He’s doing that thing again where he endorses an ugly stereotype about Jews and then either celebrates them for it or faults them for not conforming to it enough.
I can picture him watching someone rant that American Jews prioritize Israel’s welfare above America’s and him sitting there, thinking, “I wish!”
How many other former presidents will you hear claim that Israel used to have “absolute power over Congress” while lamenting that it no longer does?
He’s one of a kind.
— Yonit Levi (@LeviYonit) December 17, 2021
Leftists like Ilhan Omar have been bitterly attacked by righties (and not just righties) for accusing American Jews of dividing their loyalty between the U.S. and Israel. Trump has signaled more than once that he agrees. The difference is, he has no problem with it. When he says it, it’s an observation, not a criticism.
Donald Trump referred to Israel's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as "your prime minister" in an address to a group of Jewish-American supporters on Saturday in Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/w2TXPkDBNn
— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) April 7, 2019
Yair Rosenberg did a nice job a few years back explaining Trump’s odd philo-semitic twist on anti-semitic tropes about American Jews. Read his column for specific examples, but here’s the key bit:
The principle that explains his seemingly contradictory outlook toward Jews is simple: Trump believes all the anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. But he sees those traits as admirable.
To Trump, the belief that Jews are foreign interlopers who use their wealth to serve their own clannish interests is not a negative — as it is for traditional anti-Semites — but rather a positive. He wants Jews to be his attorneys and manage his money, so that he, too, can be rich. He wants them in his political corner, so that he, too, can be powerful. He wants to buy politicians, just like he thinks they do. As a man who has always stood solely for his own naked self-interest, Trump does not see the anti-Semitic conception of the self-interested Jew as a complaint, but rather a compliment. He prioritizes his needs ahead of the national interest, and so he sees the idea that Jews might do the same with themselves or with Israel as entirely natural. He is the human embodiment of the Onion article “Affable anti-Semite Thinks The Jews Are Doing Super Job With The Media.”
I elaborated on that in a post of my own written around the same time. Someone whose political outlook is essentially ethnonationalist will gravitate naturally towards the idea that the Jewish diaspora “belongs” to Israel.
We all owe loyalty to our own tribe. Many large tribes have evolved into nations. America is a tribe of mainly white Christian Europeans, at least to Trump; Israel is a tribe of Jews. Ergo, the American Jewish minority naturally would owe loyalty to Israel. You can see why that logic makes supporters of Israel nervous: Sure, Trump is speaking in Israel’s defense, but at the heart of his argument is the idea that Jews aren’t really American the way other Americans are. That idea is uncomfortable even in the hands of someone who’s friendly to them, as Trump is. In the hands of someone who isn’t, it’s poison.
The fact that American Jews have traditionally trended liberal in their policy preferences and therefore tend to favor Democrats doesn’t compute for him. They’re Jews — that is, to him, they’re basically Israelis. Trump is a more stalwart supporter of Israel against its regional enemies than Democrats are so why wouldn’t a bunch of Israelis residing in America vote for him?
It won’t occur to him that, whatever their feelings about Israel, the average American Jewish voter will prioritize domestic concerns at the ballot box just like everyone else does. Ironically, he’s guilty of the same sort of reductionist ethnic reasoning there that Democrats are guilty of when it comes to Hispanics. Democrats are the party of unlimited immigration, right? Then shouldn’t Latinos reward them for keeping the southern border open?
Well … no. What we learned last November is that Hispanic Americans aren’t single-issue voters. Jewish Americans aren’t either.
We shouldn’t overthink Trump’s pique at American Jews in the clip, though. All of his grievances are ultimately personal and his biggest personal grievance, to the point of obsession, is losing to Biden. If every American Jew became an ardent supporter of the Palestinians tomorrow but pledged to vote for Trump in 2024, he’d be happy as a clam with no objections to their new foreign policy stance. His recent attacks on Bibi Netanyahu for supposedly not wanting peace with the Palestinians are rooted in the same thing. He’s butthurt that Netanyahu acknowledged Biden’s victory after the election was called and he resents that Netanyahu didn’t hand him the ultimate foreign policy win ahead of the election by agreeing to a peace deal with Mahmoud Abbas. “Pro-Israel” versus “anti-Israel” is meaningless in his politics. There’s only “pro-Trump” and “anti-Trump.”