120 progressive and mainstream American Jewish leaders signed a petition calling Jewish communities to boycott the visit of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich while visiting the US later this month.
The petition was organized by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) and distributed on Friday. "As American Jews committed to Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state; to a robust US-Israel relationship; and to Jewish peoplehood that fully encompasses Israeli and Diaspora Jewish communities, we are opposed to Bezalel Smotrich visiting the United States later this month in his capacity as Israel’s finance minister, and we call on all pro-Israel Americans to understand that welcoming Smotrich here will harm, rather than help, support for Israel," the petition stated.
They continued stating that "Smotrich has long expressed views that are abhorrent to the vast majority of American Jews, from anti-Arab racism, to virulent homophobia, to a full-throated embrace of Jewish supremacy. To this list, we can now add his endorsement of violence against innocents based on their ethnic heritage.
"We reject the notion that someone must be accorded respect simply by dint of serving in the Israeli government. His presence in the US to address primarily Jewish audiences would be an affront to American Jewish values, and he should not be given a platform in our community, all the more so in light of his most recent statement about Huwara."
Among those who signed are Rabbi Sharon Brous from Los Angeles, senior Reform Rabbis Rick Jacobs and Josh Weinberg, senior Conservative Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, former head of the Anti Defamation League (ADL) Abe Foxman, Yehuda Kurtzer of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Sharon Nazarian from the ADL and others.
Last week, Smotrich called for the state of Israel to wipe the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara off the map, three days after settler vigilantes burned dozens of homes and cars there.
“I think that Huwara needs to be wiped out, but the State of Israel needs to do it, most certainly not private citizens,” he said on Wednesday during a public interview at a conference by business news organization TheMarker.
Backtracking his statements
Smotrich issued a statement in which he tried to backtrack from his statement made at a recent conference, which has been widely circulated on social media.
“Just to erase any doubt, I did not mean that the town of Huwara should be wiped out,” he tweeted. He claimed that he had only meant “that one has to act in a targeted manner against the terrorists and supporters of terrorism and to exact a heavy price from them in order to restore security to area residents. One organization that plans to meet with the finance minister is the Orthodox Union. Executive vice president Rabbi Moshe Hauer told the Post that his organization is “looking forward to welcoming Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich” to their offices “as part of his forthcoming visit to the United States.”
As the Post published exclusively on Thursday, the Orthodox Union is intending on meeting Smotrich during his visit. The organization said in a statement that "Minister Smotrich will be coming to the States as the guest of Israel Bonds and will use the opportunity to build a greater understanding of and familiarity with the American Jewish community and its institutions. We appreciate every opportunity to welcome and interact with Israeli elected officials as it is our responsibility to build mutual familiarity and understanding that will contribute to the deepening and strengthening of the relationship between the State of Israel and American Jewry.”