Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Oct. 4, 2013.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Steve King reflects on Jewish identity as only he can

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of Congress’ fiercest anti-immigrant voices, has cultivated a reputation for offending a whole lot of people with racially charged rhetoric. Even House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) no longer makes any effort to defend him, last year dismissing King as an “a**hole.”
 
Friday, however, the far-right congressman broke new ground, adding a new group of people to his list.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa said he doesn’t understand how American Jews can be “Democrats first and Jewish second” and support President Obama’s approach to Israel.
 
“Well, there were some 50 or so Democrats that decided they would boycott the president’s speech. One thing that’s happened is – just look at the polling, that means – here is what thing that 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,” said the Iowa Republican on Boston Herald radio Friday, asked about members of Congress who did not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress earlier in the month. […] Asked if anti-Semitism was a factor, he said it was a component along with “just plain liberalism.”
Even for King, this is pretty nutty stuff. The decision not to attend the prime minister’s speech to Congress was a complex one, based in large part on Benjamin Netanyahu’s unprecedented partnership with congressional Republicans who ignored U.S. protocols in the hopes of sabotaging American foreign policy. For Steve King to suggest the Democrats are anti-Semitic because they disagree with Netanyahu and a GOP stunt is ridiculous.
 
But more striking still is the notion that American Jews need lessons from a right-wing Catholic about the nature of Jewish identity.
 
King effectively argued that he can’t “understand” how any Jewish people – presumably a group that includes Jews in America and Israel – can disagree with the current Israeli prime minister. It’s really not that complicated: many Jews have progressive views on politics, economics, and social justice. King and Netanyahu don’t. There’s not much to “understand.”
 
When Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who is both progressive and Jewish, took offense to King’s nonsense, the New York congressman asked not only for an apology, but for Republicans to repudiate the Iowan’s rhetoric. King, undeterred, responded to his colleague on Twitter, suggesting Steve Israel may not be a “real man,” adding, “I defend Israelis from Leftists & misogynists.”
 
As if this weren’t quite enough, King told BuzzFeed yesterday, in reference to American Jews he disagrees with politically, “I think many of them no longer have ties to Israel. They are secular, they are Democrats by political affiliation and by their nature they are leftist…. Many are leftists first.”
 
The notion that the Catholic Iowan feels justified telling Jews whether or not he’s satisfied with their ties to Israel is, of course, tough to defend. But even putting that aside, if we take King’s generalizations at face value and conclude that American Jews really are secular and liberal “by their nature,” then why exactly does the right-wing congressman expect them to side with Netanyahu and Republicans?
 
Does King not realize that his own assumptions and observations contradict his conclusions?
 
Back in reality, meanwhile, Netanyahu’s unfortunate antics continue to alienate many Jewish Americans. Whether Steve King finds this confusing or not is irrelevant.
 

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel and Steve King

Steve King reflects on Jewish identity as only he can