Trump accused of antisemitism for saying Jewish Democrats hate their religion and Israel


Former U.S. 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: “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 Joe 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.

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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.”

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 spokesperson 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.

Few specific comments about the war

Trump’s comments come as 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 Biden continues to back Israel’s right to defend itself, he has increasingly criticized Netanyahu. After his state of the union speech, 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.”

Two older men in suits embrace on an airport tarmac as others look on.
U.S. President Joe Biden embraces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport on Oct. 18. In recent weeks, the Biden administration has increased its public criticism over Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

As with the ongoing war in Ukraine, Trump has communicated a generalized desire to see an end to hostilities while offering few substantive comments since announcing another campaign for the White House as to what approach he would take as president in bringing about that result.

“I think you have to finish it up, and do it quickly and get back to the world of peace,” Trump said in an interview the past weekend with Fox News, when asked what advice he would give Netanyahu.

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. Schumer also called for Israel to hold new elections.

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 per cent rating him positively.

Trump as president was a boisterous supporter of Israel, with his administration reversing decades of U.S. policy concerning Israel’s claims to land in the West Bank. The Trump administration also championed pacts between Israel and four Arab states that helped normalize realizations.

But his statements and associations have raised questions before. In late 2022, he professed ignorance concerning the background of Nick Fuentes — a far-right activist who has spread antisemitic content online — after hosting Fuentes and Kanye West for a dinner at his Florida resort.

Trump also engendered criticism last September after posting on his Truth Social account during Rosh Hashanah, “Just a quick reminder for liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel because you believed false narratives! Let’s hope you learned from your mistake & make better choices moving forward! Happy New Year.”

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