Trump comments on Jews who vote for Democrats draw outrage

New York — Former President Donald Trump on Monday charged that Jews who vote for Democrats “hate Israel” and hate “their religion,” igniting a firestorm of criticism from the White House and Jewish leaders.

Trump, in an interview, had been asked about Democrats’ growing criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the war in Gaza as the civilian death toll continues to mount.

“I actually think they hate Israel,” Trump responded to his former aide, Sebastian Gorka. “I think they hate Israel. And the Democrat party hates Israel.”

Trump, who last week became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, went on to charge that, “Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion. They hate everything about Israel and they should be ashamed of themselves because Israel will be destroyed.”

The comments sparked immediate backlash from the White House, President Biden’s campaign and Jewish leaders.

The vast majority of Jewish Americans identify as Democrats, but Trump has often accused them of disloyalty, perpetuating what critics say is an antisemitic trope.

At the White House, spokesperson Andrew Bates cast the comments as “vile and unhinged Antisemitic rhetoric” without mentioning Trump by name.

“As Antisemitic crimes and acts of hate have increased across the world – among them the deadliest attack committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust – leaders have an obligation to call hate what it is and bring Americans together against it,” he said. “There is no justification for spreading toxic, false stereotypes that threaten fellow citizens. None.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign said, “The only person who should be ashamed here is Donald Trump.”

“Trump is going to lose again this November because Americans are sick of his hateful resentment, personal attacks, and extreme agenda,” said spokesman James Singer.

Jonathan Greenblatt, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, said, “Accusing Jews of hating their religion because they might vote for a particular party is defamatory & patently false.”

“Serious leaders who care about the historic US-Israel alliance should focus on strengthening, rather than unraveling, bipartisan support for the State of Israel,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said, “Another day, another depraved antisemitic screed from Donald Trump, who has repeatedly vilified the overwhelming majority of American Jews. He first called us ‘uninformed or disloyal’ in 2019 and essentially repeated it today. The feeling is mutual.”

Trump’s comments come as Mr. Biden has been facing mounting pressure from the progressive wing of his party over his administration’s support for Israel in its retaliatory offensive in Gaza. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.

While Mr. Biden continues to back Israel’s right to defend itself, he has increasingly criticized Netanyahu. After his State of the Union address, he said he needed to have a “come to Jesus” conversation with the Israeli leader. He has also accused Netanyahu of “hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” saying, “he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken.”

The president and Netanyahu spoke on Monday for the first time in more than a month. The White House says Mr. Biden “reiterated his deep concerns about the prospect of Israel conducting a major ground operation in Rafah, where more than one million displaced civilians are currently seeking shelter after fleeing fighting in the north.” Netanyahu also agreed to send a team of Israeli officials to Washington to discuss with Biden administration officials a prospective Rafah operation, according to White House and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Trump took particular issue with recent comments from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the country’s highest-ranking Jewish official. In a speech last week, Schumer sharply criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza, warning that the civilian toll was damaging Israel’s standing around the world. He also called for Israel to hold new elections.

While the White House formally distanced itself from Schumer’s comments, the Democratic leader and key ally was voicing an opinion increasingly held across Mr. Biden’s administration.

Schumer – whom Trump accused of being “very anti-Israel now” – responded by accusing Trump of “making highly partisan and hateful rants.”

“To make Israel a partisan issue only hurts Israel and the US-Israeli relationship,” he wrote on X.

The Pew Research Center reported in 2021 that Jews are “among the most consistently liberal and Democratic groups in the U.S.,” with 7 in 10 Jewish adults identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic Party. In 2020, it found that nearly three-quarters of American Jews disapproved of Trump’s performance as president, with just 27% rating him positively.

Americans have also increasingly soured on Israel’s military operation in Gaza, according to surveys from The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In January, 50% of U.S. adults said the military response from Israel in the Gaza Strip had gone too far, up from 40% in November.

That number was higher among Democrats, 6 in 10 of whom said the same thing in both surveys.

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