Trump’s Chilling North Carolina Rally

Jess Smith Image
Jess Smith
on July 19, 2019

This week, we have seen reminder after reminder of the urgent threat that far-right extremism and bigotry pose to our core values.

Last night, at a North Carolina rally, President Trump unleashed a hate-filled tirade against four progressive women of color in Congress. His relentless attacks on Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar provoked thunderous, chilling chants of “send her back!” from his supporters. The performance was an echo of the president’s racist weekend tweetstorm, which he defended by wielding “support for Israel” as a shield and smearing these members as unpatriotic and anti-Semitic.

For American Jews, this has been a chilling moment — made all the worse by the president’s reflexive invocation of Israel and anti-Semitism in his defense. Our people know what it’s like to be accused of foreign loyalty, to be told to “go back to where you came from,” to be targeted for being insufficiently nationalist or patriotic. To see the interests and concerns of our community weaponized to defend such hateful attacks is something we will not stand for.

We also cannot forget that the president’s incitement comes amid growing horror at the situation on our southern border, where our government continues to imprison migrant families and children in overcrowded, inhumane detention centers. Babies go without diapers, children go without toothbrushes and detainees spend weeks without access to bathing facilities.

For J Street, our values compel us to speak out and to stand in coalition with both Jewish and non-Jewish allies to fight back. We’re proud that members of our movement have taken part in protests across the country to call for an end to this outrage, recalling that our people know all too well what it means to desperately flee violence and persecution.

In Israel as well last week, we saw increasingly blatant and brazen contempt for basic human rights and dignity. Newly appointed Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz openly advocated the complete annexation of the West Bank with no voting rights for the Palestinians who live there. When asked to explain how this would differ from apartheid, he could only respond: “It’s complicated.” In the very same interview, Peretz endorsed conversion therapy for LGBT+ students, only to walk this back after days of sustained national outcry.

With their own words this past week, Trump and Peretz have painted a stark picture of the far-right worldview that our movement is committed to fighting against every day: Those who are “different” must be met with intolerance. Women of color must “go back” to where they came from. The basic civil and political rights of Palestinians are too “complicated” and inconvenient to warrant consideration.

Up against this threat to our core values, we at J Street are battling back. We’re working in coalition with our allies both in Israel and at home to stand in proud defense of our democratic institutions and values — values rooted in our Jewish identity, anchored by our long history and shared by the vast majority of our community.

We won’t allow the vitriol to silence us.

We won’t allow false “anti-Israel” charges to silence important debate over US foreign policy and legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies.

We won’t allow the real threat of anti-Semitism to be weaponized and exploited by the very same leaders who share a large part of the responsibility for the rise of white nationalist and anti-Semitic violence in our country.

We won’t let the forces of hate and intolerance shape the future of the countries that we care so deeply about. We are the majority — and our values are going to win out.

Jess Smith is the Chief Operating Officer at J Street.