Republican Rep. Steve King suggested Friday that some American Jews feel like “Democrats first and Jewish second.”
“Here is what I don’t understand, I don’t understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their President,” King, a hardline conservative from Iowa, said Friday on Boston Herald Radio,
“It says this, they’re knee-jerk supporters of the President’s policy,” King said.
As a Republican from Iowa, King has met with virtually every Republican considering a 2016 presidential run, hosting the first cattle call of 2016 Republican hopefuls in Iowa in January.
King was responding to a question about the nearly 60 Democrats, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who decided to boycott Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress earlier this month. Netanyahu came to Congress in defiance of the White House to sound the alarm over the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, stressing that President Barack Obama was preparing to reach a “bad deal” on Iran’s nuclear program.
Executive director of the American Jewish Committee, a leading global Jewish advocacy group, David Harris, was quick to condemn King’s comments, calling them “painfully wrongheaded and hurtful.”
“It’s a painfully wrongheaded understanding of American Jews and this kind of collective description should have no place in American political discourse,” Harris told CNN. “American Jews, like other faith and ethnic groups, are a very diverse community in their thinking, in their policies and in their voting behavior.”
Harris added it was wrong to equate criticism of Netanyahu as anti-Israel, pointing out that there’s no “single Jewish outlook or point of view.
“I know lots of American Jews who support the President and many others who don’t support the President on Israel on Iran policy,” Harris added.
When asked if anti-Semitism was a factor – it’s not clear if the host was referring to Obama’s policies – King said yes, along with “plain liberalism.”
King’s office did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.
According to recent polls, a majority of American Jews support the Democratic Party.
Several Jewish groups also criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and his repudiation last week of a Palestinian state in the lead-up to the elections.
Netanyahu has since walked back those comments, insisting that he supports a “sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.”
A number of Jewish groups – both in the U.S. and Israel – advocate for a two-state solution and some oppose Netanyahu’s position on the peace process.