WASHINGTON (JTA) – In a rare statement unrelated to Israel or the Middle East, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) implicitly rebuked U.S. President Donald Trump for drawing equivalence between the sides in the Charlottesville clash.
“AIPAC shares the outrage and deep concern of our fellow Americans about the inexcusable violence and sickening displays of racism and anti-Semitism in Charlottesville this weekend,” the prominent Israel lobbying group said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“The vile hatred expressed by neo-Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists must be categorically and unambiguously rejected. We urge all elected officials to reject moral equivalence and oppose between those who promote hate and those who oppose it. There must be no quarter for bigotry in our country.”
AIPAC joins the virtual gamut of Jewish groups – encompassing all religious streams – that have issued similar statements after Trump forcefully reiterated in a news conference Tuesday that both sides were to blame for the deadly violence on Saturday surrounding a march by members of the far right, and there were “very fine people” in both camps. He had previously and apparently under pressure condemned the neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists.
AIPAC rarely pronounces issues not related to Israel and almost never issues statements that at least do not tangentially relate to the Middle East. In another departure from its custom, its leadership in 2016 rebuked then-candidate Trump for attacking a sitting president, Barack Obama, during its annual conference.
About 500 people associated with far-right movements met in Charlottesville, Virginia, over last weekend to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Some bore Nazi flags and others chanted Nazi, anti-Semitic and racist slogans, without any apparent objection by anyone among them. Some of the protesters were armed, and many were in uniforms.
A large contingent of counter-protesters also turned out, and there were some physical clashes. The weekend turned deadly when a car allegedly driven by a far-rightist rammed into a group of counter-protesters, killing local resident Heather Heyer and injuring at least 20 others.