President Donald Trump has accused Jewish Americans who vote for the Democratic Party of “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty”.
The remark drew sharp criticism that President Trump had used an anti-Semitic trope accusing Jews of dual loyalty.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America said the president was trying to “weaponize and politicize anti-Semitism” for political gain.
The remark followed attacks by President Trump on two Muslim Democratic congresswomen.
He has repeatedly accused Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of anti-Semitism.
Under pressure from President Trump, Israel last week blocked Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country. The two women, who are vocal critics of the Israeli government, had been due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel later agreed to let Rashida Tlaib make a “humanitarian” visit to her grandmother in the occupied West Bank, but she declined, saying she could not comply with the “oppressive conditions” being imposed.
Speaking to reporters on August 20, President Trump said: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
On August 21, the president denied his comments were racist and told reporters: “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel.”
Earlier in the day, President Trump quoted a conservative commentator’s praise on Twitter who said “the Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel”.
“They love him like he is the second coming of God,” President Trump’s tweet continued.
The remark was denounced by a number of Jewish American groups, which said it played on an anti-Semitic canard that accuses Jews of being more devoted to Israel or their faith than to their own countries.
The same notion of dual loyalty has landed Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota congresswoman, in hot water.
Ilhan Omar has apologized after claiming that Israel had “hypnotized” the world. She was also rebuked by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives comments targeting lobbying firms that support Israel.
Ahead of the vote, which condemned “hateful expressions of intolerance”, Ilhan Omar pushed back by questioning what she termed “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country”.
The comment sparked fresh complaints of anti-Semitism.
Recent polls show that roughly 75% of Jewish Americans identify as Democrats.