Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Last Temptation of Jewish Groups

The Jewish community is facing a difficult challenge when it comes to the Donald Trump administration: "Condemn or court?" It has come to a particular head given the appointment of Steve Bannon -- head of the far-right Breitbart News, the notorious clearinghouse for every brand of White nationalist hatred imaginable -- to a high-level advisory position. Some groups, like the ADL, have stood by their principles and condemned the appointment. Others have been more, shall we say, cowardly on the question of bigotry in the Trump campaign and in his appointments.

The American Jewish Committee just released its big post-election statement. Would they be brave, or would they cower in mealy-mouthed apologias? Alas:
Campaigns frequently generate rhetoric that sounds appealing to some voters, but, in reality, are little more than unexamined sound bites and crowd pleasers. History has shown that not all pledges made in the heat of a tight race turn into policy. This has been true of both Democratic and Republican winners. We need, therefore, to understand how a successful candidate plans to govern before making sweeping judgments based largely, or even exclusively, on the language of the primary and electoral periods.
Indeed, who among us cannot relate to -- in the heat of electoral passion -- calling Mexicans rapists or demanding that innocent Black people be executed?  Have we not all sometimes been tempted to insist on a ban on all Muslims entering the country? And surely all of us can understand how, at the end of a long electoral season, one might end up cutting a campaign ad that functionally reboots The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It's quite the crowd-pleaser, after all.

I hope the AJC recognizes the peril they're putting themselves in with the community for which they claim to speak. I am not the only one has entirely lost patience with this craven approach of coddling bigotry, and I am not the only one taking note of which Jewish organizations are showing a backbone and which ones are falling over themselves to knuckle under. If the AJC wants to dishonor itself, that's its prerogative. But if it wants to claim to be a representative of the Jewish community, it needs to look at exactly where that community is, and what message we want to send. Because right now, it is a shanda.

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