Updated 3:15 p.m.
President Trump’s remarks from the Oval Office on Tuesday, in which he claimed that Jews who voted for Democrats showed “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” were condemned by a variety of Jewish figures and organizations.
But most of them declined to explicitly call Trump’s language “anti-Semitic.”
Many Jewish organizational leaders said that the “disloyalty” language echoed the anti-Semitic trope that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own countries. But most didn’t specifically use the “A” word at all.
For example, American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called Trump’s remarks “inappropriate, unwelcome, and downright dangerous.” But in March, after Rep. Ilhan Omar said that she wanted “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Harris was much more direct: It was “anti-Semitism, plain and simple,” he tweeted.
AJC was hardly the only organization to respond in such a manner to Trump - condemning his language without explicitly calling it anti-Semitic.
Democratic Majority for Israel co-chair Ann Lewis stated in March that Omar’s “allegiance” line “is among the oldest and most dangerous anti-Semitic charges.” In response to Trump’s language, she and DMFI CEO Mark Mellman released a statement saying Trump’s rhetoric “inflames anti-Semitic passions” - but did not say whether the words were anti-Semitic themselves.
In response to Omar in March, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote in USA Today, “Let’s be clear: The problem isn’t that Omar criticized Israeli policies,” Greenblatt in USA Today. “The problem is her comments were anti-Semitic.”
In his initial response on Tuesday, Greenblatt didn’t explicitly call Trump’s remarks anti-Semitic. “It’s unclear who @POTUS is claiming Jews would be ‘disloyal’ to, but charges of disloyalty have long been used to attack Jews,” he tweeted. “As we’ve said before, it’s possible to engage in the democratic process without these claims. It’s long overdue to stop using Jews as a political football.”
But appearing on CNN the following morning, Greenblatt was willing to use the relevant word: “I will be exactly clear on what that was — anti-Semitism,” he said.
On the other hand, some prominent Jewish Democrats went in the other direction, calling Trump’s remarks anti-Semitic but not Omar’s.
First-term Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, who once served on the board of her local Jewish Federation, said in March of Omar’s comments, “At best, they are tone deaf….I am not going to go so far as to call her anti-Semitic, and I think if I were to say that her comments were, it would be tantamount to calling her anti-Semitic.”
But on Tuesday, Wild’s criticism of Trump was clear. “Calling American Jews disloyal for voting for Democrats is offensive and anti-Semitic,” she tweeted.
And Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada, the former president of her synagogue, tweeted on Tuesday, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: questioning the loyalty of American Jews is anti-Semitic.” But the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in March that Rosen’s office had refused to respond to requests for comment about Omar’s “allegiance” statement.
A few Jewish figures have condemned both remarks.
Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida harshly criticized Trump’s remarks on CNN on Tuesday, saying that anti-Semitism “should be condemned wherever it comes from.” In March, Deutch gave a speech on the House floor condemning Omar’s language, as well as statements by Trump and other Republicans, as anti-Semitic.
And Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois co-wrote a CNN op-ed in March condemning Omar’s “anti-Semitic tropes.” On Tuesday, Schneider tweeted, “At best, President Trump is exposing his childish fantasy of America as a monarchy with himself as king. At worst, he’s knowingly trafficking in antisemitic tropes of dual loyalties, and feeding the hateful delusions of violent extremists. Apologize and end the dangerous rhetoric.”
Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia, another of the CNN op-ed’s co-authors and a Navy veteran, released a statement saying the dual loyalty trope “create[s] an anti-Semitic environment.” The third co-author, Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, had not released his own statement but retweeted the first Greenblatt tweet that didn’t explicitly call Trump’s language anti-Semitic.
Note: This is an incomplete list and will be updated as more information is acquired.
Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink