UK Jewish leader’s congratulatory message to Trump sparks ire

British and American Jewish groups call for unity after divisive campaign.

November 9, 2016 17:10
4 minute read.
Jonathan Arkush

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A congratulatory message from Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to US president- elect Donald Trump sparked a stream of Twitter fury Wednesday.

In the message, posted on the umbrella organization’s website, Arkush said: “I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory. After a divisive campaign, I hope that Mr. Trump will move to build bridges and ensure that America’s standing as a beacon of progress, tolerance and free thinking remains strong.”

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This triggered a multitude of angry reactions, many alluding to the vitriolic antisemitic discourse unleashed during the campaign.

“Trump mainstreams antisemites in a way unseen since the Nazis and you congratulate him? Revolting,” responded Aaron Simons.

“I don’t think it’s @BoardofDeputies job to congratulate Donald Trump on his election, and I’m sure the Jewish community will agree with me,” Tweeted Tal Ofer, himself a deputy at the Board of Governors.

Meanwhile Dr. Ruvi Ziegler Tweeted: “What does an organization representing British Jewry congratulate this vile man endorsed by the KKK? #NotInMyName.”

On the specific question of antisemitism, Arkush pointed out that his statement did imply concern over divisive rhetoric, but expressed caution over commenting on domestic events in another country. He referred The Jerusalem Post to a previous statement he had issued which addressed “divisive and troubling” comments by Trump, whom he criticized for not having sufficiently distanced himself supporters.

A Board spokesperson also told the The Jewish Chronicle that the Board’s response was to respect the democratic choice of the American people and “Just as the prime minister, world leaders, and our counterparts at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have done, we have congratulated Donald Trump, the democratic choice of the American people.”

Indeed, AJC congratulated Trump on his election, saying, “American democracy has spoken after a long and bitterly fought campaign.” AJC CEO David Harris said: “We wish president-elect Trump well, as he prepares to assume the highest position in the land and the most powerful political position on the planet. And we also extend our best wishes to secretary Hillary Clinton for her many years of distinguished public service to our nation, the strong campaign she ran, and, I would add, her friendship to AJC.”

Echoing the sentiment of Trump’s own victory statement which called for the US to “bind the wounds of division,” AJC said the time had come “to address the wounds of an extraordinarily divisive contest.”

“The United States is one country with one destiny, and any expression of bigotry and exclusion, as we’ve regrettably seen during the extended campaign, must never be allowed to corrode our pluralistic fabric,” Harris added.

“The right to vote is a pillar of democracy, and the nation has spoken. We wish president-elect Trump and vice president- elect Mike Pence a successful administration,” said Harris, expressing hope that swift steps would be taken to reach out to all Americans, including concerned minority communities, as well as to allies across the globe.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America also issued a message of congratulations to Trump, as well as expressing its appreciation to Clinton for her years of service to the American people.

The Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, echoed other calls to heal the divisions in society and to “work to support policies that will move our country forward.”

“The Orthodox Union looks forward to working with president Trump and his administration on issues of critical importance to our community including strengthening the US-Israel relationship, expanding educational opportunity and choice for all American children, defending America’s ‘first freedom’ of religious liberty and more,” the statement said.

The Anti-Defamation League too congratulated Trump and pledged to work across communities to rally all Americans around rebuilding the sense of shared society. “We welcome Mr. Trump’s pledge that he will be president for all Americans, and that he will seek the common ground and reconciliation that has been the hallmark of American elections and the transitions that follow,” said Marvin D. Nathan, ADL National chairman, and Jonathan A.

Greenblatt, ADL CEO.

On the issue of antisemitic discourse which continued through election night, ADL said: “This election cycle was a long, painful process and antisemitism and bigotry seeped into the public debate.”

On Tuesday night, liberal American journalist Peter Beinart tweeted: “I’ve never felt more Jewish and less American,” in a comment on the rhetoric of division between different segments of the US electorate during the turbulent campaign.

Those feelings were compounded by a deluge of antisemitic abuses, a glut of mostly anonymous trolls set upon The Atlantic and Haaretz contributor, with gratuitous references to forced expulsions and the Holocaust.

Fellow journalists Ben Shapiro, Yair Rosenberg and Nate Cohn, among a number of others, were also sent antisemitic tweets or mentioned in them. By now the phenomenon is de rigueur when prominent Jewish figures comment on social media.

“The race sometimes brought out the worst elements of society, as we saw again last night in the harassment of journalists on Twitter.” said the ADL. Clearly, there remains much work to be done, working in close coordination with the tech industry and other stakeholders, to combat hate speech online.”

Zack Pyzer contributed to this report

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