President Donald Trump doubled down Wednesday on his recent spate of offensive comments about Jews and Israel, quoting Wayne Allyn Root, a right-wing conspiracy theorist, who called him the “King of Israel.” But, so far, the same members of Congress who led the charge for a resolution condemning anti-Semitism after a tweet by a freshman congresswoman have not taken up the same cause this time.
“Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words. “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....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019
Root converted to Christianity from Judaism and his full quote included the claim that, “Jewish people love (Trump)... like he is the second coming of God,” which would be theologically offensive to any actual believing Jew. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait explained, “Root is taking the traditional complaint that Christians make against Jews — Why are you stiff-necked people forsaking your Lord and Savior? — and substituting Trump himself for the role of the Messiah.” Also, the phrase “Second Coming” is used by evangelical Christians to invoke Jesus Christ’s future return, in which true Christian believers will be raptured up to Heaven and Jews who have not converted will die en masse. So, it’s a sensitive subject.
This comes just one day after Trump told journalists at a photo-op that any Jews who vote Democratic are disloyal to Israel on Tuesday. “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty," Trump said. The majority of American Jews consistently vote Democratic, including upwards of 70% who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
It was unclear at first whom or what Trump was accusing Jewish Democrats of disloyalty to: the United States, their religion or Israel. Regardless, it clearly echoed the familiar anti-Semitic trope that Jewish people’s first loyalty is to Israel rather than their own home country. Trump has made similar comments before, including referring to Israel as “your country” when talking to an audience of American Jews.
Talking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the president clarified just whom he thinks Jews who vote Democratic are disloyal to. “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel,” Trump said.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called the president out for repeating an anti-Semitic trope on Wednesday.
To my fellow American Jews, particularly those who support @realDonaldTrump: When he uses a trope that’s been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences, he is encouraging—wittingly or unwittingly—anti-Semites throughout the country and world. Enough. https://t.co/dn1ug4w20Z— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 21, 2019
Just last week, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were barred from entering Israel, following an unprecedented tweet from the president, asking that they not be permitted to enter the Jewish state, sparking widespread outrage.
It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
In March, New York Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel were very vocal in their condemnation of remarks made by Omar about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby in American politics, which were widely criticized and perceived by many as anti-Semitic.
Omar also complained of “people (who) push for allegiance to a foreign country,” which drew intense rebukes from Engel and Lowey. Engel accused Omar of a “vile anti-Semitic slur" and his staff spent the following weekend drafting a resolution in response. On March 7, an Anti-Hate House Resolution was introduced to condemn anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry of all kinds. The House passed the resolution on the same day, in a 407-23 vote.
No such resolution has been introduced in response to Trump’s remarks this week. City & State reached out to Lowey’s and Engel’s offices to see if they had plans to issue a resolution regarding Trump’s remarks, but neither office had knowledge of any plans to do so.
“Jewish voters prioritize different issues and support for political parties is not universal,” Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who voted against the Anti-Hate resolution for not singling out Omar by name, said in a statement emailed to City & State Wednesday evening, that neither condemned nor applauded Trump’s comments. “Jewish voters prioritize different issues and support for political parties is not universal.”
Zeldin also took to Twitter to defend Trump, whom the congressman said “loves the Jewish people & the US-Israel alliance.”
The President loves the Jewish people & the US-Israel alliance. 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 & much more.— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) August 21, 2019
The congressman also said that Trump is “not anti-Semitic,” then took aim at Tlaib and Omar for being “harmful & hateful towards Jews & Israel.”
POTUS isn’t anti-Semitic. Tlaib/Omar’s hearts & policies have been so harmful & hateful towards Jews & Israel while POTUS’ policies are w love & support to Jews & Israel. For ppl to be silent or even backup Omar/Tlaib’s hate & call POTUS anti-Semitic is hypocritical & destructive— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) August 22, 2019
Lowey and Engel both put out statements Wednesday, calling out Trump’s comments regarding his insinuation that Democratic voters are “disloyal.” Engel has yet to say anything on the subject.
“The president’s charge that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are disloyal plays off a longtime anti-Semitic trope,” Lowey’s statement said. “His rhetoric has enabled white supremacy, hate, racism and even violence. It is unconscionable that the U.S. President stokes such dangerous division.”
“The President’s comments maligned Jewish Americans who don’t share his political beliefs,” Engel’s statement said, “suggesting loyalty tropes that have a painful history for the Jewish people and have been used as a justification for violence and persecution.”
“It won’t surprise anybody that I have disagreements with Representatives Omar and Tlaib when it comes to Israel,” Engel said in his statement. “I probably wouldn’t have planned the same trip they did. But as I said to Ambassador Dermer yesterday, it’s a mistake for the Israeli government to bar entry of members of Congress into Israel.” Engel also brushed off Republican demands that Omar be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which he chairs.
Nonetheless it is curious that New York Democrats have held as it suggests a freshman congresswoman to higher standards than a sitting president.
Update: This post was updated to reflect Rep. Lee Zeldin and Eliot Engel's comments.