Yoni Appelbaum: Trump should go back to where he came from
Had Trump confined his attack to the one immigrant of the group—Omar—he might have been able to dodge the charge of racism. As Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review argues about the Somali-born war refugee, who is often harshly critical of United States policy, “it is absolutely reasonable for [Americans] to wonder aloud how a person who hails from a dysfunctional, dangerous place built atop dysfunctional, dangerous institutions can exhibit the temerity—the sheer gall—to talk about America in the way that she does.”
But Trump immediately forfeited whatever claim he might have had to raising valid questions about Omar’s appalling lack of gratitude when he included her three colleagues, all of them natural-born American citizens, thereby suggesting they are not genuine Americans. His attack was of a piece with the conspiracy theory he propagated to launch his most recent foray into politics: that the country’s first black president is not a natural-born American citizen. It was also of a piece with traditional anti-Semitism. Trump’s line of attack—instructing a group of American citizens to “go back” from where “they came”—is one that can easily be, and often is, deployed against Jews.
The claim that Jews are not loyal to the countries in which they reside is one of the hoariest, most pernicious of anti-Semitic slurs. Malleably affixed to a diasporic people, the accusation oozes from the left and right fringes of the political spectrum. Omar recently attributed her colleagues’ support for Israel to campaign donations and implied that American Jews “push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Long before that, the cantankerous Nixonian Pat Buchanan called Congress the “amen corner” of the “Israeli Defense ministry” and accused prominent Jews of advocating for wars that would be fought by “kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales, and Leroy Brown.” Whether emanating from the woke, anti-Zionist left or the reactionary, isolationist right, the charge is basically the same: Jews are an alien presence, always and everywhere unwelcome guests in those lands unfortunate enough to host them.
Peter Beinart: How Trumpian nativism leads to anti-Semitism
Which is why Trump’s attempt to implicate American Jews in his bigoted harangue against the Democratic congresswomen is so pernicious. Some Jews, like Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, have criticized Trump for citing the women’s views on Israel as justification for his tirade. “You really have to leave us out of your racist talking points,” he tweeted. “You are not helping us, you are not helping society, you are not helping Israel.” As the question of whether Jews are white is seriously debated among left-wing identitarians (so that Jews may be ranked on their intersectionality victim pyramid), Trump’s invocation of Israel to attack four ethnic-minority women is breathtakingly cynical, effectively working to pit Jews and people of color against each other.