Trump’s law, the Pro-Palestinian Flaw and the Attack of the Stupids

Along with Trump’s law, we’re enduring a mass Attack of the Stupids.

Rashida Tlaib (photo credit: REUTERS)
Rashida Tlaib
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Gresham’s law teaches that “bad money drives out good”: people maximize their economic advantage by racing toward the cheapest commodity. Donald Trump’s presidency has spawned Trump’s law. Spurred by his vulgarity, bad rhetoric drives out good: people maximize their political advantage by taking the cheapest shot.
True, you can’t blame Trump for rising partisanship, declining civility, and ever-coarsening social media clashes. But presidents traditionally tried stemming such declines, at least periodically when not campaigning. This president spurs the race to the rhetorical bottom.
Along with Trump’s law, we’re enduring a mass Attack of the Stupids.
Trump’s recent tweet that “any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat” would demonstrate “a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” has prompted hysteria, accusing Trump of stirring antisemitism by calling Jews disloyal Americans. Under pressure, he clarified his statement, saying, “you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel.”
This statement trigged more anguish about how Trump was assuming Jews should be loyal to Israel while singlehandedly destroying the bipartisan consensus on Israel.
I’m unconvinced. All this brouhahaing imputed to Trump an understanding of antisemitism he probably lacks, while overlooking Republican-Democratic divergences regarding Israel that preceded his presidency.
Trump’s loyalty obsession reflects egotism, not antisemitism. It’s the mark of a thin-skinned demagogue and a sharp-tongued narcissist, more than of a bigot. Trump has tweeted about disloyalty more than 60 times since 2016. Last month, when the city council in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, voted to stop requiring the Pledge of Allegiance at council meetings, Trump tweeted: “People are sick and tired of this stupidity and disloyalty to our wonderful USA!” Two weeks earlier, Trump called his Republican critic Justin Amash “one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress.”
Trump often claims he is “not necessarily” thinking about “me,” but about people who are “disloyal to the office of the presidency.” He enjoys accusing opponents of betraying one another to emphasize their low character. In 2016, he accused Hillary Clinton of being “disloyal” to friends like Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, while proclaiming that “Disloyal R’s” – Republicans – “are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary.”
The allegations that Trump is antisemitic make me wonder: Can a Jew’s loyalty to anything or anybody ever be questioned? Loyalty means “giving and showing firm and constant support or allegiance.” That definition makes any Jew who votes for the Jew-hating Ilhan Omar or the BDS-supporting Rashida Tlaib disloyal to Israel, the Jewish people, and liberal American values promoting tolerance and seeking peace.
Similarly, following president Barack Obama’s full-scale lobbying effort to bully through the Iran deal and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s full-court press against it, it’s hard to blame Trump for partisan tensions regarding Israel.
Nevertheless, despite that brittle background, the 41 congressional Democrats who just visited Israel and praised it enthusiastically prove that things are not so bleak, the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus persists.
LIKE AN evil genie, Trump brings out the worst in his opponents – although many bash-Israel-firsters are perfectly awful without any Trumpian assistance. For example, you can’t blame Haaretz’s despicably dumb August 22 commentary on Trump. Many Twitterers mocked Ryan Morrison’s article voicing his opinion that he and other Trump-Bibi critics couldn’t voice their opinions anymore. Morrison also claimed that “barring” two members of Congress from visiting Israel was not only “shortsighted,” but that “Israel now has more in common with Saudi Arabia than it does with Western democracies.”
Really? Most Israelis, dreading another election in five months, fear Israel has too much democracy, not too little. The comparison with Saudi Arabia – not England, America, or other democracies that occasionally bar hostile visitors – is silly.
The article’s headline is revealing: “Fed Up With Trump, Fed Up With Israel.” Yes, in math the transitive property works: If A = B and B = C, A = C. But it doesn’t apply to politics. If you hate Trump and Trump loves Israel, you don’t need to hate Israel, too.
Even more revealing, the proper parallel to “Fed Up With Trump” is “Fed Up with Bibi.” “Fed Up With Israel,” however, veers away from reasonable, healthy criticism into delegitimization. If some Americans can still like their country while hating their president, why abandon Israel if they hate its prime minister??
I WISH this categorical rejection only reflected another Attack of the Stupids. It’s actually more malignant, feeding the evil campaign that questions only one country’s right to exist, Israel’s.
Such bias against Israel is routine – yet still outrageous. Similarly, terrorist attacks usually invite expressions of sympathy for the victims – period. But when Palestinian terrorists murder 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in cold blood, Rashida Tlaib can’t tweet out her sympathies without also calling for “ending the Israeli occupation.” IfNotNow shows its true colors by ignoring decades of Palestinian terrorism when Democrats ruled, claiming on Twitter: “the rightward drift of Israeli and US govts make the situation on the ground less safe for Israelis and Palestinians.”
So, yes, Trump’s law menaces the body politic, with this president muscling out constructive rhetoric with destructive rhetoric. But Tlaib and INN prove that long before Trump entered politics, we’ve been suffering from something even worse, call it the Pro-Palestinian Flaw – the despicable tendency to hijack and politicize the most evil crimes to advance this one cause, scoring cheap political points off the profound loss innocent families continue to suffer.
Trump’s offensives are rhetorical. Palestinian crimes are actual, killing real people.
The writer is the author of The Zionist Ideas, an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology, The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society. A distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, he is the author of 10 books on American history, including The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s.