The rapidly increasing number of violent antisemitic acts in America has given rise to a debate as to how antisemitism can most effectively be combatted. It is not sufficient to call attention to the words and acts of unmistakable antisemites. It is also essential to repudiate those actions which legitimize antisemitism.
The national focus during the past few weeks on antisemitic behavior has been on the following statement of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar: (D-Minnesota).
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
This was an unmistakably antisemitic Omar smear, used down through the decades by others as a means of insinuating that Jews are disloyal to America because they maintain a “dual loyalty” to the State of Israel that is both unpatriotic and inconsistent with loyalty to America.
As a result, there was strong sentiment in the Democratic House of Representatives caucus for a resolution that would condemn antisemitism. Although it was never intended by any Representative that the resolution would mention the name of Congresswoman Omar, it was clear that the resolution would constitute an implicit chastisement of her and repudiation of her antisemitic act.
Accordingly, after a contentious Democratic caucus meeting, a compromise was reached in which the resolution was broadened to also include a condemnation of Islamophobia and white supremacy. Donald Trump engaged in offensive sophistry by stating that this result proved that the Democrats have become an anti-Jewish party” and that “the Democrats hate Jewish people.”
The irony of Trump’s assertions was not lost on the American Jewish community. As I made clear in my recent column, “American Antisemitism, 2019: Neither Political Party has Clean Hands,”
(https://www.insidernj.com/american-antisemitism-2019-neither-political-party-clean-hands/), Trump, while not antisemitic himself, has for his own political purposes become a powerful enabler of antisemitism.
Yet Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine, the leading apologist for Trump and Trumpism among New Jersey political journalists, took a tack opposite to that of his icon, The Donald. In his column this past Sunday in the Star-Ledger, “Foreign Policy: I just can’t wait until the Democrats start their debates,”
Mulshine, through absolutely blatantly incorrect statements, engaged in pathetically careless journalism which avoided totally the issue of whether Omar’s statement was antisemitic.
The first Mulshine distortion was his statement that there was an attempt by pro-Israel Democrats to mention by name Omar in the resolution. No such attempt was ever made. In fact, the following first draft of the resolution did not mention Omar’s name and stated that the House
“…. rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
The second Mulshine distortion was even more outrageous. He stated that the Democrats “… spent the week trying to decide whether and/or how to condemn remarks critical of Israel made by newly elected U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.”
That Mulshine statement was a gross inaccuracy. The controversy had nothing to do with Omar’s position on Israel. There has never been any Congressional resolution since the creation of the State of Israel that repudiated by name any pro-Arab Senators or Representative for their position on Israel, even those of virulently anti-Israel critics like the late Senator J. William Fulbright (D-Arkansas) and Representative Paul Findley (R-Illinois).
The resolution debate had nothing to do whatsoever with Omar’s anti-Israel issue position per se. It related solely to Omar’s utilization of the antisemitic trope that Jews who support Israel have a dual loyalty and are thus disloyal to the United States of America. By inaccurately describing both the wording of the resolution and the issue that was the subject of the debate, Paul Mulshine’s shoddy journalism in this matter had the effect, intentionally or unintentionally of legitimizing Omar’s antisemitic rhetoric.
Next time you write a column on antisemitism and Israel, Paul, please do your homework and stick to the facts.
Yet before he completed the column and after he finished his discussion of Representative Omar, Mulshine brought up an issue in a manner that served to reinforce the antisemitic trope that support for Israel by American Jews displays a dual loyalty that makes them disloyal, unpatriotic Americans.
Specifically, he brought up the issue of American young Jewish men who serve in the Israeli army. He did so in the context of noting that the son of Trump supporter Rabbi Shmuley Boteach served in the Israeli army. Mulshine then asserts that service in the Israeli army is inconsistent with the Trumpian foreign policy of “America first.”
It is clear from his “America first” rhetoric that Mulshine is insinuating that such service in the Israeli army means that Boteach’s son has a dual loyalty that makes him less than a loyal American. When asked by Mulshine about this, Republican state Senator Mike Doherty joined in the Mulshine insinuation by asking “Why isn’t he (Boteach’s son) joining the United States Army?”
It must first be noted that in the September 2, 2011 edition of Foreign Policy, the editor, Joshua Keating in his article, “Is It Legal for Americans to Fight in Another Country’s Army?”, (https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/09/02/is-it-legal-for-americans-to-fight-in-another-countrys-army/), states that the many Jewish Americans who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces out of a desire to protect the Jewish people from another Holocaust are not in violation of American law.
Furthermore, in implicitly impugning the loyalty of American Jews who serve in the Israel Defense Forces, Mulshine and Doherty are ignoring the story of one of the great heroes of American and Israeli military history, Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus. Doherty, as a West Point graduate, should know the Marcus story.
Marcus, a West Point graduate and the son of Rumanian Jewish immigrant parents, is the only person buried in the West Point Cemetery who was killed fighting under the flag of another country. On his grave are the words: “Colonel David Marcus -A Soldier for All Humanity.”
He served heroically on D-Day, parachuting into Normandy with the first wave of General Maxwell Taylor’s 101st Airborne Division. After the war, he served on the staff of General Lucius Clay, who was in charge of the occupation of Germany. Clay put him in charge of provisions for the millions of displaced persons in Germany.
After observing the horrors of Dachau, Marcus became a Zionist, a believer in the concept of a Jewish State. Accordingly, with the permission of the US War Department, Marcus accepted the request of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to serve as military advisor to Israel’s nascent army, the Haganah in 1948. He became the commander at the Jerusalem front in Israel’s War of Independence and was the first person in the history of the Israeli army promoted to the rank of general. Unfortunately, Marcus lost his life in the conflict in June, 1948.
Neither Mulshine nor Doherty is a Mickey Marcus. Perhaps, however, they can learn the following lesson from his life: “Loyalty to Israel and loyalty to America – Perfect Together!”
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.