British Jewish leaders have slammed Donald Trump for saying Jewish Americans who vote Democrat were “disloyal” to Israel, aping a classic antisemitic trope.
The US president’s crass remarks came during a long rant against two Democratic Congresswomen who were banned from entering Israel earlier this month, during which he mocked one of the women’s upset.
Throughout recent history, Jews living in the Diaspora have been accused of being more loyal to Israel than to the country in which they live. Feeding off this is the misplaced perception that Jews’ only voting consideration is Israel.
On Tuesday Trump said Jewish Americans voting for his political rivals were showing “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty”.
The surprise statement came during the president’s latest tirade against Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both sympathise with the Palestinians and were denied entry to Israel this month.
Tlaib was later offered entry on “compassionate grounds” to visit her Palestinian grandmother in the West Bank, but she refused. They later accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to “hide the cruelty of the occupation”.
On Tuesday, Trump hit back, saying: “You should see the horrible things Tlaib has said about Israel… Omar is a disaster for Jewish people. I can’t imagine if she had Jewish people in her district that they could possibly vote for her.”
Trump mocked Tlaib for getting upset about the situation, saying: “I don’t buy it… She grandstanded… It was all going to be a propaganda tour against Israel, so I don’t blame Israel for doing what they did [banning Tlaib and Omar].”
In reference to how the Democrats have defended criticism of Israel from Omar and Tlaib, Trump asked: “Where have they gone, defending these two people over Israel? I think any Jewish people who vote Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl reacted with horror to Trump’s comments, saying: “Whatever one thinks of the antics of certain Democrat politicians, to single out Jewish voters and accuse them of the ancient slur of ‘disloyalty’ – when antisemitic violence is on the rise – is reckless.”
She added that his remarks “fly in the face of President Trump’s professed strong stance against anti-Jewish hate,” adding: “American Jews – like British Jews – will vote for candidates from any party that best represent them on the full spectrum of issues, from healthcare and education, to fighting antisemitism.”
Omar has also previously been accused of inferring Jewish dual loyalty, suggesting that money from pro-Israel lobbying influences pro-Israel policies initiated by the US Congress, tweeting: “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” She later apologised.