In 24 hours, President Donald Trump, whose presidency has emboldened neo-Nazis and who repeatedly plays into anti-Semitic tropes, claimed Jewish people are “disloyal” if they vote for Democrats and tweeted that Israeli Jews view him as the “second coming of God” and the “king of Israel.”
“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump told reporters in response to a question about United State’s financial aid to Israel.
Then on Wednesday morning, he shared a comment from conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root who called Trump the “best president for Israel.” Root is a well-established conspiracy theorist who has not only promoted the Barack Obama birther and Seth Rich conspiracies, but he has also claimed the white nationalist at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally who killed an anti-racism protester was a paid actor.
The president’s remarks are an outgrowth of his larger campaign against two Muslim Democratic congresswomen — Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). He has repeatedly tried to sow discord between the Democratic Party’s Jewish voters and those Muslim representatives, even as he deploys anti-Semitic tropes.
Trump’s reference to disloyalty, for example, played into a well-worn anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about Jewish attachments, as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp has explained. Notably, the last time this conspiracy made headlines, Republicans were calling Omar an anti-Semite for questioning Israel’s political influence in Washington and the politician’s “allegiance” to Israel.
About 80 percent of American Jewish voters cast their ballots for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, according to the Pew Research Center, similar to the 2016 elections, where Hillary Clinton won 74 percent of the Jewish vote.
Trump’s comments prompted widespread condemnation from Democrats Tuesday, including from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is Jewish and running for the Democratic nomination for president.
“Let me say this to the president: I am a proud Jewish person, and I have no concerns about voting Democratic,” Sanders said at a campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa. “And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States.”
Trump is trying to pit Muslim and Jewish people against each other
This is not the first time Trump has called on Jewish people to leave the Democratic Party. His comments stem from a push to vilify Omar and Tlaib, the latter being a Palestinian-American. He has repeatedly said they hate Israel and Jews. Most recently he encouraged Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bar Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel.
Netanyahu blocked Tlaib and Omar from entering Israel last week, citing their support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (a campaign that calls on companies to stop doing business in Israel), forcing the two of them to cancel a planned trip organized by a Palestinian nonprofit. Israel later granted Tlaib permission to visit her grandmother in the West Bank, which she refused.
Democrats condemned Netanyahu’s decision regarding Omar and Tlaib. On the campaign trail, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called Netanyahu’s decision “shameful.” Sanders said it was “a sign of enormous disrespect.” More broadly, Sanders also suggested that the US could leverage the financial aid it gives to Israel to encourage the country to change some of its policies. In 2016, the United States agreed to a $38 billion military aid package for Israel over the next 10 years.
“The United States government gives a whole lot of money to Israel, and I think we can leverage that money to end some of the racism that we have recently seen in Israel,” Sanders said at a campaign event in New Hampshire.
“When he uses a trope that’s been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences, he is encouraging — wittingly or unwittingly — anti-Semites throughout the country and world. Enough,” Schumer tweeted.