What about Israel-first Americans?

Among the latest antagonists of Ilham Omar is Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times. The well-known columnist has attacked the Muslim congresswoman for suggesting, in his words, “that American politicians who support Israel are guilty of dual loyalty.”

McManus does a great job of repackaging received knowledge and is one of many, many Americans, especially in the political and media establishments, who have ganged up on the Democratic congresswoman for her so-called “anti-Semitic” comments. She had mentioned the “dual loyalty” of American citizens promoting Israel’s interests. She also had said that she could serve well her constituents in the fifth congressional district of Minnesota without having to show “allegiance to a foreign country,” meaning Israel.

The Somali-American lawmaker didn’t voice any concern, but I often do, about the many Americans – politicians or not – whose primary loyalty seems to lie with Israel, not the United States.

Despite Omar’s transparently correct description of the nature of some Americans’ loyalty to Israel, nearly dozen pro-Israel groups wrote to House speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding that Omar be stripped of her membership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Harshest among her attackers are the Jewish chairpersons of three House committees – Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey. They also pushed for a House resolution denouncing the lawmaker’s remarks as “anti-Semitic.” Pelosi and other establishment Democrats in the House of Representatives were about to introduce such a resolution but got dissuaded by fierce opposition from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill and were forced to settle for one that criticized all forms of bigotry. Omar has suffered vicious Islamophobic attacks from a lot of other Americans as well.

I would point out that Omar didn’t impugn any Americans’ loyalty to the United States. She just maintained that some Americans’ allegiance isn’t confined to America but also extends to Israel. I would go a step farther. I would ask where lay the primary loyalty of Democratic Jewish Senators Chuck Schumer and Ben Cardin; or Democratic Jewish Representatives Ted Deutsch, Engel and Lowey, when they voted against the Iran nuclear deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as it’s officially known, was fiercely opposed by Israel but negotiated and signed by the Democratic president Barack Obama and approved by a Senate majority.

What about Haim Saban, a major financial backer of Hillary Clinton’s political campaigns, who says publicly and proudly, “I am a single-issue American, and my issue is Israel”? Which country claims the preponderant loyalty of the Jewish Americans who don’t enlist in the American military but join the Israeli armed forces to fight Israel’s wars? They included, among many American Jews, a son of the New York Times columnist David Brooks, and a former colleague of mine at an American newspaper. Where lies the primary loyalty of the tens of thousands of Jewish American citizens who uprooted themselves from America and have settled in Israel, more than 60,000 them in illegal West bank settlements?  What about the Americans, including President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who have shown little interest in homeless Americans but have spent millions of dollars in helping build illegal Jewish settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories?

If I were an Israeli Jew, I would worry about Israel’s friends like these, who have created a false sense of Israel’s security. I would note the attitudes of the younger generation of Americans and Westerners – including Western Jews such as in J Street – who are becoming fed up with Israeli colonialism and Israel’s subjugation and oppression of the Palestinians. And I would ask myself: How long can Israel manage to live by the sword in the increasingly hostile world? This question – not lham Omar, or Hamas, or Iran – has become Israel’s existential challenge.

  • Mustafa Malik, host of this blog, is an international affairs commentator in Washington.
Mustafa Malik
Mustafa Malik, the host and editor of the blog Community, worked three decades as an American journalist and as a researcher for U.S. think tanks. He wrote continually for major U.S. and overseas newspapers and journals. He also conducted fieldwork in Western Europe and the Middle East on U.S. foreign policy options, "crisis of liberalism" and Islamic movements.

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