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This week, former U.S. President Donald Trump said that Jews who vote for Democrats “hate their religion” and “everything about Israel” during a podcast appearance with his former adviser, Sebastian Gorka.

Trump is describing the vast majority of American Jews: Per a new Pew Research Center report, 62 percent of American Jews hold a favorable view of President Joe Biden, compared to just 21 percent who hold a favorable view of Trump; while 73 percent of American Jews feel Biden stands up for their religious beliefs, just 35 percent feel the same way about Trump.

But, then, this is not the first time Trump has said something to this effect. Indeed, it is not even the second or third. It is but the latest in a long line of similar comments Trump has made. In 2019, Trump said, “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat—I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” In 2021, he said that Jews in the United States “don’t like Israel or don’t care about Israel” (and that the New York Times “hates Israel,” though “there are Jewish people that run the New York Times”). In 2022, he said that “U.S. Jews have to get their act together” and that “no president has done more for Israel than I have.” In 2023, he said that liberal Jews who did not vote for him “voted to destroy America and Israel,” and also, “I can’t imagine how anybody who’s Jewish or anybody who loves Israel—and frankly, the evangelicals just love Israel—I can’t imagine anybody voting Democrat, let alone for this man,” referring to Biden.

This is significant both for what it says about how Jews are seen at one end of the American political spectrum today and for what it says about Trump.

All of it is, in one sense, an inversion of the “dual loyalty” trope in which Jews are secretly suspected of not being loyal to the country in which they live, so beholden are we to our religion and to other Jews. Jordan Weissmann, writing in Slate in 2019, put it thusly: “Instead of accusing Jews of being overly loyal to a foreign nation, Trump has turned centuries of antisemitism on its head by accusing them of not being loyal enough to one—and his followers are happy to echo the charge.”

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To this, I would add another layer: Jews, in Trump’s world, are all supposed to support Israel, and to support Israel by supporting Trump, specifically. Trump pursued a particular version of pro-Israel policies. Some would argue that, in fact, those policies—including tightly embracing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cutting funding to Palestinian refugees, pulling out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, setting up agreements with Arab countries over and around Palestinians, moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closing the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and America’s diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, and asserting that West Bank settlements were not inconsistent with international law—were not particularly supportive of Israel’s long-term security. But in Trump’s mind, all of this was supporting Israel, and thus to be a good American Jew is to vote for him. One’s goodness and wholeness as a Jew and as a citizen, to Trump, is thus contingent on support for one partisan political figure. In this version of the dual-loyalty trope, you must prove your loyalty to your country and your faith (or culture, or ethnicity) by voting for Trump, says Trump.

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Trump is not alone in lecturing Jews on what their political position should be, be it on American elections or on Israel. For example, after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the country (as well as in American history), called for elections in Israel, congresswoman Elise Stefanik put out a statement blasting Schumer and offering: “October 7th was the deadliest day in history for the Jewish people since the Holocaust … Israel is not only fighting for its right to exist, it’s fighting for the rights of Jewish people everywhere.” Previously, Stefanik has used rhetoric that borrows from replacement theory, a conspiracy theory in which Jewish liberals are trying to flood Western countries with nonwhite migrants to force demographic change.

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These politicians, it should be said, receive encouragement from some right-wing Jews in this respect: In 2011, podcaster Ben Shapiro tweeted, “The Jewish people has always been plagued by Bad Jews, who undermine it from within. In America, those Bad Jews largely vote Democrat.” That sentiment has persisted: Earlier this year, commentator Josh Hammer tweeted, “If you are a Jew who takes your Jewishness even remotely seriously—not even necessarily meaning Torah and mitzvot, but simply your relationship to the Jewish nation and peoplehood—then you simply cannot vote Democrat at this point in American history. It’s really that simple.” Rarely mentioned by these commenters, though, is the fact that most Jews do vote for Democrats. Nevertheless, some who vote Republican say that the majority of their co-religionists in the country must be doing so because they do not take their own identity seriously. This is then echoed by politicians, including the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

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It perhaps goes without saying, but one person cannot tell another what their identity means for them. That Trump believes that to be a serious Jew means to vote for him does not make it so. Further, there has never been consensus on what it means to be a good Jew. That is particularly obvious now, at a time when Jews are calling for a cease-fire and rallying around Israel; praising and expressing outrage over Schumer’s speech on Israeli elections; and arguing over the definition of antisemitism and whether to be an anti-Zionist Jew is to exist within or outside of the communal fold. There is no one person who can resolve or dictate any of this. To state the extremely obvious: It is not up to Trump to tell us what it means to be an American Jew.

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But, then, to the extent these comments tell us anything, they mostly tell us about Trump. This was not a one-off comment. This is a belief that Trump has articulated repeatedly and in public for five years now. This is how Trump thinks about American Jews. And just as he would have us take his record on Israel into consideration on what he means for the Jewish people, so too has he offered us this: Over and over again, he has told us that he thinks that our wholeness as Americans and Jews is contingent on a vote for him. I am tempted to end this by saying that neither our citizenship nor our Jewishness depends on who we vote for, but why should I? Trump hasn’t told us anything about American Jews. He has told us, repeatedly, quite a lot about himself.

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QOSHE - What to Really Take From Trump’s Latest Comments About Jews - Emily Tamkin
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What to Really Take From Trump’s Latest Comments About Jews

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20.03.2024
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This week, former U.S. President Donald Trump said that Jews who vote for Democrats “hate their religion” and “everything about Israel” during a podcast appearance with his former adviser, Sebastian Gorka.

Trump is describing the vast majority of American Jews: Per a new Pew Research Center report, 62 percent of American Jews hold a favorable view of President Joe Biden, compared to just 21 percent who hold a favorable view of Trump; while 73 percent of American Jews feel Biden stands up for their religious beliefs, just 35 percent feel the same way about Trump.

But, then, this is not the first time Trump has said something to this effect. Indeed, it is not even the second or third. It is but the latest in a long line of similar comments Trump has made. In 2019, Trump said, “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat—I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” In 2021, he said that Jews in the United States “don’t like Israel or don’t care about Israel” (and that the New York Times “hates Israel,” though “there are Jewish people that run the New York Times”). In 2022, he said that “U.S. Jews have to get their act together” and that “no president has done more for Israel than I have.” In 2023, he said that liberal Jews who did not vote for him “voted to destroy America and Israel,” and also, “I can’t imagine how anybody who’s Jewish or anybody who loves Israel—and frankly, the evangelicals just love Israel—I can’t imagine anybody voting Democrat, let alone for this man,” referring to Biden.

This is significant both for what it says about how Jews are seen at one end of the American political spectrum today and for what it says about Trump.

All of it is, in one sense, an inversion of the “dual loyalty” trope in which Jews are secretly suspected of not being loyal to the country in which they........

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