President Trump said Tuesday that Jews voting for Democrats were ignorant or disloyal.
Trump was asked whether the United States should reconsider its policies toward Israel after the country refused to allow two U.S. Muslim congressmen in.
“Any Jewish people who vote for a Democrat, I think show a total lack of knowledge or a great lack of disloyalty,” Trump said. It was unclear what he meant by “disloyalty,” and whether it was Israel, the United States or its faith.
Although Trump has many prominent Jewish supporters and won in 2016 in some heavily orthodox neighbourhoods in New York City, most American Jews have supported Democrats for generations and continue to do so.
Trump has spent much of 2019 trying to paint the Democratic Party as anti-Semitic, fighting with two American Muslim congressmen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both first-year Democrats whom the Netanyahu’s government denied them entry, at Trump’s insistence, when they tried to visit the West Bank. Tlaib was eventually granted a humanitarian exemption to visit her family, but she rejected him and said the conditions Israel imposed were unacceptable.
“The Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so dependent on my signature of a letter, reflecting how undemocratic and fearful of the truth I would reveal my journey,” Tlaib said in a statement.
According to a Pew Research study, 79 percent of Jewish voters went by Democrats in the 2018 by-election. Pew said this number has varied over the years, from 87 per cent in 2006 to 66 per cent in 2014. In the presidential election, 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 president himself has trafficked accusations of “double loyalty,” referring Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu as “his prime minister” when he spoke at a Conference of Americans-Jews and called Israel “his country” at a celebration of “his country” Hanukkah from the White House. Some Jews blamed Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric for inspiring a terrorist attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in which 11 people were killed last year.
While Trump and several Republicans have accused congressmen of being anti-Semitic, IfNotNow, a progressive Jewish group that has supported both Tlaib and Omar, sees the president as the one spreading hate.
“American Jews see through Trump’s lies,” Emily Mayer, a spokesman for IfNotNow, said in a statement to Yahoo News. “We saw how his 2016 campaign regularly used anti-Semitic tropes and inspired the rise of white nationalism. We are still watching as it casts anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Oval Office, inspiring mass violence and putting so many Americans, including our community, in real danger.
“Rashida has been one of the strongest allies of the Jewish people,” Mayer added. “Trump is again cynically arming the pain of our community to set aside legitimate criticism of Israel’s human rights violations.”
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner and her sons are Jewish. Trump has called himself “the least anti-Semitic person I’ve ever seen.”