“While a person may be individually pious, such good will pale in the face of the sin of not protesting against an emerging communal evil. Not only will such piety not avert the impending evil, but such a pious person will be accountable for having been able to prevent it and not doing so.” —The Maharal of Prague
I am deeply disturbed by your decision to have Donald Trump as a headliner for the upcoming AIPAC policy conference. Much of Trump’s rhetoric is reminiscent of fascism: his scapegoating of immigrants and refugees, his threats against freedom of speech and protest. Looking back at the work of the great Jewish writer Joseph Roth, who documented the rise of Nazism in post WWI Germany, I see many common elements between Trump’s call to “make America great again” by attacking immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and anyone deemed too “politically correct,” and Hitler’s rhetoric of “restoring Germany” by destroying the Jewish people, and anyone else deemed too deviant to exist in Nazi society. Indeed, many of Trump’s supporters include neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups. But these groups are also symptoms of the fascist ideology Trump exemplifies. This is a man whose response to anyone who disagrees with him is to both have them thrown out of the room and attacked by his followers, a man who wants to limit free speech by limiting freedom of protest. By having him headline at your event, you are tacitly supporting authoritarianism and hatred.
I am not surprised by your encouragement of Trump. There is a disconnect between the values your organization demonstrates and the basic Jewish values of kavod ha-briot (respect for life) and tikkun olam (healing the world). Your notion of what it means to “support Israel” is ill-conceived. Rather than working towards a free and equal society and government, you have supported war-mongering politicians and policies in Israel that only serve to bolster the occupation and to oppress Palestinians. All of this has served to create a divided society that ultimately harms both Arabs and Jews. Additionally, you have supported rhetoric in the United States that has divided our diasporic community around issues regarding Israel—creating an environment in which anyone who is not in full support of any and all Israeli governmental policy is labeled “self-hating” or “anti-Israel.” I question whether it is “anti-Israel” to desire a society where all citizens have equal rights by law, a society where Jews and Arabs are both able to express their right to self-determination.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before you became so out of touch that you would come to have a person like Trump headline at your event. Perhaps this is all a part of an attempt to appeal to whomever seems most powerful in the GOP at this moment. Perhaps it this is all under the guise of “good for Israel.” I have no idea, but whatever your reasoning was is now irrelevant. Over the last week, photos were released of a woman giving a Heil Hitler salute at a Trump rally, and a video was released of Trump supporters shouting “go to Auschwitz” at a journalist. Trump may have verbally disavowed the endorsement of David Duke, the former KKK Grand Wizard, at one of his rallies, but he has yet to condemn him and what he represents. Despite all of this, you have chosen to legitimize Trump’s views by having him speak at your event. The Talmud tells us that silence is akin to consent. You have done far worse than remaining silent in the face of hatred. You have effectively endorsed it by giving it a megaphone. By giving Trump a platform at your conference, you treat his views as if they are legitimate, and treat the man as if he is a competent candidate for President. Time and again he has proven he is not. I urge you to rescind your invitation to Donald Trump.