President Donald Trump provided clarification following backlash over his comment suggesting that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
The comment, made at the White House on Aug. 20, garnered criticism from Trump’s opponents and various Jewish organizations, including many pro-Democratic Jewish groups. Some of the groups accused the president of weaponizing anti-Semitism for political gain.
While speaking with reporters at the White House on Aug. 21, Trump said Americans who vote for Democrats are “very disloyal to Jewish people” and “very disloyal to Israel.”
“In my opinion, the Democrats have gone very far away from Israel. I cannot understand how they can do that. They don’t want to fund Israel. They want to take away foreign aid to Israel,” he said in response to a question from a reporter.
“They want to do a lot of bad things to Israel. In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you are being very disloyal to Israel. And only weak people would say anything other than that.”
Earlier in the day, Trump criticized Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) over their support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to cut off economic support for Israel.
“Rep Tlaib wants to cut off aid to Israel. This is the new face the of Democrat Party? Read the AOC PLUS 3 statements on their hatred of Jews and Israel. Check out Rep. Omar (the great people of Minnesota won’t stand for this),” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Rep Tlaib wants to cut off aid to Israel. This is the new face the of Democrat Party? Read the AOC PLUS 3 statements on their hatred of Jews and Israel. Check out Rep. Omar (the great people of Minnesota won’t stand for this).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019
According to the BDS movement’s website, it aims to isolate and marginalize Israel by “forcing companies, institutions, and governments to change their policies.” It also calls for people and companies to withdraw support and investments from the country, and calls for the end of military trade and free-trade agreements, business bans with Israeli settlements, and suspension of Israel’s membership in international forums such as United Nations bodies and FIFA.
Trump’s comments come after the Israeli government denied entry to Tlaib and Omar—both of whom have been criticized for pushing an anti-Semitic narrative—from visiting the majority Jewish state while stating that their itinerary “reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”
Omar and Tlaib subsequently held a press conference to publicly condemn Israel’s decision to bar them from entering the country.
“Fortunately, we in the United States have a constructive role to play,” she said. “We give Israel more than $3 billion in aid every year. This is predicated on their being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East, but denying visit to duly elected members of congress is not consistent with being an ally and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy.
“We must be asking, as Israel’s ally, the Netanyahu government stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are going to give them aid.”
In his remarks on Aug. 20, Trump said there will be no changes to foreign aid for Israel in response to Omar’s suggestion.
“I would not cut off aid to Israel. And I can’t even believe that we’re having this conversation,” Trump said.
“I mean, Omar is a disaster for Jewish people. I can’t imagine, if she has any Jewish people in her district, that they could possibly vote for her.”
He also rejected claims that he influenced Israel’s decision to bar Omar and Tlaib after he posted a tweet expressing support for it.
“That’s a decision of Israel. That’s not—a lot of people are saying that was my decision. That’s a decision of Israel,” Trump said.
“They can let them in if they want, but I don’t think they want to. When you read the things that they’ve said about Israel—how bad. And if you look at their itinerary before they found out—you take a look at their itinerary, that was all going to be a propaganda tour against Israel.
“I don’t blame Israel for doing what they did. I have nothing to do with it. But I don’t blame them for doing what they did. I think it would’ve been very bad to let them in, including the four—I’m talking about all four—but these two that wanted to get in: Omar and Tlaib.
“And I think it would be a very bad thing for Israel, but Israel has to do what they want to do.”