Gilad Atzmon

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Is Citizenship a Jewish Issue?

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By Eve Mykytyn 

Aviya Kushner’s piece in The Forward, “Why Trump’s Callous Call to End Birthright Citizenship is a Jewish Issue,” is a bizarre attempt at victimhood especially after a group of Jews have just experienced real victimhood. Mr. Trump has made no secret of his desire to stop illegal immigration from the south, and Jews may rightly be incensed that he is using immigration as a campaign tactic, particularly demonising Hispanics, but Ms Kushner fails to show how this is a Jewish issue rather than an issue for the United States as a whole.

Ms Kushner begins by raising the alarm that Trump has threatened to strip American-born citizens of their citizenship. First, as Matt Flegenheimer and Jonathan Martin point out in the New York Times, the president’s threat rings hollow. Like his promise of a 10% tax reduction, this seems a campaign line with little chance of success.  Second, his threat, although it is difficult to discern its precise terms, did not seem to be meant to apply retroactively. Third, it is generally accepted that the 14th Amendment, although intended to confer citizenship on former slaves, clearly states that citizenship in the United States is given to all born here. The words are clear.  “All persons born or naturalised in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” 

Trump has stated erroneously that no other country grants citizenship by birth, once again dissing our neighbor to the north. He is generally correct however, most countries including all of Europe, do not grant citizenship by place of birth alone. So if  citizenship by place of birth is a problem, it is not uniquely a Jewish problem or even an American problem.

Ms Kushner recites a number of places and times that Jews were denied citizenship and/or expelled. She ends this list  with the confusing line that, “Citizenship also means the right to leave. To flee, life intact. By the late 1930s, it became virtually impossible for Jews to find shelter elsewhere.”  While it is true Jews had trouble finding refuge during World War II, the problem was that citizenship did not protect them. In the context of the holocaust, citizenship was irrelevant. If anything, the Nuremberg Laws stripping Jews of their citizenship, encouraged Jews to find safety elsewhere.

 “President Trump’s comments that he could override the Constitution and remove citizenship, at will, should send alarms throughout the Jewish community…History says so.”  Actually, there may be many reasons to disagree with President Trump, but perhaps the alarm in the Jewish community should come from incorrectly positing themselves as victims.

 

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