stems from a political agenda to maintain the U.S.’s fervent association with Israel, and follows Israel’s PM Benjamin Netenyahu’s refusal to allow Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel to visit Tlaib’s sick mother. It is also no coincidence that their banning-from a country that receives annual funds from Amrican taxpayer money -was initiated by a phone call that President Trump made to the PM urging him to close Israel’s doors in their face due to their consistent support of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement (that calls for the boycotting of all Israeli corporation products or affiliations).
Any community that wholeheartedly and unquestionably commits themselves to aligning with any government is ethically doomed. There are enough members and sects of the Jewish community that speak out against the injustices that take place within the injustices undertaken by the state of Israel to prove that this is not the case.
Since the 20th century, a long time running stereotype that argues the Jewish community living in the U.S. represent only a partial-Americanism and that their true loyalties ultimately lie with the state of Israel has reigned. It violates the essence of the American identity to confine the political opinions and moral concerns of an entire population within the walls of a tyrannical government overseas. If a Jewish-American democrat is considered “disloyal” for resenting the conservative agenda of the state of Israel, it must be questioned why a Muslim-American that supports democracy is not considered traitorous for resenting the totalitarian monarchy of Saudi Arabia.
The fact of the matter is, both Israel and Saudi Arabia foster religious significance for Judaism and Islam but do not represent the masses that identify as Jewish or Muslim. Judaism has its roots all across the world and thus cannot be forcefully represented by a single nation. Subjecting Jewish-Americans to the expectation that Israel is their political ideology shepherd has nothing to do with patriotism and everything to do with maintaining a profitable foreign relation. And though Israel is considered a home of identity for many Jewish Americans, that does not leave their government invulnerable to criticism. In the collected words of Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho, “you may love your country and despise your government.” The two are not mutually exclusive.