Trump Can't Have It Both Ways On Israel

[ Posted Wednesday, August 21st, 2019 – 17:09 UTC ]

In today's episode of "Irony Is Dead," we have a president who not only just committed the same sin he is accusing another of, but who then went on to flirt openly -- twice! -- with the concept that he should be deified.

Sigh. Just another day in Trumpworld....

Never in a million years would I have thought I'd ever write about a United States president considering the concept of deification. Even as a joke. But here we are. Donald Trump, in a retweet, praised a conspiracy theorist's words, which included the statement that Israeli Jews "love him like he is the second coming of God." Then in answer to a question from the press on China and trade, Donald Trump proclaimed: "I am the chosen one," while turning his gaze skyward. In other words, we're through the looking glass, folks.

Perhaps he's just kidding about him being the chosen one or the second coming of God. One would certainly hope so, but with Trump you never really know, do you? But we're going to make a monumental effort to put Trump's self-declared deification aside, for the moment. Because (to continue the Lewis Carroll metaphors) Trump has gone down the rabbit hole on a related issue that really deserves more scrutiny than it has been getting. Or, perhaps, a different kind of scrutiny.

All of these outbursts (with the exception of the China trade question) were prompted by Trump leaning on his buddy "Bibi" Netanyahu to bar two American congresswomen from entering Israel. Trump actually has a political strategy here (beyond his normal misogyny and xenophobia). He apparently just found out that three-quarters of American Jews voted for Hillary Clinton, and he's upset about that. He's been trying to drive a wedge into the Jewish voting demographic for a while now, by painting the entire Democratic Party as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. The main way he's done so is by jumping on the bandwagon denouncing a handful of Democrats who have expressed opinions critical of the Israeli government and Jewish lobbyists in America. By doing so, Trump is hoping he can convince more Jews to become loyal Republican voters. This isn't all that uncommon a strategy, as political parties and politicians regularly try to peel off voters from their opposition's base using similar strategies.

But Trump -- and everyone else, apparently -- has forgotten what it was that set him (and the others) off in the first place. This is the real irony that many are currently missing. First, let's take a look at what Trump has said this week. Yesterday, Trump made the following statement to reporters, speaking about Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Oman, both of whom are Muslim:

Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone, where they're defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.

Trump didn't clarify who he thought they were showing "great disloyalty" to, so a reporter asked him to clear this up today. Here are the two ways Trump was quoted responding (this is either a paraphrase or perhaps Trump said both versions -- the article didn't make this entirely clear):

I think if you vote for a Democrat, you are very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.

. . .

I will tell you this: In my opinion, the Democrats have gone very far away from Israel. I cannot understand how they can do that.... In my opinion, if you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel. And only weak people would say anything other than that.

So Trump has made it clear -- the disloyalty he spoke of was to "Israel" and to "the Jewish people." In Trump's mind, good Jews in America are loyal to their people, loyal to Israel, loyal to the Republican Party, and (of course) loyal to Trump -- and not necessarily in that order.

Instead of just unpacking what is wrong with this way of thinking, let's now take a look at what Ilhan Omar said a few months back that got her into all kinds of trouble -- and started Trump's campaign that she was anti-Semitic in the first place. Omar was speaking publicly about the dangers of being labelled an anti-Semite when criticizing the Israeli government and Jewish lobbying groups in the United States. Her full answer shows how aware she is that it's a touchy and tricky subject:

What I'm fearful of -- because Rashida [Tlaib] and I are Muslim -- that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim. And so to me, it's something that becomes designed to end the debate because you get in this space of -- yes, I know what intolerance looks like and I'm sensitive when someone says, "The words you used, Ilhan, are resemblance [sic] of intolerance." And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that.

But it's almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say that is supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement or advocacy about ending oppression or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labelled something, and that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine. So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby?

Right up to the middle of the second paragraph, Omar was doing fine. But all of those words were instantly forgotten, because what she was prophesying became true, about one sentence she said. It was indeed (as she predicted) labelled something that ended the broader debate she wanted to have.

The sentence that got all the pushback was: "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country." She also got in a lesser amount of trouble for even daring to speak of Jewish lobbyists, because that fed an anti-Semitic trope (wealthy Jews trying to control governments). But it was the "allegiance to a foreign country" line that really upset a lot of people, because that too fed into a very old anti-Semitic trope (Jews being a disloyal fifth column within any country other than Israel).

So my question now is what, exactly, is different about accusing some American politicians of an "allegiance to a foreign country" and Donald Trump insisting that Jews not only owed Israel their "loyalty" but also that that loyalty meant they should vote for his political party?

Trump really shouldn't be able to have this both ways. "Allegiance" and "loyalty" are synonyms, in fact. They mean the same thing. So all of those Republicans who had fits of the vapors over Ilhan Omar's statement back then should now be outraged at Trump, right? So far, they don't seem to be, and I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for their explosion of outrage.

It's worthwhile to review the reaction to Omar's words, back then. She got very specific and detailed pushback for feeding into the anti-Semitic tropes. This came from both the right and the left (this article from Vox is a good and very extensive example). But then Republican pressure led to Omar essentially being officially called an anti-Semite by the House of Representatives, led by Democrat Nancy Pelosi. They passed a resolution that didn't name her specifically, but was obviously aimed directly at Omar. Democrats did this to insulate themselves from all the GOP weeping and wailing, because the strategy that Trump is attempting (in his own ham-fisted way) isn't limited to him. Republicans truly do want to boost their appeal to Jewish voters, and one way of doing that is to decry perceived anti-Semitism among Democrats as loudly as possible.

You can argue that Omar's choice of words wasn't very sensitive. But if you read her entire quote (instead of just cherry-picking one sentence out of it), you can tell she is indeed trying to make a larger point. As the Washington Post pointed out in her defense at the time, in fact.

Trump, on the other hand, will likely be excused for simply not understanding what his words meant. It's highly doubtful that Congress will pass a resolution condemning him for doing exactly what Omar did. Trump even took things further, when he not only accused every Jew in America of having divided loyalty, but also further redefined this to equate loyalty to Israel and the Jewish people with loyalty to the Republican Party (and to himself, naturally). So this really should be considered even more outrageous than what Omar said -- but it likely won't.

Even the outrage Trump is currently facing for his recent words (from Democrats and from most Jewish groups) hasn't really connected the dots yet. Few seem to remember what Omar said in the first place that set this entire cycle in motion. It is ironic in the extreme to realize that Trump denounced Omar, then Congress denounced Omar, then Trump forced Israel to deny Omar entry -- for essentially saying exactly the same thing that Trump just said.

This concludes today's episode of "Irony Is Dead." Tune in next time, because you just know this isn't going to be the last time Trump's going to be held to a completely different standard than those he attacks.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


9 Comments on “Trump Can't Have It Both Ways On Israel”

  1. [1] 
    TheStig wrote:

    "Perhaps he's just kidding about him being the chosen one or the second coming of God."

    Perhaps, but back in the day (roughly AD 33), either remark would have gotten you stoned for blasphemy. It will be interesting to see how much of a sense of humor the modern Ultra Orthodox have about Trump's deification.

  2. [2] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Hmmm, A Regular "Irony is Dead" feature would be a fine addition to the lineup.

    ...and my Microsoft popup just said Jay Inslee has just taken his hat out of the ring. I didn't even remember his hat was in the ring. Does Smithsonian get custody of all these hats? They would make a nice display. Maybe they are given to the homeless?

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The best thing about Trump's antics is that it easily distracts the hopelessly devolutionary media from their endless drivel about a recession. Which, incidentally, is inevitable. On both counts.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    did you read how michale is voting for biden if he wins the primary?

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No, but I like the sound of it. :)

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i don't think anyone here would be capable of denying you access to a foreign country. as to the country you're living in, you have full access to the whole thing, and all its wonderful pies.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    click the link, i think you won't be disappointed.


  8. [8] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Omar should introduce a bill that is identical to the one she was the unnamed subject of, but this time name Trump as its intended target. Heck, she could point to the earlier bill and say that it is clear that Trump ignored its message! Call it a “follow up” bill.

    That would make all those at Fox News’ heads implode, I am quite certain.

  9. [9] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    Wouldn't it be ironic if the author/commenters here complained aboot Trump doing the same thing to Omar that happens here to One Demand?

    I'm going to let you in on a few little secrets, Don:

    * No one else here shares your obsession with your little "demand."

    * You're not "the Chosen One" either. :)

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