By suggesting that the United States should ban all Muslims from entering the country, Donald Trump is using the language of demagogues and exploiting the public’s fears to whip up support for his presidential campaign. As Americans, we are outraged by his suggestion; as a religious minority that throughout history has been the object of similar sentiments, we are horrified by the world that Trump envisions.
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In the world according to Trump, all Muslims — who number some 1.6 billion worldwide — are extremists on the verge of setting off a terror attack.
In the world according to Trump, the United States would paint an entire religious group as our enemy. Who knows what religious, racial or other minority group might be next in the mind of a man who flips U.S. jurisprudence on its head for Muslims, saying they are guilty until proven otherwise.
In the world according to Trump, “good” Muslims rarely, if ever, exist. In truth, Muslims, like most people, want the best for their families; they work as educators and medical professionals, electricians and storekeepers, taxi drivers and businessmen, first responders and lawyers, computer programmers, welders and so forth.
The bigotry that the front-runner in the Republican campaign for the presidential nomination displays is shocking. Trump’s language is reminiscent of that used about Jews throughout the ages, including as the Holocaust raged on, and about Japanese-Americans during that shameful World War II period when the United States interned even young children of Japanese ancestry — an action for which President Ronald Reagan formally apologized but that Trump has refused to say violated American values.
That Trump does not see the parallels is frightening, that he does not see how dangerous such sentiments are, as they do nothing to derail religious extremists and, if anything, encourage them, is naive, and that he clearly does not understand that no single religion is our enemy demonstrates how profoundly unqualified he is to be the president of our great nation.
Condemnations of Trump’s proposed ban were swift, with even former Vice President Dick Cheney, himself no stranger to provocative language, saying it “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.” Trump’s dismissal of those outraged by his statements — including numerous rivals for the Republican presidential nomination along with House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) — is alarming.
Yet in all the widespread condemnations — from politicians, both Democratic and Republican, and from Jewish organizations — denunciations from one organization were notably and shamefully missing. In the face of the most extraordinary bigotry displayed by a presidential candidate in decades, the Republican Jewish Coalition did not see fit to condemn Trump’s comments.
The RJC’s failure to do so is baffling. This is an organization that represents Republicans to the Jewish community, and Jews to the Republican Party. Just days before Trump’s statement that he would prevent Muslims from entering the United States, the RJC welcomed him to a forum where he was applauded despite the fact that some of his remarks struck many as anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Are RJC’s leaders so enamored with Trump that they can overlook his bigotry and his tendency to use incendiary language to whip up his supporters? Or do RJC’s leaders fear retribution from a man whose language in general is far from statesmanlike should he win the presidency?
Or, are they so concerned with adhering to the GOP’s 11th commandment that they will not criticize another Republican, no matter how beyond the pale his statements go?
Or worse, do they agree with him?
Whatever the reason, when it comes to a major Republican candidate attacking a religious minority, the official voice of Republican Jews has been silent, and this is unacceptable.
As Americans, we must ask in wonderment how some people who claim to love America have no concept of what America is. As American Jews, we must hold to our core values and stand firm as we loudly condemn Trump for bigotry and fear-mongering that has no place in the United States, let alone in the presidential campaign. We are waiting for the RJC to do the same.
Greg Rosenbaum is the chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council.