J Street is outraged by Israeli Ambassador to the US’ Ron Dermer’s full-throated defense of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), an Islamophobic hate group, and by his attack on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a venerable and important anti-bigotry watchdog that has stood against discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism for decades.
Dermer defended the CSP and its founder, Frank Gaffney, while accepting an award from the group at their annual gala in New York. When the award was announced last month, J Street called on the Ambassador to decline it, as did other Jewish groups like the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
We did so because, as the SPLC and Anti-Defamation League have noted, Gaffney and his group have spread hateful lies and peddled outrageous conspiracy theories against American Muslims and senior US officials, including Members of Congress and President Obama. They have supported a full ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. They embody and champion the kind of intolerance and bigotry that the American Jewish community has always stood against.
By celebrating and defending their work, the Ambassador has acted in complete opposition to the core values and beliefs of our community. Incredibly, he went even further in his speech, attacking the SPLC for daring to label Gaffney’s organization a hate group, and for asking Dermer not to accept their award. Right now, when American Jews are deeply worried about the rise of white nationalism and hate crimes in this country in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, it is remarkable that Dermer would stand with the champions of hate while criticizing a group that plays a vital role in defending Muslims, Jews, African-Americans and other vulnerable minorities.
Now more than ever, American Jews need and support groups like the SPLC who stand up to bigots. What we do not need are Israeli leaders and representatives who defend the likes of Frank Gaffney and Steve Bannon, as Ambassador Dermer has, thereby normalizing lies and discrimination, and alienating the majority of American Jews who find their beliefs reprehensible.
By acting in this fashion, the Ambassador does serious damage to the core principles underlying the US-Israel relationship, and does a major disservice to his government and to our community.
We urge leaders from the pro-Israel and American Jewish communities to make clear to Ambassador Dermer and his government just how out of step this conduct is with our core values and interests, and how damaging it is to the office of the Israeli Ambassador to the United States itself. As a community, we can and must continue to demonstrate that we will always stand with vulnerable minorities and those who work to protect them – and oppose the voices that threaten them.