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U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown municipal airport en route to Washington after a weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., August 4, 2019. .(Photo by: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS)
Trump clarifies: I meant Jews are disloyal to Israel, not the US
President again attacks Jews who vote Democratic; Rivlin: Support not political
WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump doubled down on Wednesday over tweets he posted on Tuesday questioning the loyalty of Jews who vote Democratic, adding fuel to an already incendiary political uproar.

Trump told reporters at the Oval Office on Tuesday that Jews who vote for Democrats “shows either total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Clarifying his remarks on Wednesday, Trump denied his comments were racist 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 remarks on both days drew sharp criticism and anger from the American Jewish community, as the leading organizations denounced his statements on Jewish loyalty one after the other. The Republican Jewish Coalition, on the other hand, defended the president’s remarks.

While there was no reaction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “about the importance of strong relations between the State of Israel and the United States of America.”

According to a readout from Rivlin’s office, the president told Pelosi: “The relationship between the State of Israel and the United States is a link between peoples, which relies on historical ties, deep and strong friendships and shared values that are not dependent on the relationship with one particular party.”

The president also noted in his conversation with Pelosi that “we must keep the State of Israel above political disputes, and make every effort to ensure that support for Israel does not become a political issue. The elections we hold give voice to the will of our citizens. We agree with the opinions of some, we speak out against the opinions of others, but we respect the wishes of each of our peoples.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was among those who reacted harshly, posting a tweet to American Jews – “particularly those who support Donald Trump” – saying: “When he uses a trope that’s been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences, he is encouraging – wittingly or unwittingly – antisemites throughout the country and world. Enough.”
Many members of Congress had criticized the president on Tuesday.

“The president accused most American Jews of being disloyal,” Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida told CNN. “That’s not just deeply and personally offensive, it’s extremely dangerous. Is he suggesting American Jews are disloyal to him? To our country? Everyone who cares about our democracy must condemn these outrageous comments.”

Senator Jackie Rosen of Nevada said that “questioning the loyalty of American Jews is antisemitic. This is unacceptable, and it’s something we must call out and confront head-on.”

Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, wrote that “it is unconscionable that the US president stokes such dangerous division. The charge that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are disloyal plays off a longtime antisemitic trope. His rhetoric has enabled white supremacy, hate, racism, and violence.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida tweeted that “President Trump is talking and acting like a white nationalist and politicizing Israel. Both are dangerous and destructive. Trump cannot plead ignorance at how ‘loyalty’ has been used to attack Jews over the centuries. This must stop.”

Former vice president and Democratic hopeful Joe Biden also criticized Trump remarks, calling them “insulting and inexcusable – just like [his] previous dual-loyalty insinuations. Stop dividing Americans and disparaging your fellow citizens. It may not be beneath you, but it is beneath the office you hold.”

On the Republican side of the aisle, Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York defended the president’s record on Israel and the Jewish community.

“The president loves the Jewish people & the US-Israel alliance,” he tweeted. “He opposes BDS, moved the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, signed the Taylor Force Act into law, withdrew from the fatally flawed Iran Nuclear Deal, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and much more.

“Support for these issues should be bipartisan, but it’s been a rough year with some new House Dems who feel very differently and an activist base siding with them. It’s POTUS’ belief Jews shouldn’t be voting Dem, and he articulated it in a way that stirred debate, controversy, and criticism.

“POTUS has prioritized delivering important victories for the Jewish people and the US-Israel alliance as well as pushing back on the Omar/Tlaib wing of the Dem party that views these issues very differently. He’s a fighter and won’t back down. On these policy priorities, he’s correct.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition also defended Trump’s Tuesday remarks. “President Trump is right; it shows a great deal of disloyalty to oneself to defend a party that protects/emboldens people that hate you for your religion,” the organization tweeted. “The GOP, when rarely confronted with antisemitism of elected members, always acts swiftly and decisively to punish and remove.”

The organization wrote in a second tweet: “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. 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.”

Earlier Wednesday morning, Trump also shared a tweet by Wayne Allyn Root, a conservative radio show host:
“President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world... and the Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel,” Root wrote. “They love him like he is the second coming of God. But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense! But that’s OK if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s good for all Jews, Blacks, Gays, everyone. And importantly, he’s good for everyone in America who wants a job.”

Tweeted Trump, “Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words.”

The president was also asked by reporters about the ongoing saga of US representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and Trump slammed the two for suggesting cutting aid for Israel.

“I would not cut off aid to Israel, and I can’t even believe we are having this conversation,” he said. “Five years ago, the concept of even talking about cutting off aid to Israel because of two people who hate Israel and hate Jewish people – I can’t believe we are having this conversation. Where has the Democratic party gone? Where have they gone where they are defending these two people over the state of Israel? I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – I think it shows either total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

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