Donald Trump gave an interview to Seattle Jewish Trumper, Ari Hoffman, yesterday in which he said that Israel “owned Congress.” And the world seems to be all atwitter with the shocking news that our ex-president is an anti-Semite. We all know he’s always been one. This is nothing new. It’s just that now he can unbutton himself and let his fascist freak flag fly:
“Well, you know the biggest change I’ve seen in Congress is Israel literally owned Congress – you understand that, 10 years ago, 15 years ago – and it was so powerful, it was so powerful, and today it’s almost the opposite,” Trump said.
“And we’re not talking about over a very long period of time, but I think you know exactly what I’m saying. They had such power, Israel had such power — and rightfully — over Congress, and now it doesn’t. It’s incredible, actually,” Trump claimed.
…”You have – between AOC [Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez] and [Rep. Ilhan] Omar and these people that hate Israel, they hate it with a passion – they’re controlling Congress and Israel is not a force in Congress anymore, it’s – I mean – it’s just amazing. I’ve never seen such a change,” he said.
“Israel had such power – and rightfully – over Congress, and now it doesn’t. It’s incredible, actually.”
Nor did he spare American Jews his wrath:
“I was affectionately told I could run for prime minister of Israel and win very easily. They like me over there,” he said before contrasting his popularity in Israel with how Jews in the US felt about him.
“It’s incredible that I didn’t get the kind of a vote from Jewish people that you would think I would get. Jewish people in this country — many of them do not like Israel.
“Look at The New York Times. The New York Times is vicious against Israel, and it’s just a terrible thing to watch,” he added, apparently suggesting that the outlet is run by Jews.
The notion that the New York Times, because it is owned by Jews, is anti-Israel is in itself anti-Semitic. But also so far out of left field that it’s left the ballpark.
Besides the anti-Semitism in this statement, there is a strong streak of misogyny, racism and Islamophobia as well targeting AOC and Omar. The claim that they “hate Israel with a passion” and that they control Congress would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous as well. This inciting rhetoric has motivated much of the hate and death threats that have stalked these women during their time in Congress.
Not to mention the claim that with their rise, the Israel Lobby has lost clout and exercises no power over Congres. Of course, there is a battle between the Lobby and progressive Democrats who don’t take orders as many in the Party used to. But the Lobby remains a potent force.
It’s critical too not to lose sight of something important in Trump’s words. While saying Israel owns Congress may be anti-Semitic, saying that Israel owns Congress when it comes to Israel’s interests is full-on truth. Pro-Israel Jews will make no distinction between those two statements, but there is a world of difference. In that sense Trump, in his typical shoot-from-the-lip style, spoke without nuance. But there is much truth in the notion that Israel exerts a stranglehold over US policy related to that country’s interests. And the Lobby is the linchpin undergirding that system.
When progressive Democrats voted not to approve the $500-million expenditure to restock Iron Dome weaponry for Israel, the Lobby and Prime Minister Bennett roared their displeasure and the vote was rammed through by the Democratic leadership within 24-hours. If that’s not naked power, then what is? When the ICC announced it would begin an investigation of Israeli war crimes, the US was the strongest opponent of the plan. Then Pres Trump not only denounced it, he laid sanctions on then prosecutor general Fatima Bensouda. When Israel announces it will build thousands of new housing units in settlements in contravention to international law and US policy, we offer a few words of opposition but never take any action. When the Security Council considers a resolution condemning Israel for invading Gaza, we veto it.
Before the pro-Israel hasbara apparatus rushes to accuse me of anti-Semitism, none other than Labor Party liberal Zionist and former Israeli diplomat, Alon Pinkas, echoes my views:
What Trump is…pointing to is a change in the dynamic of Israel’s relationship with Congress over the last decade – and that is accurate and true.
In the last few years, the much cherished…“Bipartisanship on Israel” seems like an empty relic of yesteryear. The combination of hyper-partisanship in the United States, the evaporation of the political center, the toxicity of the political discourse, and the politics of disruption…together with a deliberate Netanyahu policy to align with the GOP and distance his government from the Democrats…has turned Israel into a wedge issue.
This is coupled with major demographic changes in the United States, a more educated and critical generation that strongly trends Democratic and a changing political culture. Instead of either making the imperative adjustments or keeping out of the political mix altogether, Israel made a choice.
Decades of careful…Israeli policy of trying to maintain bipartisanship and keeping above the American political fray have been replaced by a patently clear political inclination: brawls with then-President Barack Obama; disassociation from centrist Democrats; alienation from progressive Democrats; distancing from the vast majority of American Jews…an affinity with evangelical Christians; a partnership with the Tea Party; and, since 2016, a bromance with Trump.
…In the U.S., changing demographics and generational political evolution led to a strengthening of the “progressive” discourse on foreign policy and growing criticism of Israeli policies…Israel did nothing to address this development.
Trump is wrong and misleading in attributing this to the congressional “Progressive Caucus” – a loose association of 95 House members, most of whom are ardent Israel supporters. But he is right that Israel’s clout in Congress has changed over the last decade.
…No, AOC didn’t do this. Israel did this…
A word about Trump’s interview host. Hoffman married into a wealthy local Jewish real estate empire. His father in law is a powerhouse in the Orthodox Jewish community and was responsible for firing the long-serving rabbi of his shul. Hoffman is a bastion of the pro-police, anti homeless, “Seattle is dying” coalition battling for political control in Seattle. He ran for city council a few years ago and lost. It is no accident that Trump offered anti-Semitic views to Hoffman, who undoubltedly agrees with most of what Trump said, especially the attacks on American Jews for supporting “anti-Israel” Democrats. Which makes Ari himself an anti-Semite.