If you listened earlier this month to Republican responses to Donald Trump’s call for Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley to “go back” to the “places from which they came,” you noticed something odd. Trump’s defenders kept mentioning Israel.
“They hate Israel,”replied Lindsey Graham when asked about Trump’s attacks on The Squad. Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin called Omar and Tlaib “anti-Israel.” Trump himself responded to the controversy by declaring that Omar “hates Israel.”
This is strange. As reprehensible as it is to demand that an American politician leave America for allegedly expressing insufficient patriotism, the demand is at least familiar.
“America, love it or leave it,” has been a conservative slogan since the 1960s. What’s virtually unprecedented is demanding that an American politician leave America because they’ve expressed insufficient devotion to a foreign country. Can anyone imagine Republicans defending Trump’s calls for expelling Omar and company by accusing them of hating Canada, India or Japan?
Of course not. The reason is that Republicans no longer talk about Israel like it’s a foreign country. They conflate love of Israel with love of America because they see Israel as a model for what they want America to be: An ethnic democracy.
Israel is a Jewish state. Trump and many of his allies want America to be a white, Judeo-Christian state. Israel, despite its free elections and parliamentary institutions, structurally privileges one ethnic and religious group over others. That’s what many Republicans want here. [Continue reading…]