Friday 30 September 2016

Dozens of rabbis plan to boycott scheduled speech by Donald Trump to pro-Israeli lobbying group

Published 17/03/2016 | 21:46

Bernie Sanders could have sought a recount because the margin was less than 0.5% (AP)
Bernie Sanders could have sought a recount because the margin was less than 0.5% (AP)

Dozens of rabbis are planning to boycott a scheduled speech by Donald Trump to the nation's largest pro-Israeli lobbying group.

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The boycott is planned in protest to what they feel is divisive rhetoric by the Republican presidential front-runner.

The move also underscores some Jewish leaders' anxiety about Mr Trump's views toward Israel.

The rabbis plan to hand out fliers at next week's gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington calling for attendees to either skip Mr Trump's speech or stand up as the candidate starts speaking and silently walk out.

Mr Trump has also left some Jewish leaders uneasy with his pledge to stay neutral during peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"He embodies 'Sinat chinam,' senseless hatred," said Rabbi David Paskin of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, one of the protest's organisers.

"We are against the ugliness that has engulfed this election season. And he has driven much of it, from his comments about Mexicans and Muslims to the violence at his rallies."

Mr Trump, who holds a significant delegate lead in the quest for the Republican presidential nomination, has left some Jewish leaders uneasy with what they feel is a lack of understanding about the Middle East and his pledge to stay neutral during peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

One of the former leaders of the liberal Reform movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, believes the walkout will signify that "American Jews are beginning to wake up. And they are getting ready to take on Donald Trump".

Mr Trump has frequently touted his warm feelings toward Israel, noting that his daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism when she married into a prominent Orthodox family, and that he was the grand marshal of a pro-Israel parade in New York City in 2004.

He has said that remaining "neutral" in the peace talks could help him negotiate a better deal.

An AIPAC official declined to comment about the protest but noted that the group invites all active Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to address the conference. Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have also confirmed their attendance.

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