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Thank you, Mr. President, for supporting Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib when they most needed it
By Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Faculty emeritus in Humanities, Austin College
Aug 22, 2019
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In a panel discussion on April 10 in Washington DC, Minnesota's Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar said: "So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country." Everyone there cheered knowing that she was raising the old question of “dual loyalty” to a crowd focusing on the Israel/Palestine impasse. 

Addressing his supporters in Las Vegas-- the Republican Jewish Coalition, just three days after Ilhan Omar’s comments; President Trump referred to the leader of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “your prime minister.” The Republican Jewish Coalition is an organization of Jews who are citizens of the USA. President Trump’s comments not only suggested that some of the US Jewish community have “dual loyalty,” but he was also affirming what Ilhan Omar had said three days earlier. 

A major question here is this; why was Ilhan Omar criticized for her so-called “anti-Semitic” remarks while President Trump’s suggestions of “dual loyalty” were questioned only by those who are following closely the rise of Judeo-phobia and Islamo-phobia in the USA? There are many answers to this question and all are entangled in a web of politics interwoven with religion. 

One answer is that Mr. Trump’s base relies heavily on large sections of the Christian right in the USA who are hungry for “Armageddon”-- an apocalyptic conflict that will usher in the “end of time’s prophecies.” This will include a last chance for Jews to accept Christianity or be damned. Prime Minister Netanyahu accepts all the help he can get from the USA’s Christian right; but he is not obligated to accept their theology.* Our nation’s Christian right is pleased that Mr. Trump has made several highly publicized gestures to help Mr. Netanyahu be re-elected, even if those gestures are against international law as well as opposed to previous US foreign policy. Mr. Netanyahu helped Mr. Trump win his 2016 election by visiting the USA and speaking in Congress without an invitation from then President Obama. 

Another answer is that Mr. Trump has long been pushing his “Jexodus” initiative: the hope that the US Jewish community will exit from where most of them are (Democratic party) and join the Republicans. Like many of his initiatives, this one may also have unintended consequences. Indeed, he shocked many by saying on August 21 that US Jews who vote Democrat show “great disloyalty.” His remarks underlined those who have long weaponized “anti-Semitism”(Judeo-phobia) for political purposes. The recent cancelling of plans for two of the “quad squad”(Representatives Omar and Tlaib) to visit Israel and the West Bank has highlighted most of the many issues related to Israel/Palestine and will keep US Representatives Omar and Tlaib on the “front page” again. Thank you, Mr. President, our “Boomeranger-in-Chief.’ 

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*An Orthodox Rabbi in Israel recently offered a solution to this dilemma. He said that when the Messiah appears in Israel, the first question must be: “Is this your first trip?” If the answer is yes, Christians are invited to become Jews. If the answer is “no, my second trip,” we Jews will become Christians!

Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Professor Emeritus of Humanities