Trump’s remarks on Jews’ loyalty repeats anti-Semitic trope

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In her book, “Antisemitism Here and Now,” Deborah Lipstadt writes, “The notion of dual loyalty is a linchpin of the anti-Semitic stereotype, whether you use the word ‘cosmopolitan,’ whether you use the words ‘dual loyalty,’ that’s the charge: that Jews are loyal to one another, and they’re not loyal to the country in which they live.”

While Trump’s comments sparked an immediate outcry, opinions were mixed as to whether they were directly anti-Semitic. But, said Anti-Defamation League deputy national director Kenneth Jacobson, while Trump’s intent may be unknowable, his language was clear.

The dual loyalty charge cropped up periodically through the centuries: “There were always questions about ‘To whom are the Jews loyal,?’” said Jerome Chanes, author of “Dark Side of History: Anti-Semitism Through the Ages” but that charge’s role in shaping Jewish history between the late 19th century and today has been particularly notable.

The charge of dual loyalty has a long history. It dates back, Jacobson said, to the biblical Book of Esther, in which the powerful government official Haman treats Jews “as aliens and outsiders.” It shows up, as well, in the biblical story of the Jews’ time as slaves in Egypt; the Torah explains that the Jews were first enslaved when a new pharaoh, taking the throne, became concerned that the Jews would someday turn against the Egyptians with whom they dwelled as peers.

In America, the idea of dual loyalty haunted Jews in the years before and after the creation of the state of Israel, as many expressed trepidation that the creation of a Jewish state would jeopardize their security as American citizens. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, affirmed that “the State of Israel speaks only on behalf of its own citizens and in no ways presumes to represent or speak in the name of Jews who are citizens of any other country.

“This means that the allegiance of American Jews is to America and America alone,” Ben-Gurion added, “and should put an end to any idea or allegation that there is such a thing as ‘dual loyalty’ on the part of American Jewry.”

“[Trump] may not have meant it as (anti-Semitic,) but this gives intense comfort and succor to white supremacists,” Lipstadt said.

The question that remains: Is this of a cyclical nature or is something fundamentally changing? And that’s to be determined.

Cyrus Shamloo