‘Antisemitic and insulting’: White House condemns Trump’s warning to American Jews

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WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday sharply condemned former President Donald Trump’s ominous warning to American Jews, which he made in a social media post the day before.

“U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel — before it is too late!” Trump wrote in a Sunday post on Truth Social, the ex-president’s Twitter-like social media network. Trump also praised evangelical Christians for supporting his record on Israel more “than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S.”

The remarks were widely denounced by Jewish leaders and many others for invoking the antisemitic “dual loyalty” canard alleging that, wherever they live, Jews harbor a secret allegiance to Israel. Others also criticized Trump for lecturing American Jews on their own religious obligations.

On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added the Biden administration to the chorus of critics.

Karine Jean-Pierre
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the White House on Monday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

“Donald Trump's comments were antisemitic and insulting both to Jews and our Israeli allies,” she said in response to a reporter’s question. Jean-Pierre also charged that Trump had consistently “aligned with extremist and antisemitic figures. And it should be called out.”

Separately, Jean-Pierre also announced that Israeli president Isaac Herzog would visit Biden in Washington on Oct. 26. In a subsequent statement, she said the visit would serve to reaffirm “the enduring partnership and friendship” between the two nations.

During his presidency, Trump seemed to solidify that U.S.-Israeli friendship by moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and fostering diplomatic ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors, in particular a series of agreements known as the Abraham Accords.

Yet he also has a complicated relationship with American Jews. On the one hand, his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner, who served as one of Trump’s top advisers in the White House. During their time in Washington, the couple’s children attended Jewish schools.

At the same time, Trump deployed the kind of nativist, conspiratorial rhetoric that experts say traditionally emboldens antisemites. Several of his advisers, including Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, were criticized for rhetoric and writing that seemed to reference classic anti-Jewish tropes about an all-powerful cabal manipulating international affairs.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump at a “Save America” rally in Warren, Mich., Oct. 1. (Emily Elconin/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Sunday’s post from the former president appeared to be occasioned by his desire for recognition. “No President has done more for Israel than I have,” he wrote. (Even some of Trump’s more ardent fans in Israel may concede that honor belongs instead to Harry Truman, whose recognition of the fledgling Jewish state after World War II proved crucial to its survival.)

Although most American Jews do support the state of Israel, that support is hardly uniform — or automatic. Although antisemitism can emanate from anywhere on the political spectrum, it is white supremacists who most frequently suspect American Jews of taking their orders from Israel.

Such unfounded fears recall the anti-Catholic sentiment in 1960 that held that then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy would take his cues from the Vatican, were he to win the White House.