A dozen progressive Jewish-American organizations sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday denouncing the anti-Semitism that surrounded his campaign, expressing grave concern for the plight of other minorities, and urging the new administration to uphold the longstanding commitment of the United States to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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In their strongly worded letter, the organizations also call on Trump to rescind the appointment of ex-Breitbart CEO Steven Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House.
The letter was sent by Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the Jewish Labor Committee, Hashomer Hatzair, Habonim Dror North America, the National Council of Jewish Women, the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, the Workmen’s Circle, Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and Uri L’Tzedek: The Orthodox Social-Justice Movement. Together, according to the letter, these organizations represent “hundreds of thousands of Jewish Americans deeply committed to the values that underpin our people’s faith, our country’s democracy, and our relationship with the people and state of Israel.”
The signatories do not include such mainstream Jewish organizations as AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. In recent days, the Jewish American community has been split over whether to speak out against Trump, and in particular, his controversial appointment of Bannon, a well-known radical right-winger.
“Based on our community’s experience, we begin by strongly condemning the many instances of anti-Semitism – both subtle and overt – that appeared around your presidential campaign,” the letter says. “We have been deeply concerned by words and actions during the campaign that attacked and offended Americans on the basis of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. Expressions of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, misogyny and other forms of prejudice, in and around your campaign, threatened to undermine our nation’s core values and to erode our people’s shared sense of what it means to be an American.”
The letter urges the president-elect to “make it absolutely clear that you emphatically reject anti-Semitism in all forms, and that you are committed to ensuring the religious freedom that is at the heart of America’s identity.”
In reference to the Bannon appointment, the letter calls on Trump to staff his administration “with individuals who exhibit excellence and empathy, and a commitment to protecting the security, honor and dignity of all American regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation.”
In this context, it notes: “Your recent decision to appoint Stephen Bannon to the post of Senior Counselor and Strategist in the White House runs counter to these principles and should be rescinded for the sake of the American people and the honor of the government of the United States.”
As an immigrant community, the letter notes, Jewish-Americans identify strongly with the plight of other newcomers and are committed to protecting them. “We believe that immigration and successful integration of newcomers into the fabric of American society has been key to our country’s strength and prosperity,” it says. “Because many of our families arrived in this country as refugees fleeing persecution—and because so many died when the borders closed, we are committed to defending our country’s identity as a land of refuge.”
With regards to Middle East policy, the letter expresses deep concern about the possibility of a major shift in U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the new administration. “We cannot support an abandonment of America’s fundamental policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – which have been recognized as vital to American national interest and supported by presidents of both parties for 50 years,” it says. “We therefore have been alarmed by changes in the Republican platform, as well as statements by your key advisors on Israel, which eliminate the goals of the two-state solution and creation of a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.”
The two-state solution, the letter notes, is supported by “an overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans.”
Although it stops short of condemning the occupation, the letter says: “We expect the State of Israel to embody democratic principles, as enshrined by its Declaration of Independence and an active role for the United States in efforts to defend those principles.”
In their letter, the organizations reassure the president-elect that he will find “willing partners” in the Jewish community if he “upholds and defends the principles of fairness, justice and freedom on which this country was built.”
But if he does not, they warn, “We will not stand by idly.”