WASHINGTON (JTA) — Some Jewish Democrats demanded an apology from U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa for saying that American Jews “can be Democrats first and Jews second.”
King, a conservative Republican who is important to his party’s potential presidential candidates in part because of his influence in Iowa, the first caucus state, was asked Friday by Boston Herald Radio about Democrats who had boycotted the speech to Congress in early March by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
“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,” he said.
The National Jewish Democratic Council “condemned” the remarks in a statement.
“For anyone, let alone an elected official, to actively belittle the hundreds of thousands of American Jews who vote for Democratic candidates is beyond the pale,” the council’s chairman, Greg Rosenbaum, said. “Rep. King is essentially stating that we aren’t Jewish enough for him. How dare he. We demand and deserve an apology at once.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the highest-ranking Jewish Democrat in the House of Representatives, berated King in Twitter post.
“I don’t need Congressman Steve King questioning my religion or my politics,” wrote Israel, who has headed fundraising for congressional Democrats in the last two elections. “I demand an apology from him and repudiation from GOP.”
King replied, also on Twitter, that “real men make such requests face to face,” which prompted Israel to call King “mashugana,” or crazy.
Netanyahu’s speech, which lambasted President Barack Obama’s Iran policy, came in for criticism by Democrats in part because it was arranged by Netanyahu and congressional Republicans without consulting the White House or congressional Democrats.