Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) have been at the rotten center of a growing controversy in the Democratic Party regarding the spread of virulent and open anti-Semitism. Over time, Omar and Tlaib have become increasingly honest in the expression of their utter hatred of the Jewish State. In a similar fashion to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom, the Democratic Party’s foundation has been rocked by this ongoing battle between moderate Democrats and outwardly-bigoted so-called “progressives.” All that conservatives had to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
Enter President Trump. On multiple occasions, Trump has inserted himself into this controversy and, despite some questionable statements, has been reasonably successful in associating the entire Democratic Party with the tiny progressive minority known as “The Squad.” Most recently, when Omar and Tlaib attempted to claim Islamophobic victimization after Israel refused them entry for their “U.S. Congressional Delegation to Palestine” (which was organized and sponsored by a Palestinian group which “once claimed Jews put Christian blood in matzah” during Passover), Trump tried to capitalize on their repeated demonstration of anti-Semitism.
This time, however, he went too far. Speaking of the two Congresswomen, Trump stated:
There have been three different types of reactions to Trump’s statement.
The first is from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party who are condemning Trump for peddling an anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” trope. Their sudden concern for the dangers of anti-Semitism is clearly disingenuous given that they have spent months defending explicit bigotry from Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
The second is from the pro-Trump wing of the Republican Party who use the fact that Trump and his administration have been demonstrably pro-Israel as evidence against any accusation of anti-Semitism, or by citing the more blatant examples of anti-Semitism on the Left to excuse potential anti-Semitism on the Right. This logic falls apart when you recognize that Judaism and Israel not the same things, that anti-Semitism on the Left is irrelevant when it comes to judging anti-Semitism on the Right, and finally that two things can be true at once – Trump can say anti-Semitic things and be a proponent of pro-Israeli policies.
The third category is the one which falls somewhere between the two, and aims to judge Trump not in the pursuit of furthering an overarching political narrative, but by asking questions which aim to clarify his intent and motivations. What did Trump mean by loyalty? Was Trump talking about voting for all Democrats, or voting for Democrats who are open anti-Semites? Was Trump targeting religious or cultural Jews?
The purpose of asking clarifying questions is not to excuse or defend political rhetoric. After all, Trump’s language, in this instance, is undeniably poorly worded. Indeed, to lump Jews together using the umbrella of identity politics is arguably anti-Semitic itself. However, like so many accusations of bigotry that are liberally applied in our modern politics, the factors which are often ignored are intent and motivation. For Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the driving force behind their rhetoric is the desire for the destruction of the Jewish state, an undeniably anti-Semitic objective. We must first determine Trump’s underlying objectives before tarring him with the same brush.