WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Reform movement harshly criticized Donald Trump for “hate speech,” but backed the invitation from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to the Republican front-runner to speak at its annual conference.
Reacting to Trump’s acceptance of the invitation on Friday, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis on Monday called his campaign bigoted.
“His campaign has been replete with naked appeals to bigotry, especially against Hispanics and Muslims,” the movement said in a statement. “Previous comments he has made – and not disavowed – have been offensive to women, people of colour, and other groups. In recent days, increasingly, he appears to have gone out of his way to encourage violence at his campaign events. At every turn, Mr. Trump has chosen to take the low road, sowing seeds of hatred and division in our body politic.”
The movement went on to compare Trump’s comments about American ethnic and religious groups to past horrific treatment of Jews.
“Mr. Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric reminds us that our own ancestors’ access to American shores of freedom and promise were once blocked, with deadly consequences. When he speaks hatefully of Mexicans or Muslims, for example, we recall a time when anti-Semitism put Jews at deathly danger, even in the United States. We cannot remain silent, for we have been commanded to ‘remember the heart of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,’” it said. “We, the leadership of the Reform Jewish Movement, believe we must speak up against such hate speech.”
At the same time, the movement expressed understanding and support for AIPAC’s decision to invite Trump to speak.
“AIPAC’s intent – and its responsibility – is to better understand the candidates’ views on issues that impact the U.S./Israel relationship,” it said. “Mr. Trump is the unarguable front-runner for the Republican nomination, and he has not yet spoken clearly about his views on U.S./Israel issues. The AIPAC Policy Conference will give him an opportunity to do so, just as it does for other candidates.”
The movement pledged to somehow to reach out to the New York real estate billionaire at the AIPAC conference.
“The Reform Movement and our leaders will engage with Mr. Trump at the AIPAC Policy Conference in a way that affirms our nation’s democracy and our most cherished Jewish values,” it said. “We will find an appropriate and powerful way to make our voices heard.”
AIPAC has come under fire on social media for inviting Trump, who has said he will approach Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking with neutrality, has proposed to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, has called for closing down some mosques and stopping the entry into the United States of Muslims, and has derided Mexican illegal immigrants as comprising mostly rapists and murderers.