AIPAC has announced that Donald Trump will speak at this year’s Policy Conference. The announcement reads, “Come Together! Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump will speak Live!” Can this really be happening? After all the revelations regarding Donald Trump, are Jewish leaders really inviting this man to speak at the most significant conference of Jewish political activism in 2016? Donald Trump is a poster child for the basest and most vile impulses in American public life. This is wrong.
Based on the desire to promote a strong relationship between the US and Israel, AIPAC invites politicians of every conceivable description to its policy conference each year. In an attempt to focus on foreign aid, safety, and security, AIPAC strives to be politically neutral and, in the past, AIPAC has usually been successful in keeping its agenda focused on practical, non-political issues. On the face of it, it would seem that the invitation extended to Trump, the Republican frontrunner, is in line with AIPAC’s mission and past practice.
In moments like these, however, it is imperative that we recall that the essence of the American-Israel relationship is about more than just defense, security, and mutual assistance. It is about shared values and a sense of moral and ethical conscience which guide both countries’ policies in a region that often feels like a minefield fraught with bad choices and moral relativism. Trump is dangerous because he represents an assault on the very shared values that undergird the American-Israel relationship.
When political figures espouse views and positions that are well outside Jewish moral and ethical boundaries, AIPAC is faced with a Machiavellian choice of whether to support those whose words and actions contravene human decency. Some may say this bargain is worth it; however, doing so compromises our core values as Jews and stains our support for a democratic Israel.
It is an affront to Jews of good conscience to invite Donald Trump to speak at this conference. Trump’s behavior and rhetoric are simply not in keeping with a tradition that is based on intellectual, moral, and ethical conscience. Trump intentionally incites racist, xenophobic, sexist, and anti-Semitic impulses in his followers. His rhetoric supporting violence against those who disagree with him contradicts the most basic Jewish values. Trump’s failings are not political in nature. His ideas regarding actual policy, few as they may be, are not at issue here. Trump embraces violence, discrimination, and racism in contempt of the foundations of American and modern Jewish values. His inclusion at the AIPAC Policy Conference is an affront to Americans, Israelis, and Jews everywhere.
Next week, Jews the world over will read the scroll of Esther, which, among other aspects, describes how misguided leaders can plunge their empires into a world of violence. The Talmud says that on Purim Jews are to drink to the point of not knowing the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai,” in other words to drink until we can no longer discern evil from good. With this invitation to Donald Trump are we so inebriated that we have lost our concept of good and evil? Will we embrace anyone who will support foreign aid to Israel? AIPAC’s invitation has forced the Jewish community to our Esther-moment. Will we speak out to declare Trump beyond the pale of moral decency or will we lose our own moral grounding?
Adam R. Bronfman is president of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation