British Jewish leader says Trump’s xenophobic tirade ‘appalling’

The top political representative of British Jewry on Tuesday criticized the “appalling” xenophobic tirade by US President Donald Trump targeting Democratic congresswomen of color.

Trump this week called on four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries in tweets that have been widely denounced as racist. His remarks were directed at Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are American citizens, and three of the four were born in the US.

Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl in a statement denounced Trump’s incendiary rhetoric, which included accusations the female lawmakers were anti-Semitic and hated Israel.

“These are appalling and unjustifiable comments. Whatever one’s political disagreements, telling people to ‘go back home to where they came from’ can never be the right response,” van der Zyl said.

“It is also wrong to drag Israel in to these undignified tirades.”

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, also condemned Trump’s “hateful rhetoric” Tuesday, saying the racist outburst was “corrosive” for Israeli democracy.

“Trump has done his best to deflect criticism of his bigotry by calling himself a defender of Israel. But when Trump wields racist tropes, he has no standing to call himself a friend of Israel,” Sokatch said in a statement. “Because an enemy of democracy cannot be a friend of Israel.”

Trump’s extraordinary attacks on the lawmakers has prompted critical reactions from other major Jewish organizations, Democrats, and a growing number of foreign leaders.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League watchdog, has said Trump’s comments were “flat-out racist” and “xenophobic,” and criticized the US president for “using Israel to defend his blatant racism.”

Halie Soifer, the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, this week called Trump “America’s ‘Racist in Chief,’” in a statement denouncing the comment.

On Twitter, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a reminder that “every American came from somewhere,” while Jewish activist group Bend the Arc denounced the president as “a racist and white supremacist.”

‘Racist and divisive’

Former vice president Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, condemned Trump as the most “openly racist and divisive” president in US history.

“Go home to your country? It’s sickening, it’s embarrassing,” Biden said.

Republicans were initially silent, but on Monday several of his party faithful began to speak up.

“My view is that what was said and what was tweeted was destructive, was demeaning, was disunifying, and frankly it was very wrong,” said Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah.

“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska. “We must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency.”

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she disagreed with the policies espoused by the “far-left” Democratic lawmakers, but that Trump was “way over the line.”

Texan Will Hurd, the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, told CNN that Trump’s behavior was “unbecoming of the leader of the free world.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday became the latest international leader to condemn Trump’s tweets.

“I completely and utterly disagree with him,” she told Radio New Zealand, noting that her country welcomed diversity in the corridors of power.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain’s Theresa May also expressed disapproval.

Despite the widespread censure, a Trump has escalated his rhetoric by demanding Monday the congresswomen leave the US “right now” and claimed that “many people agree with me.”

“All they do is complain,” Trump he said of the four at a White House event. “These are people that hate our country.”

Asked by a reporter whether he was concerned that many people saw his comments as racist, Trump said: “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me. A lot of people love it, by the way.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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