“Let me say this to the president: I am a proud Jewish person, and I have no concerns about voting Democratic,” the independent from Vermont told supporters at a campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa. “And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States.”
Sanders’ comments were in response to Trump’s remarks to reporters earlier Tuesday in the Oval Office. He said Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
Trump made the remark to reporters when speaking about Israel barring Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering the country. While he did not specifically say who Democratic Jewish Americans would be disloyal to, he has previously called the Muslim congresswomen “anti-Israel” and “anti-Semites,” and equated Israel with all Jewish people.
Nearly 80% of Jewish voters in the U.S. voted Democratic in the 2018 midterm elections, according to the Pew Research Center. Many Jewish groups, including the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said Trump was invoking the “dual loyalty” trope against Jewish Americans that is considered anti-Semitic.
Sanders often references his family’s experience in the Holocaust. His father migrated to the U.S. as a teenager, fleeing persecution in Poland.
Sanders has also made it a point to balance talking about his Jewish heritage with his criticism of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinian people. The senator has continuously vocalized support for Omar and Tlaib, who are attacked daily for their criticism of Israel’s government and their support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
After Israel announced its decision to bar the congresswomen, Omar stressed the need for more oversight of the billions of dollars the U.S. gives in aid to Israel every year. Sanders agreed with Omar, saying that Israel should decline U.S. aid if it’s going to prevent a congresswoman from entering the country.
“If Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country, to get a firsthand look at what’s going on, and I have been there many, many times, but if [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] doesn’t want members to visit, maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel,” he said on MSNBC’s “All In” last week.