When asked by a reporter on the White House lawn Wednesday afternoon if his comments were anti-Semitic, Trump dismissed the criticism.
“No, no, no. It’s only in your head. It’s only anti-Semitic in your head,” said Trump, pointing to the reporter.
“Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said on Tuesday. In response to a question Wednesday, he clarified that the “disloyalty” he meant was to Israel and fellow Jews.
“If you vote for a Democrat, you’re very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people,” he said.
“[President Trump] made it clear he thinks Jews have a dual loyalty to Israel,” wrote Jonathan Greenblatt, president of the Anti-Defamation League, on Twitter after Trump’s comments Wednesday. “This anti-Semitic trope has been used to persecute Jews for centuries & it’s unacceptable to promote it. He should apologize immediately.”
“I have been very clear. And I think it’s imperative that we all be clear that anti-Semitism should be condemned wherever it comes from,” Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said on CNN Tuesday evening. “The charge that somehow you are being disloyal to their government, that they’re not really good Jews. I had a meeting with a group of veterans just yesterday, and many of them are Jews, and many of them voted for me. The fact is that just like my father, who served our country, just like these brave veterans that I was with yesterday, when they vote for Democrats because that’s who they believe in, that’s what they want, that’s how they choose to exercise their right to vote, that’s what they do. And the president calls them out and suggests they’re disloyal Americans? How dare he?”
The president has often spoken of and to American Jews as if they were also citizens of Israel. Addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas earlier this year, he referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister,” earning a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League. He called Israel “your country” at a White House Hanukkah celebration. His anti-immigrant rhetoric was blamed by some Jews for inspiring a terror attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in which 11 people died last year.
Under Israel’s “law of return,” Jews from anywhere in the world have the right to immigrate and become Israeli citizens, but unless they do they are considered citizens of their own countries.
In his Wednesday remarks, Trump continued his attacks on freshman Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Over the past few months, Trump has attempted to paint the Democratic Party as anti-Semitic by picking fights with the four progressive congresswomen. Tlaib and Omar are Muslim and vocal champions of the Palestinians. Omar was criticized earlier this year for dual loyalty comments.
“If you look at what Tlaib, Omar, Cortez, if you look at these people: AOC plus four, or plus three, if you look at what they say, they are so bad for Israel,” said Trump on Wednesday. “They are so bad for Jewish people.”
Both Tlaib and Omar were denied entry to the West Bank by the Netanyahu government earlier this month, at Trump’s insistence. Tlaib was eventually granted a humanitarian waiver to visit family, but she declined, saying the conditions Israel attached were unacceptable. Tlaib and Omar have suggested that the U.S. reduce its aid to Israel since the country was unwilling to let two elected representatives visit.
Although Trump has many prominent Jewish supporters and won in 2016 in some heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of New York City, the majority of American Jews have supported Democrats for generations and continue to do so. According to a Pew Research study, 79 percent of Jewish voters went for Democrats in the 2018 midterms. Pew said this number has varied over the years, from 87 percent in 2006 to 66 percent in 2014. In presidential races, the Jewish vote since 2000 has ranged from 69 percent to 79 percent for Democrats, with Hillary Clinton getting 71 percent against Trump in the 2016 race.
The Republican Jewish Coalition defended Trump Wednesday after his latest comments.
“We take the President seriously, not literally,” wrote the organization on Twitter. “President Trump is pointing out the obvious: for those who care about Israel, the position of many elected Democrats has become anti-Israel. When Tlaib and Omar talk loyalty, they’re questioning American Jews’ loyalty to the United States. President Trump is talking about caring about the survival of the Jewish state.”
Of the 36 Jewish senators and representatives in Congress, all but two are Democrats.
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