November 11, 2019

Trump Says Jews Who Vote Democrat Show ‘Either a Total Lack of Knowledge or Great Disloyalty’

U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions from reporters sitting in front of a portrait of former U.S. President George Washington as he meets with Romania's President Klaus Iohannis in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump said that Jews who vote for members of the Democratic Party show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” on Aug. 20.

Trump made the aforementioned comments in response to a question from a reporter about Israel’s decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering the country. He brought up Omar and Tlaib’s Aug. 19 press conference call to make United States aid to Israel conditional on the Israeli government ceasing building settlements.

Where has the Democratic Party gone?” Trump said. “Where have they gone, where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Myriad Jewish groups weighed in.

“It’s unclear who @POTUS is claiming Jews would be ‘disloyal’ to, but charges of disloyalty have long been used to attack Jews,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “As we’ve said before, it’s possible to engage in the democratic process w/o these claims. It’s long overdue to stop using Jews as a political football.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris tweeted that Trump’s remarks were “outrageous. This is a free country. Jews aren’t a monolithic bloc, nor single-issue voters. Some will vote Democratic, others Republican. As Americans, that’s their right. Please keep loyalty out of it.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Trump’s remarks were “gruff” and “rough” but “it doesn’t smack of dual loyalty. I think it’s asking the question, in his view, ‘If you care about Israel, how can you vote the party that includes Omar, Tlaib, etc.?’”

He added that “it’s not been a great week” for those hoping to maintain the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and called for members of the Jewish community to take it upon themselves to “find some rediscovered civility” in political dialogue.

“If we’re looking for leadership in that arena from our elected officials, [we’re] going to be looking a long time,” Cooper said.

Jewish Democratic Council of America Executive Director Halie Soifer said in a statement, “If this is about Israel, then Trump is repeating a dual loyalty claim, which is a form of anti-Semitism. If this is about Jews being ‘loyal’ to him, then Trump needs a reality check.”

Democratic Majority for Israel Co-Chair Ann Lewis and CEO Mark Mellman similarly said in a statement, “Donald Trump has now attacked three quarters of American Jews who dare to disagree with him politically using one of the most dangerous, deadly accusations Jews have faced over the years.  False charges of disloyalty over the centuries have led to Jews being murdered, jailed and tortured. This kind of cruel rhetoric inflames anti-Semitic passions and can lead to violence.”

Jewish Zionist and Progressive group Zioness also went to Facebook to share that “We don’t have loyalty oaths in democracies. People who “love the Jews” don’t accuse us of dual loyalty. People who “love the Jews” don’t categorize us as ‘good Jews’ or ‘bad Jews.’ People who ‘love the Jews’ don’t call us stupid. Anti-Semites do these things. Once again, Donald Trump wantonly attempts to weaponize our identities—American, progressive, Jewish and Zionist.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition defended Trump’s remarks, tweeting, “President Trump is right, it shows a great deal of disloyalty to oneself to defend a party that protects/emboldens people that hate you for your religion. The @GOP, when rarely confronted w/anti-Semitism of elected members always acts swiftly and decisively to punish and remove.”