As you’re probably well aware, President Trump recently went on a Twitter tirade against “the Squad,” aka new congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. He assailed them as anti-American extremists and called for them to go back to whatever country they came from (three of them are U.S.-born). I won’t rehash his bigotry, and I doubt I need to explain it to many of you. Suffice to say, Jews are intimately familiar with the sort of people who tell us to go back to where we came from, and we know what it represents and where it leads.
Instead, I want to highlight how Trump has repeatedly tried to use Israel and Jews as cover for his attacks. One of many examples:
I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2019
The obvious intent of Trump’s repeated references to Israel and Jews is to paint not just “the Squad” but the entire entire Democratic party as “anti-Israel.” To understand just how dishonest this Trump refrain is, you need only look to H.R. 246, which was passed by the House of Representatives this week, entitled “Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel.” Read the whole thing here. The vote? 398-17. Among the overwhelming majority of Democrats who voted for the resolution was the Squad’s Ayanna Pressley.
What I heard resounding in community was that voting yes on this resolution affirmed to my constituents raised in the Jewish faith Israel’s right to exist, a view I share as a supporter of a two state solution.
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) July 24, 2019
This context exposes the cynicism of Trump’s gambit. Because one of four Squad members (Omar) is an immigrant he dislikes who has said problematic things about Jews and Israel, he falsely claims that all of them are anti-Semites from foreign countries and should return to them. Yet when one of four Squad members vocally opposes BDS (as she has for some time), he claims she supports it and speciously tars her with the “anti-Israel” label, along with the entire Democratic party. The transitive property, it seems, only works selectively.
What is happening here is not a sincere effort to “defend Israel,” but a transparently disingenuous attempt to pick the most extreme attributes of the most extreme members of the Democratic caucus and attribute them to congressional Democrats writ large. By lying about the alleged “anti-Israel” turn of the Democratic party, Trump and his team hope to mislead and poach pro-Israel voters.
This is wrong morally, given its dishonesty, but it’s also wrong politically for anyone who actually cares cares about American support for the state of Israel. Rather than reward politicians for pro-Israel stances regardless of party, Trump’s approach punishes pro-Israel Democrats despite their positions while raising the profile of fringe anti-Israel voices. This benefits Republicans, who seek to splinter the opposition party; it benefits the BDS movement, who seek to project influence and power on the left; it does not benefit Israel.
The end result? Headlines which accept Trump’s and the hard-left’s framing and present an overwhelmingly bipartisan rebuke of the global anti-Israel movement (398 – 17!) as “divisive,” thus falsely implying that the movement has serious political support:
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 23, 2019
Genuine supporters of Israel should reject these attempts to mainstream the Israel boycott movement, whether they come from the Democratic hard-left or the Republican president. Just because the two are playing a mutually beneficial partisan game doesn’t mean you have to play.