A group claiming to represent a coalition of grassroots Jewish community leaders has announced its intention to protest at next week’s AIPAC policy conference over the inclusion of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
The protest organization, which calls itself Come Together Against Hate and claims to represent a variety of rabbis, cantors and Jewish leaders, announced that it intends to mobilize thousands of attendees to both stage a silent walkout before Trump’s speech and hold an independent session on human rights and dignity outside of the venue used by the pro-Israel lobbying group.
In a press release, organization founders Rabbis David Paskin and Jesse Olitzky stated that they plan on distributing thousands of stickers and flyers at the event denouncing “the bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny expressed by Mr. Trump, and violence promoted by him” in order to prevent “his hateful message [from] becom[ing] a part of the AIPAC Policy Conference.”
Eschewing the loud confrontations that have dogged many of Trump’s campaign events and stating that they appreciate AIPAC’s “commitment to bipartisanship,” the pair stated that they were “committed to saying that Donald Trump does not speak for us or represent us, and his values are not AIPAC’s values.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Paskin – who heads Temple Beth David in Palm Beach, Florida – said that while there are many people with whom he disagrees on issues of policy, “this is about the unique and scary rhetoric and tactics that Donald Trump is using to intimidate, suppress and otherwise tear apart the values that are fundamental to America, our political system and to Judaism.”
“We will have thousands of people with us at AIPAC who will be involved in our protest,” he said.
Despite popularity among many in the hassidic community, the fiery real estate mogul’s rhetoric and positions have become a cause for concern among some Jewish organizations, with Ameinu, the Reform Movement and the Anti-Defamation League speaking out against him.
In a recent statement, Ameinu, a progressive Zionist organization, called upon the AIPAC National Council and the participants in the upcoming gathering to “raise a collective voice of Jewish outrage and make an unequivocal denunciation of Donald Trump’s bigotry.”
Last week, shortly after AIPAC – which invited all of the major candidates – announced Trump’s participation, the heads of the Reform Movement and its Central Conference of American Rabbis denounced his “naked appeals to bigotry” and leveled accusations that he had “encourage[d] violence at his campaign events.”
The Reform heads were not the first Jewish leaders to speak out against Trump. Late last month a senior leader of the Conservative Movement, in a personal statement unconnected to his organization, accused the candidate of “using racism and fear mongering” and blasted him for declining to condemn the Klu Klux Klan.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union in late February, host Jake Tapper repeatedly asked Trump if he would distance himself from the white supremacist organization, prompting the candidate to respond that he did not know “anything about David Duke.”
He subsequently blamed his answer on a broken earpiece.
That incident led to a condemnation by the Anti-Defamation League, which subsequently sent out information packets on hate groups to the leading presidential candidates.
The ADL has also condemned Trump’s plan, which has been since rescinded, to bar Muslims from entering the US, calling it “deeply offensive,” as well as urged the candidate to clarify remarks made last December in which he told a Republican Jewish group that they would not support him “even though you know I’m the best thing that could ever happen to Israel... because I don’t want your money.”
Trump also intimated that the Jewish attendees were all wheeler-dealers, asking if there was anyone in the room “who doesn’t negotiate deals.”
While stating that it did not believe the comments to be anti-Semitic, the group requested that Trump, whose daughter Ivanka is an Orthodox convert, explain his comments.
Some in the Jewish community have expressed concern over the candidate’s statements on the Jewish state, especially his assertion that he would be a neutral party to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Trump defended his position earlier this month, stating during a debate that there was no candidate more firmly pro-Israel than he is, citing his daughter and his onetime service as grand marshal of New York’s Israel Day parade.
He further said that Israel’s security would be his top priority but that he did intend to make an attempt at negotiating a deal between the two sides of the conflict.
When announcing his presidential run last June, Trump cited the need to “protect Israel” as one of the reasons for opposing the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Tehran, saying that if the president “makes that deal, Israel maybe won’t exist very long.”
Speaking with Israel Hayom this week, Trump said that his victory would be “tremendous news for Israel,” adding that he has “always been your friend, even at the toughest moments. And that’s not going to change. I love you.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper’s owner, Sheldon Adelson – a major Republican donor close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – was reported to have responded “Why not?” when asked if he would support Donald Trump’s candidacy.
“Trump is a businessman,” Adelson said at the February 27 event. “I’m a businessman. He employs many people.”
AIPAC initially wrote to Come Together Against Hate member Zach Reizes that if he chose to disrupt the program, “understand that you will be removed, your conference credentials will be taken, and it will be the last AIPAC event you attend.”
An AIPAC official later clarified that the email was incorrect, Reizes wrote on Facebook.
“I take our conversation as a go-ahead to respectfully protest Donald Trump. AIPAC is in the midst of ongoing conversations about how to handle the dissatisfaction we have with their policies. Just as I am passing on his message to you all, I asked him to pass on mine: In AIPAC, we must reflect the values of love and acceptance that are central to Judaism.”
“When Donald Trump walks to the podium, I will stand in silence, with my head lowered.
I will then silently exit the room, where I hope to encounter many of you, and perhaps some members of the media.”
An AIPAC spokesman declined to comment.JTA contributed to this report