WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump blasted Democrats as “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish” Friday after they passed a congressional measure opposing hate speech in general instead of specifically condemning alleged anti-Semitic comments by a Muslim congresswoman.
His remarks follow days of tense debates in Congress addressing sensitive questions about national allegiance, discriminatory tropes aimed at Jews, and accusations of show votes that failed to call out a member for controversial comments.
“I thought yesterday’s vote by the House was disgraceful,” Trump said at the White House.
The resolution was originally intended to deliver a direct rebuke of anti-Semitism following comments by a Muslim Democratic congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, that were deemed anti-Semitic and offensive by many colleagues.
But after blowback from progressives, it was revised to broadly condemn discrimination against Muslims and other minorities as well.
Trump seized on the shift, injecting a new angle of attack as he readies a 2020 re-election bid and fellow Republicans seek to claw back ground they lost in the House in last year’s mid-terms.
“The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party, they’ve become an anti-Jewish party,” he said.
The issue has caused a deep rift. Some Democrats wanted to include language condemning other forms of bigotry, and expressed concerns about singling out Omar.
The resolution, which made no mention of Omar, ultimately passed 407 to 23. Republicans who voted against it complained it had been watered down.
The debate made clear that Democrats’ growing diversity in Congress — in ethnicity, religion, gender, age and ideology — has created new challenges for the party.
Among those is policy about Israel. Omar, a Somali refugee who resettled in Minnesota, had sparked fiery debate with her repeated criticisms of Israel and how a powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington exerts influence on US politicians.
“I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone,” Omar tweeted. “Our nation is having a difficult conversation.”
A Jewish Democratic group slammed the president’s remarks.
“We are appalled, but not surprised, that President Trump has once again demonstrated dishonesty, hypocrisy, and willingness to use anti-Semitism and Israel as a political football,” said Halie Soifer of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
Soifer pointed to anti-Semitic tropes used in the past by Trump, saying that “the president’s own words have fueled the fire of intolerance and targeting of Jews, and Republicans have failed to condemn the president’s remarks in the same way that Democrats were quick to rebuke Representative Omar.
Several Republicans and a few Democrats openly complained that the measure was watered down because what originated as a targeting of anti-Semitism was broadened out to include all forms of bigotry, including Islamophobia and discrimination against other minorities.
The resolution passed overwhelmingly, with all Democrats voting in favor including Omar herself. Republicans generally joined in the favorable vote, though nearly two-dozen opposed the measure.
The former Somali refugee had been assailed for suggesting supporters of Israel are urging lawmakers to have “allegiance to a foreign country.”
Lawmakers expressed outrage, warning that Omar was peddling in age-old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews having dual loyalties.
The vote also revealed divisions within the American Jewish community, with some groups welcoming the measure while others blasted it as watered down.
“While we commend Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to bring to the floor the issue of anti-Semitism within its ranks, the politically expedient resolution failed to call out Representative Omar by name and failed to take into account the historically unique dimensions of the anti-Semitic themes trafficked by Rep. Omar,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement shortly following the vote.
Other prominent Jewish groups, however, welcomed the resolution. The Anti-Defamation League said it was “pleased the House of Representatives took a firm stance against anti-Semitism, including making an explicit statement rejecting the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and other vile slurs that have been used to persecute Jews for centuries.”
The Orthodox Union welcomed the measure but said “it would have been better for the House of Representatives to respond to recent incidents of anti-Semitism with a resolution exclusively addressing that topic.”
The resolution passed Thursday condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities “as hateful expressions of intolerance.”
Some Democrats complained that Omar’s comments had ignited the action after years of President Donald Trump’s racially charged rhetoric led to no similar congressional action.
The seven-page document details a history of recent attacks not only against Jews in the United States but also Muslims, as it condemns all such discrimination as contradictory to “the values and aspirations” of the people of the United States.
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report