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Jewish groups turn on Trump

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(JTA) The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) hardly ever pronounces on any issue that doesn’t relate to Israel. It’s also loath to criticise a sitting president.

But the preeminent pro-Israel lobby did both last Wednesday, after rioters supporting President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol to stop the count of electoral votes that would formalise Joe Biden’s win.

“We share the anger of our fellow Americans over the attack at the Capitol, and condemn the assault on our democratic values and process,” AIPAC said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This violence, and President Trump’s incitement of it, is outrageous and must end.”

The statement, crafted during an emergency meeting of the lobby’s executive committee, was among a host of extraordinary comments on American democracy by Jewish groups, many of which typically steer clear of partisan politics.

AIPAC wasn’t the only mainstream Jewish organisation to speak out on an extraordinary day that resulted in what once was unthinkable: police spiriting into safe havens hundreds of legislators while marauders roamed and looted the Capitol.

Trump invited protesters to Washington DC, and earlier on the day, urged them to march on the Capitol. As the situation grew tense, he simultaneously urged his supporters to disband and told them that he “loved them”.

The Anti-Defamation League also named Trump. “The violence at the US Capitol is the result of disinformation from our highest office,” it said in a tweet. “Extremists are among the rioters in DC supporting President Trump’s reckless rhetoric on America’s democratic institutions.” ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt called on social media to suspend Trump’s accounts and a number of platforms eventually heeded those calls.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy bodies, also named Trump. “This was a direct assault on our democratic process, and nothing less than an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power in a presidential election and an act of sedition,” it said.

Two legacy groups were cautious and condemned the violence while not directly blaming Trump. The American Jewish Committee called on Trump “to call for an immediate end to the riots and respect the certification process currently underway”, without noting that Trump started the fire, as many others had, including some leading Republicans.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the umbrella foreign policy group for the Jewish community, didn’t name Trump at all, although its statement was forceful. “We are disgusted by the violence at the US Capitol, and urge the rioters to disperse immediately,” it said. “Law and order must be restored, and the peaceful transition of administrations must continue.”

B’nai B’rith International “strongly urged” Trump “to publicly condemn the rioters”.

Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, called the attack on the Capitol a “brutal onslaught on our nation’s integrity and historical traditions”.

The Orthodox Union weighed in at first by endorsing the presidents’ conference statement, but on 7 January, issued a statement pointedly aimed at Trump with a tone of relief at the prospect of Trump’s term ending.

“There is no place for the kind of outrageous incitement that fed that assault on the pillars of our democracy. It must stop,” the statement said. “We call upon President Trump to do all that is in his power – and it is indeed in his power – to restore that peace.”

Agudath Israel of America posted on Twitter a statement by its long-time Washington director, Rabbi Abba Cohen.

“The US Capitol is more than a majestic building,” Cohen said. “It’s the true house of the people and the home of democracy. It’s the hope of the nation. You feel it when entering its doors and walking its halls. Today, it was a place of shameful violence and tyranny. Stop or we are lost.”

The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly called on Trump “to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States”, but did not blame him for what it called an “attack on democracy and its institutions”.

The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center was less shy, saying, “The fact that today’s events were encouraged by the president of the United States who has refused to accept his electoral loss is equally terrifying and heartbreaking.”

J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, said, “The president repeatedly incited far-right thugs to subvert our democracy, and now they’re trying to do just that.”

Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, a group known for its support for Trump’s Israel policies, said on Twitter that the marauding in the Capitol was “thoroughly unacceptable and intolerable” but went on to cite an unsubstantiated report that an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent reported a claim that a busload of the marauders belonged to Antifa, a catchall term for leftist protesters.

The Republican Jewish Coalition last Thursday morning congratulated Biden on winning the election, and in its statement included a plea for a peaceful transition to power. The statement made no mention of Trump.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America was scathing. “President Trump has abused his power, endangered American lives, and undermined our democratic institutions,” it said.

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