Opinions are divided in the Jewish community about whether controversial Republican candidate Donald Trump should be allowed to speak at AIPAC this week despite the considerable backing he enjoys from white supremacists and anti-Semites across America.
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Chemi Shalev cautions that Trump's speech could secure him a nod from pro-Israel sympathizers which he currently lacks, at the expense of widening splits among American Jews already sharply divided over Israel and domestic U.S. policies. He adds that that "the friction Trump seems likely to generate at AIPAC is merely a harbinger of the potential internal strife in the Jewish community that would be generated if Trump were the GOP candidate."
Meanwhile, rabbinical leaders are calling for protests during Trump's speech, and some even threaten a walkout. Rabbis Michael Knopf and Jesse Olitzsky write that when Trump takes the podium at the conference, "we plan on walking out, joined by hundreds of other rabbis and conference participants."
"We feel compelled to stand on the other side of a great moral divide, in solidarity with those Trump has routinely denigrated: our Muslim, Mexican, Latino, immigrant, female, disabled and LGBTQI brothers and sisters," they add.
Former Reform movement leader Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie writes that the American Jewish community's fight against Trump truly begins at the AIPAC conference. "We don’t care a bit that Trump has many Jewish friends and a daughter who has converted to Judaism. What we know is that in his appeals to nativism and populism, Trump has called forth an endless stream of vicious anti-Jewish attacks from right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis who have rushed to defend him from his critics," Yoffie says.
Meanwhile, Allison Kaplan Sommer makes the case against disrupting Trump's AIPAC speech, seeing such a move as potentially bad for Israel.
"When emotions and moral righteousness are put aside, anyone who truly cares about Israel’s future has to ask themselves whether preparing confrontational mega-protests and walkouts is really the wisest political move," Kaplan Sommer writes. "No matter how much we wish it wasn’t the case, no matter how sure we are that we won’t like it, we can’t afford to refuse to hear what he has to say. What he says may want to make us scream - but we have to listen."
Roy Isacowitz argues that AIPAC delegates should be protesting more than Trump's policies but those of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, too.
AIPAC "has given repeated and resounding standing ovations, year after year, to Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli demagogues and racists, who not only talk the talk – as Trump has done so far – but walk the walk, as well," writes Isacowitz.
"What perversion allows American Jews – or the majority of them, it would seem – to regard Donald Trump as the antithesis of their Jewish values and Benjamin Netanyahu as their exemplar? What cognitive bypass enables them to recognize the potential fascism of Trump, but not the existing tyranny of Israel’s rule over the Palestinians, under the decade-long leadership of Netanyahu?