Jewish and pro-Israel groups largely condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt on Wednesday to clarify his comments from the previous day, which insinuated that Jews who vote for a Democrat either have a “total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
While many Jewish groups condemn Trump’s ‘disloyalty’ remark, others call into question Democratic silence on Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
On Wednesday, Trump sought to clarify his remarks and told reporters, “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel.”
The statement came after Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who have made past antisemitic remarks, and were barred last week from entering Israel due to their support of the anti-Israel BDS movement, sharply criticized the Jewish state for their decision. Omar called into question U.S. aid to Israel, while Tlaib expressed grief over not being able to visit her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank. Israel did permit Tlaib to enter the country to see her grandmother as long as she promised not to engage in BDS activity. After initially requesting to enter, she changed her decision and declined to go.
Nevertheless, many mainstream Jewish and pro-Israel groups did not accept Trump’s clarification, despite the president’s view that the Democratic Party had not done enough to confront antisemitism by Omar and Tlaib.
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), told JNS Trump’s choice of words was not the best, but had been clarified.
“This clearly was not the best choice of language, and the unfortunate implication was that Jews do not have the same democratic rights to participate in the electoral process as any other Americans. Also without saying who Jews who vote democrat are disloyal to, it sounded very much like there were charges of dual loyalty, (until the President later clarified that they were being disloyal to the state of Israel and to the Jewish people”, she said.
However, Stern said that Trump’s statement need to be put into context and only came after Omar and Tlaib had accused Israel of “outrageous allegations” and that “other members of the Democratic Party should have immediately condemned these statements, but there were none.”
“It is profoundly disturbing that many of the Democratic contenders for the presidency are questioning America’s support for Israel, and it is unquestionably true that the Trump administration has done a tremendous amount for the Jewish state.”
Other groups came to Trump’s defense, arguing that the real focus needs to be on the anti-Israel and antisemitic remarks of Tlaib and Omar.
“We take the president seriously, not literally. President Trump is pointing out the obvious: for those who care about Israel, the position of many elected Democrats has become anti-Israel,” tweeted RJC. “When Tlaib and Omar talk loyalty, they’re questioning American Jews’ loyalty to the United States. President Trump is talking about caring about the survival of the Jewish state.”
When Tlaib and Omar talk loyalty, they’re questioning American Jews’ loyalty to the United States. President Trump is talking about caring about the survival of the Jewish state. 2/2
— RJC (@RJC) August 21, 2019
The National Council of Young Israel echoed RJC’s sentiment.
“The comments of President Trump are completely different then the antisemitic comments of Omar and Tlaib,” NCYI president Farley Weiss told JNS. “Trump believes Jews should care about and prioritize in their voting support for the only Jewish state, the State of Israel. He feels that he is a strong supporter of Israel, and as a result, Jewish voters should switch to support him. We look at the intent of his comment and his actions, which speaks louder than people attempting to interpret his words in the most negative light.”
Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told i24 News on Wednesday, “I’m worried that we’re not having the strong support in the Democratic Party for Israel that used to be there five years and 10 years ago, and this is of great concern. I know there are many Democrats who are very supportive of Israel, but they become frightened to be overtly supportive because of this far move to the left by these people.”