Rabbi: The Smears Against Vindman Are Anti-Semitic
It’s happening again. Minorities, immigrants, and patriots are being smeared and vilified. And a recent witness thought to be damaging to President Trump’s impeachment embodies all three. The family of Purple Heart recipient Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman fled Soviet-era Ukraine for the United States when he was three.
However, right-wing Trump apologists remain undeterred. Better to start a national hate war if it enables the White House to lie. Without mentioning that Vindman is Jewish, they find Vindman’s Ukrainian birth highly suspect. Former Republican Representative Sean Duffy of WI wondered where Vindman’s interests lie:
“It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense,” Duffy said. “I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy… we all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from… he has an affinity for the Ukraine.”
And on Fox News, the sentiment was even more outrageous. According to Laura Ingraham:
“Because Colonel Vindman emigrated from Ukraine along with his family when he was a child and is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian, Ukrainian officials sought advice from him…. Here we have a US national security official who is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest, and usually, they spoke in English. Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?”
As if this wasn’t enough slander, her guest John Yoo added:
“You know, some people might call that espionage.
This is what we do to patriots? Truth tellers not wanted?
These accusations are dangerous. The canard of dual loyalty has plagued the Jewish people throughout our history. It’s no little thing. For millennia, it’s gotten a lot of us killed. It goes like this: Jews are a minority in the country; Jews are different from other people; therefore, Jews cannot be loyal citizens.
These libels date back to the Hebrew Bible and the stories of the Exodus and of Esther. In nineteenth-century France it led to the scapegoating of the Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus. He was framed and convicted of espionage. This, in turn, led to anti-Semitic riots across France. Eventually, Dreyfus was found to be innocent and the perpetrators punished. But the widespread hurt and fear remained. In the twentieth century, the supposed dual loyalty of the Jews led to their mass extermination at Nazi hands.
Dual loyalty smears haven’t only affected Jews. Why during WWII did the United States imprison innocent Japanese-Americans? When terrorism happens anywhere in the world, why do Americans regard our entire Muslim community as co-conspirators?Looking to make a difference? Consider signing one of these sponsored petitions:
In the former Soviet Union, people were identified by nationality. For example, Ukrainians were Ukrainians, Russians were Russians, and Jews were Jews. The Vindman family’s passports would not have identified them as Ukrainians. They were Jews who lived in Ukraine. But here, they are simply Americans.
American Jews do not consider themselves a separate nationality. Our nationality? American. Yes, we are Jewish. But that is not our nationality. Our flag has thirteen stripes and fifty stars.
Decades ago, that difference in perspective occasioned a relatively heated discussion with my mother and a Belarus-born cousin who visited from the USSR. My cousin commented on his nationality as being Jewish. My mother could not conceive of Judaism as a nationality. She explained that his nationality was Russian, his religion Jewish. Finally, he thundered, “I am not a Russian.” I whispered to Mom, “I don’t think he wants to be Russian.”
Why would he? The Soviets ruthlessly persecuted Jews. And that is the country the Vindmans fled.
In America, Alexander Vindman could live freely. Here, he wouldn’t be persecuted by a Jew-hating government. Here, he could join the military and defend American ideals. His Ukrainian birth would help him further our national security because he could speak their language.
In smearing him as a traitor, the Right appealed to some of the worst American instincts, all boiling down to fear of the Other and flagrant disregard of the truth in order to serve one’s own ends.
We must call this out. Anything less dishonors our country. And ourselves.