January 17, 2020

Jewish Groups Respond to Trump’s IAC Speech

HOLLYWOOD, FL - DECEMBER 07: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a homecoming campaign rally at The Diplomat Conference Center for the Israeli-American Council Summit on December 7, 2019 in Hollywood, Florida. President Trump continues to campaign for re-election in the 2020 presidential race. (Photo by Saul Martinez/Getty Images)

A multitude of Jewish groups issued public comments on President Donald Trump’s Dec. 7 speech at the Israeli-American Council National Summit in Florida regarding his remarks on a wealth tax and Jewish support for Israel.

Trump’s speech centered on condemning anti-Semitism and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as well as touting his administration’s policies toward Israel; he also used the opportunity to mock Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a potential opponent in the 2020 election.

“You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that,” Trump said. “You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax.”

Trump also said that more people in the U.S. need to love Israel, including some Jews.

“You have people that are Jewish people, that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough,” Trump said. “You know that.”

Various Jewish groups criticized Trump’s wealth tax comment and his contention that some Jews don’t love Israel enough.

“While important @POTUS called out BDS and #antiSemitism, it’s essentially undone by his own trafficking of #antiSemitic tropes: questioning American Jews’ loyalty to Israel and asserting that Jewish voters only care about their wealth,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “Instead of speaking singularly about hate, he attacked [Democrats]. While some trends on the left are incredibly problematic, that’s no excuse to discount/ignore hateful trends on the extreme right that led to the murder of Jews in Pittsburgh & Poway; Latinos in #ElPaso; and others.”

The American Jewish Committee similarly tweeted, “Dear @POTUS – Much as we appreciate your unwavering support for Israel, surely there must be a better way to appeal to American Jewish voters, as you just did in Florida, than by money references that feed age-old and ugly stereotypes. Let’s stay off that mine-infested road.”

Jewish Democratic Council of America Executive Director Halie Soifer said in a statement Trump’s comments “vile and bigoted for using “anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal of Israel.”

The Progressive Zionists of California wrote in a Facebook post that Trump’s wealth tax remark was “repeating an anti-Semitic stereotype used to murder Jews.”

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks, on the other hand, defended the president’s remarks on Twitter, stating: “Trump discusses the Democrat’s threat to the current economic boom and their plans to raise taxes at every political speech he gives!”

Coalition for Jewish Values Managing Director Rabbi Yaakov Menken defended the president saying that some Jews don’t love Israel enough, writing in a Dec. 9 op-ed for The Daily Wire that less than 40% of American Jews “strongly agree that ‘caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.’” 

He later added, “The majority of Israeli Jews descend from families that were violently driven from their homes across the Arab world. They know that this had nothing to do with occupation, and everything to do with their being Jews. When American Jews endorse the idea that it is they who are perpetrating ethnic cleansing and occupation, rather than being its victims, these Israeli Jews take this slander personally — and appreciate an American president who supports their rights all the more.”

IAC CEO and Co-Founder Shoham Nicolet said in a statement, “We heard the President of the United States speaking in front of over 4,300 people at the IAC annual Summit, loud and clear against anti-Semitism, BDS, and anti-Zionism on campus and in America. We will continue to work tirelessly to strengthen the historic and strategic alliance between the State of Israel and the United States. It was a momentous day for our organization, the Israeli-American community and the pro-Israel community in the United States.”