President Donald Trump on Wednesday doubled down on referring to Jews who vote for Democrats as "very disloyal" to Israel, invoking a dual loyalty trope widely viewed as anti-Semitic.
“In my opinion, the Democrats have gone very far away from Israel. I cannot understand how they can do that,” Trump told reporters from the White House South Lawn on Wednesday. “They don’t want to fund Israel. They want to take away foreign aid to Israel. They want to do a lot of bad things to Israel. In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel."
Trump was responding to comments he made Tuesday, in which he said that "any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat" shows "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."
Both remarks were sparked by a suggestion from Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., that the U.S. might want to reconsider how much it pays Israel in aid after she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., were barred from entering the country last week.
"I can't even believe that we're having this conversation," Trump fumed on Tuesday. "Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this — even three years ago — of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people. I can't believe we're even having this conversation."
The first Muslim women elected to Congress, Omar and Tlaib have been critical of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians. The Israeli government announced it would not allow the two into the country for a planned trip because of their support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Trump said he's "been responsible for a lot of good things for Israel" and again condemned the quartet of progressive freshmen women lawmakers, Tlaib, Omar, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. He added that "only weak people" would contest his point that Jews were being disloyal for voting for Democrats.
Asked if his comments were anti-Semitic, Trump told a reporter Wednesday that "it's only anti-Semitic in your head."
His insistence that Jews must be loyal to Israel is widely considered to be an anti-Semitic stereotype, one that says American Jews have a higher allegiance to a country other than the U.S. Omar was the target of similar criticism in February after she suggested there was a "political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country." She later apologized for the comments.
"Let’s be clear: What @POTUS said was #antiSemitic," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted Wednesday. "The charge of disloyalty or dual loyalty has been used against Jews for centuries. Almost a year after the #Pittsburgh shooting, as #antiSemitism continues to rise, it’s bewildering that we still need to have this conversation."
Meanwhile, Rabbis Marvin Hier, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's founder and president, and Abraham Cooper, the center's associate dean and director of global social action, said in a statement that "the overwhelming majority of American Jews, irrespective of party affiliation, unequivocally support the State of Israel."
"We also affirm that this bipartisan support is absolutely essential to the future well being and security of the Jewish State," they continued. "To say otherwise, and depend only on one party — particularly in these turbulent times of increased hate and anti-Semitism — weakens and divides the most important Jewish community in the Diaspora."
Trump's commentary this week was not the first time he has suggested American Jews and Israeli politics must be in agreement.
“I stood with your prime minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he said in April at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting.
Exit polls from 2016 showed that 71 percent of voters who identified as Jewish voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while 23 percent voted for Trump. That margin grew wider between the Democratic and Republican vote in the 2018 midterms, with exit polls showing that 79 percent of Jewish voters reported choosing Democratic House candidates, while just 17 percent chose Republicans.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump had promoted on his Twitter page commentary from conservative radio host and noted conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root, who said on Newsmax that Trump is the best U.S. president for Israel "in the history of the world" and "the Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel."
"They love him like he is the second coming of God ... but American Jews don’t know him or like him," Trump's tweeting of Root's comments continued. "They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense!"
Then, while speaking to reporters on Wednesday about his efforts to take on China's trade practices, Trump pointed at the sky and said, "I am the chosen one."