I have never visited Israel, and have no particular desire to do so. I don’t have family or close friends there. I don’t see it as a refuge. If I were to live somewhere other than the United States, I’d much prefer Canada, where I’d still be close to family and speak one of the languages. As an American Jew, I can honestly say that Israel is not especially important to my sense of identity or my sense of self.
This would, apparently, shock Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield. Stinchfield feels strongly that American Jews belong in, and to, Israel. “If you are Jewish and you are a Democrat and you are living in America today,” he fulminated rhetorically in a recent segment, “how do you support an administration that turns its back on your home country?”
For Stinchfield and many of those on the American right, Jewish people are eternal aliens in what they see as an American Christian nation. For them, Jews are useful and tolerated only when we fulfill our subservient role in their ethnonationalist fantasies. That’s antisemitic, no matter what your position is on Israel.
More than three-quarters of American Jews voted for Biden in the 2020 election, which is broadly in line with Jewish voting patterns over the last 30 years. Republicans, who have embraced belligerent, Islamophobic right-wing governments in Israel, have been frustrated. Why, they wonder, aren’t American Jews more enthusiastic about their policy of Islamophobia, militarism and invasion in the Middle East?
Stinchfield, then, is echoing a common theme in right-wing discourse. Former president Donald Trump also on several occasions claimed that Jewish Democrats were demonstrating “disloyalty” to Israel. He’s also tweeted that he himself was the “King of Israel.” If Trump is the King of Israel, and American Jews owe loyalty to Israel, then it follows that when they don’t vote for Trump or support Democrats, American Jews are betraying their Jewishness and their country.
Which country is “theirs”, though? Trump, and Republicans, have increasingly become a party spearheaded by white evangelical Christians, about 80 percent of whom voted for Trump in 2020. Yale Sociologist Philip Gorski argues that white evangelicals love Trump “because they are white Christian nationalists.” In other words, many evangelicals believe America should be a white Christian nation, dedicated to empowering white people and purifying the country of foreign interlopers. Trump described himself as “the chosen one” when he talked about his trade war with China. That language resonates with white evangelicals who see a white Christian US triumphing in an apocalyptic conflict over non-Christian, non-white evildoers.
Evangelical white Christians believe that Israel has an important role to play in the endtimes. But they also see it as a sort of white provisional bulwark against the evils of nonwhite Muslims. Stinchfield praises Israel as “our one true ally in the Middle East… [because] Israel provides stability to a region that is in absolute chaos.”
When Stinchfield talks about chaos to a white evangelical audience, he, and they, know he’s not talking about actions. He’s talking about who rules. Similarly, Trump constantly evoked Chicago as an example of violent anarchy, not because Chicago is in fact especially violent (I live here; it’s not) but because it’s associated with Black people. Order is when white people are in charge; disorder is when they aren’t. Therefore the Middle East is always in chaos for Stinchfield and his ilk because its people and governments are (perceived as) not white and not Christian.
Israelis are for the most part not Christian either. But as long as they support a Middle East policy of subjugation, white Christian evangelicals are willing to see them as junior partners in empire. Jewish people who are not sufficiently onboard, though, are treated with suspicion. If we American Jews object to Israel killing Palestinian children, what use are we? Why don’t we know our place?
That place, Stinchfield wants us to believe, is not here in America. His commentary evokes the “dual loyalty” trope — the idea that Jewish people are always more committed to other Jews around the world than to the country they live in. But it’s also part of a rising American Christian fascism, which sees American identity and white Christian identity as inseparable. Jews can be here as long as they understand that they really belong in Israel — and as long as we vote for the right white Christians to lead us.
So why don’t Jewish people vote for the nice Christian supremacists? I can’t speak for all Jewish people, obviously. But I can say that for this one Jewish person, Stinchfield succinctly explains why I vote against Republicans whenever I have the opportunity. The party of white Christian nationalism is not a party that has my best interests at heart. On the contrary, historically, white Christian nationalism and racist fascism have been very dangerous for Jewish people.
I don’t think Jewish people who vote for Republicans are “disloyal.” Jewish people don’t owe allegiance to me, or to Democrats. I do think, though, that Jewish people who embrace the Christian far right, for whatever reason, are being extremely unwise. And I wish Americans — right and left, Jewish and otherwise — would accept that for American Jewish people, our homeland is here.