Just to clear up a few things.
First of all, someone can be reasonable, rational, intelligent, and a lover of Israel and dislike the policies of the Netanyahu government. Or dislike the current President of the United States. Or be a Democrat, for that matter. In terms of Israel, there are arguments to be made for and against both sides, but neither side – right, nor left – is in possession of the absolute ‘truth.’ If that were the case, the Palestinian problem would have been solved long ago. But you can disagree with Bibi, you can worry about Israel’s moral and ethical character, you can be concerned about Israel being the only Western state in the world to forcibly maintain control of a foreign population, and be a lover of the Jewish state. In fact, you might have those concerns precisely because you are a lover of Israel.
Second thing, the President’s bizarre statement. First of all, sort of like the Second Amendment, it is not really clear what he meant. Disloyal to whom, exactly? It seems he was referring to Israel herself. But then the Republican Jewish Coalition tried to explain the President’s words as referring to oneself. In other words, if you vote for a Democrat you are being disloyal to yourself. This doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever was meant by the President, he has no right to define for me or for anyone else when we are being loyal to our faith tradition, to Israel, or to the Jewish people. And if he was trying to tell Jews they must vote a certain way or they are disloyal, I think that takes us to a very dangerous place. This is a fee country, and we can vote for any candidate we choose.
And yes, that voting thing. I am sure the President is enormously frustrated by the fact that 70 -80 percent of Jews vote for Democratic candidates. What he utterly fails to understand is that Jews do not vote about one issue and one issue only. Israel is important to us when we step into the voting booth. So is climate change. So is gun control. So are women’s rights. So is immigration. Health care as well. So are issues like abortion, taxes, public schools, LGBTQ rights, and the list goes on and on. It is demeaning and an ugly ethnic trope to assume that Jews only care about Israel when they vote.
Last, and certainly not least, the President’s attempt to use Israel and Jewish identity as wedge issues that divide the Democratic and Republican parties has reached a new low with this statement. As has been stated by many others, far wiser than I, this is enormously dangerous. What happens, for example, if a few years down the road there is a Democrat sitting in the Whitehouse? And her party controls the House, and maybe even the Senate? If Trump succeeds in making Jewish life a wedge issue, where would Israel be then? Where would the Jewish community be?
Jewish organizations that care about Israel’s well being should roundly condemn the President’s statement. So should politicians from both sides of the aisle. So should Israelis. It is yet another step down a long, dark, and dangerous road. If the President wants to go that way, let him. But those who truly care about Israel, Jewish life, and a healthy and vibrant democracy here in the States should not follow.