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White House calls Trump’s attack on American Jews antisemitic

President Donald Trump at a coronavirus briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on Aug 10, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The White House on Monday called Donald Trump’s attack on American Jews antisemitic after the former president wrote online that American Jews need to “get their act together” and show more appreciation for the state of Israel “before it is too late.”

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday, said, “Donald Trump has aligned with extremist and antisemitic figures” and that comments like the ones he made Sunday on his social media platform TruthSocial “should be called out.”

“Donald Trump’s comments were antisemitic, as you all know, and insulting both to Jews and to our Israeli allies,” she said. “But let’s be clear, for years, for years now, Donald Trump has aligned with extremist and antisemitic figures. … We need to root out antisemitism everywhere it rears its ugly head. We need to call this out. With respect to Israel, our relationship is ironclad and it’s rooted in shared values and interests. Donald Trump clearly doesn’t understand that either.”

American Jews have long been accused of holding secret loyalty to Israel rather than to the United States, and Trump’s post leaned on that antisemitic trope, suggesting that by virtue of their religion, American Jews should show more appreciation to Israel.

In the message Sunday, Trump also complained that “no president” had done more for Israel than he had but that Christian evangelicals are “far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S.”

Trump has previously suggested that American Jews, who traditionally have more often aligned with the Democratic Party on domestic policies, should be more supportive of him because of how he dealt with Israel.

Trump, whose daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism before marrying her husband, Jared Kushner, in 2009, has long been frustrated that he has not drawn more support from American Jews. As president, Trump moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Kushner, working as a top White House aide, helped negotiate new treaties between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors.

In Sunday’s post, Trump wrote that his support among people living in Israel is “a different story.” “Highest approval rating in the World, could easily be P.M.!” he wrote, contrasting his popularity in the foreign country with his support among American Jews.

In a related matter, the White House also announced Monday that it will welcome Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Oct. 26, for a visit “that underscores the enduring partnership and friendship between the United States and Israel.”

Jean-Pierre said President Biden and Herzog “will consult on key issues, including regional and global challenges of mutual concern, opportunities to deepen Israel’s regional integration, and ways to advance equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Trump’s latest diatribe about Jews came as Republican candidates have made overt appeals to racial animus and resentments in the closing weeks of the midterm election campaign. Trump’s comment also came shortly after the rapper formerly known as Kanye West posted antisemitic messages last week on Twitter and Instagram, which the platforms removed for violating their policies against hate speech.

Republicans have largely been silent on Trump’s comments while several Democrats and the Anti-Defamation League have condemned them.

“We don’t need the former president, who curries favor with extremists and antisemites, to lecture us about the US-Israel relationship,” Anti-Defamation League chief executive and national director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement Sunday. “It is not about a quid pro quo; it rests on shared values and security interests. This ‘Jewsplaining’ is insulting and disgusting.”

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

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