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Trump draws ire for saying Jews who vote for Democrats hate their religion, Israel

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a campaign event in North Charleston

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump drew outrage from the White House, Democrats and leaders of Jewish groups for saying Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats hate their religion and Israel.

"Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion, they hate everything about Israel and they should be ashamed of themselves," said Trump, who hopes to unseat President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

"The Democrat Party hates Israel," he said in the interview with his former adviser Sebastian Gorka posted on his website on Monday.

Groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Democratic Council of America condemned Trump's remarks for tying religion to how people might vote.

Asked to comment on Trump's remarks, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday: "There is no justification for spreading toxic, false stereotypes that threaten fellow citizens," White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.

After Trump's remarks were posted, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, wrote on social media platform X on Monday: "Trump is making highly partisan and hateful rants. I am working in a bipartisan way to ensure the US-Israeli relationship sustains for generations to come, buoyed by peace in the Middle East."

Last Thursday, Schumer, the highest-ranking U.S. Jewish elected official and a longtime supporter of Israel, criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an obstacle to peace five months into a war in Gaza that began with attacks on Israel by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.

Biden said many Americans shared Schumer's concerns. Netanyahu called Schumer's speech inappropriate.

Democratic National Committee spokesperson Alex Floyd said in a statement on Monday: "Jewish Americans deserve better than the appalling, offensive attacks Trump continues to launch against the Jewish community."

Trump's campaign stood by his remarks.

"The Democrat Party has turned into a full-blown anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist cabal," Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement.

The Republican Jewish Coalition on Tuesday defended Trump's remarks, which it reposted on X.

RJC spokesperson Sam Markstein said that he did not know what Trump meant by his comment that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats hate their religion but that Democrats' stances were problematic: "It's befuddling to a lot of Republicans that in light of all this, how can there not be more outrage in the Jewish community?"

While president, Trump came under fire from critics in 2017 for drawing an equivalence between white nationalists who chanted "Jews will not replace us" and protesters against racism who clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump said there were "fine people on both sides."

Trump also took the unprecedented steps of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights captured from Syria in a 1967 war.

Since Trump left office, critics have cited his 2022 meeting with white supremacist Nick Fuentes at his Florida club that Trump said happened inadvertently. Biden also assailed Trump for echoing Nazis by using the word "vermin" to describe political enemies.

Biden has strongly supported Israel's offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza, where Palestinian health officials say 32,000 people have been killed since Oct. 7, the day Hamas crossed into Israel, killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Under pressure from some Democrats over his staunch support of Israel, Biden has shifted his position to push for a ceasefire and negotiations leading to Israeli and Palestinian states side by side.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in 2020, when Trump and Biden faced off the first time, found 71% of American Jews surveyed identified with the Democratic Party while 26% leaned Republican.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Howard Goller)