President Trump and American aliyah

The unique phenomenon of American Jewry, unlike those of other peoples, is that its lost state and sovereignty have almost literally risen out of the ashes.

By
September 7, 2019 20:14
‘WHAT ARE the effects, in Israel, in the US, and the rest of the world, of the perceived opinions of

‘WHAT ARE the effects, in Israel, in the US, and the rest of the world, of the perceived opinions of American Jewry?’. (photo credit: REUTERS)

On Tuesday, August 20, US President Donald Trump tweeted that Jews who vote for Democrats “show either total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Given the ensuing firestorm, he clarified the very next day that he was referring to disloyalty “to the Jewish people and to Israel.” His remarks, nonetheless, will most likely lead to a growth in antisemitism because of willful interpretation and misinterpretation in the poisonous discourse on both the Right and Left in America, which provides enough rotten fruit to taint the entire body politic.

I raise this matter as an American-born Jew who retired in 1996 as a commissioned US Foreign Service officer. My US State Department retirement badge reads: “30 years of loyal and meritorious service for the US Government.” I, therefore find it now most appropriate to deal with the current “loyalty” issue after having made aliyah, immigrated to Israel, 23 years ago.

I have never had a problem with confronting antisemitic uses of “dual loyalty” because, like everyone else on the planet, I was imbued with dual loyalty from birth by having both a mother and father. When parents might argue, any child should not choose sides but endeavor to make peace between them for the benefit of the whole family.

And so it is, or should be, for American Jews who value both America and Israel, the one for its self-proclaimed mission to ring out freedom in the world and the other for its Jewish heritage of being a beacon of service to the nations. As with any family, a native son or daughter should never be asked which parent he loves more – he or she owes existence itself to both.

The unique phenomenon of American Jewry, unlike those of other peoples, is that its lost state and sovereignty have almost literally risen out of, and despite, the ashes of the last century after 2,000 years of oppression and murder.

Even to raise the term “loyalty” with regard to Jews is thus a disservice to all and eventually to America itself. Die-hard and newly budded antisemites care little that the president meant it in a positive sense as loyalty expected of Jews to America’s loyal ally, Israel. I personally would have advised the tweeter-in-chief to use the phrase “concern for Israel” instead of the term “loyalty.” This, however, would imply that someone at the White House has an opportunity to do such advisable editing of tweets as is done for speeches.

In the statement’s repercussions, it may matter little that for the first time ever a US sitting president has publicly expressed the remarkable view that he expects American Jews to be particularly supportive of Israel because it is in America’s interest. I can almost hear the thunderous applause of more than 100 million Evangelical Christians. However, raising the matter of loyalty, even inadvertently, helps to solidify the paranoia among all too many of a so-called “Jewish Plot.” As a result, a climate of antisemitism will probably grow in America, not to mention other parts where the ground for it is still fertile, even if so far fallow.


ATTACKS ON Jews and Jewish institutions will probably rise. The stalwart will march against antisemitism with banners that read, “Jews Support Israel as the American Way,” but the climate in America will have changed. Some American Jews will inevitably ask themselves why they and their families need to bear such Jewish star in the Diaspora, even if proudly, when today there is an alternative to breathing free in America, i.e., to be openly free and proud in Israel.

I, therefore, have some advice for those American Jews who feel caught in the fabricated political vise between Democratic and Republican persuasions.

To those some 20% who voted for President Trump and fear to so declare themselves, come join the over 100,000 of us here in Israel who are participating daily in one of the greatest revolutions in human history – the Return to Zion – not just for the future of the Jewish people wherever they may reside, but for the benefit of the entire world beyond any politics; yes, also for Palestinian Arabs who are plagued by extremist Islamism abetted by Tehran. I would advise the two congresswomen on the far left of the Democratic Party who seek to attenuate their own positive “dual loyalty” (Muslim Palestinian and Somali heritages) by attacks on Jews and Israel to view the YouTube clip, “Save the Children of Gaza from Hamas.”

Such personal return to Zion can, of course, be either full-time, as in my case, or part-time like so many others who have staked a foothold in Israel.

Some would call it a safe haven or insurance policy. I would also call it a spiritual haven, to be able to go to sleep with one’s family each night feeling whole and unafraid in one’s own skin.

For some of the 80% of American Jews who vote Democratic, I have a dual message. The former one, of course, but also a unique opportunity ever since the 1967 Afroyim v. Rusk US Supreme Court decision affecting dual citizenship to vote progressively in Israeli politics, in addition to America’s.

Such aliyah from both the Right and Left has the potential to shift Israel’s polity one way or the other. But even if it doesn’t, it is guaranteed to add a degree of balance – a new, more moderate and democratic, American-inspired tolerance to both major political wings, not to mention Israel’s already robust private volunteer sector.

Alexis de Tocqueville, commenting on America’s national greatness some 200 years ago, might have dreamed of such a partnership between two allies – an expression of the best in “dual loyalty,” indeed a new 21st Century paradigm for the wealth of nations. As a loyal ally of America, Israel’s continued payback can be enormous also in terms of societal progress. We continue to witness this phenomenon in the hi-tech sector, and so it is and can be even more in the human sector.

The writer is a retired US Foreign Service Officer (1966-96) who served 15 years in Arab and other Muslim countries, in addition to Washington, DC.


Related Content

September 20, 2019
Grapevine: We were all migrants and/or refugees

By GREER FAY CASHMAN