Expressing deep anxiety about the future of America following the presidential election, 60 prominent scholars of Jewish history have signed a statement pledging “to wage a struggle to defend the constitutional rights and liberties of all Americans.”
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Noting that the Republican Party’s election campaign was “marked by unprecedented expressions of racial, ethnic, gender-based and religious hatred,” the professors warn in their statement that “it is not too soon to begin mobilizing in solidarity.”
The statement was circulated widely among scholars of Jewish history in the United States and Israel on Monday.
As scholars of Jewish history, the professors note, “we are acutely attuned to the fragility of democracies and the consequences for minorities when democracies fail to live up to their highest principles.”
Among some of the well-known academics who signed the statement are Derek Penslar of Harvard University, David Myers and Sarah Stein of UCLA, Deborah Dash Moore of the University of Michigan, Hasia Diner of New York University and David Biale of University of California, Davis. Diner and Biale mobilized the group.
In an email exchange with Haaretz, Biale explained what had prompted them. “The election of Donald Trump has shocked us into wondering if America is really that different, after all, from countries in Europe and the Middle East from which we fled,” he wrote.
“Donald Trump may yet surprise us, but his statements during the campaign and the actions of his more extreme supporters are both very troubling. “
The historians note in their statement that the hostility shown toward immigrants and refugees during the election campaign “strikes particularly close to home.”
“Our reading of the past impels us to resist any attempts to place a vulnerable group in the crosshairs of nativist racism,” the statement says. “It is our duty to come to their aid and to resist the degradation of rights that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has provoked.”
The professors also note that the Trump campaign “gave license to haters of Jews, who truck in conspiracy theories about world Jewish domination.”
“We witnessed repeated anti-Semitic expressions and insinuations during the Trump campaign,” their statement continues.” Much of this anti-Semitism was directed against journalists, either Jewish or with Jewish-sounding names. The candidate himself refused to denounce – and even re-tweeted – language and images that struck us as manifestly anti-Semitic.”
In addition to strongly denouncing “those agitators who have ridden Trump’s coattails to propagate their toxic ideas about Jews,” the statement urges “all fair-minded Americans to condemn unequivocally the hateful and discriminatory language and threats that have been directed by him and his supporters against Muslims, women, Latinos, African-Americans, disabled people, LGBT people and others.”