Last week, when confronted with the stark reality that the Trump administration really intends to follow through on its darkest campaign promises on immigrants and refugees, we knew we had to fight back.
J Street’s founding principles relate, of course, primarily to Israel: Our support for the state, our belief in a two-state solution and our view that a vibrant, open debate on Israel is important for communal life.
However, the founding principle that’s been on my mind since the election is the one that reads: “Our work is grounded in the Jewish and democratic values on which we were raised.”
Since we launched, I’ve talked often about the importance of applying the same values we bring to all other issues to our work on Israel — specifically the notion that we shouldn’t treat others as we wouldn’t want to be treated ourselves.
While our primary arguments for two states are rooted in Israeli self interest, they’re grounded as well in our values.
Israel provides the Jewish people a secure, permanent home and a refuge from the persecution we’ve known too well in the lands of others.
That’s why we also should understand viscerally that the Palestinian people too deserve freedom and dignity, not oppressive occupation.
It was these core values — a belief in justice and a value for all people — that led me to protest last weekend against Trump’s executive order slamming the door on refugees.
Keeping out some of the most vulnerable people in the world flies in the face of everything we stand for as American Jews. We suffered gravely because the world refused in the last century to take in victims of the Holocaust and of anti-Semitic violence across Europe and Russia.
This history instilled in us a fierce determination to ensure that others do not suffer the same fate.
The same is true for our staunch opposition to bigotry and xenophobia, which is rooted in our personal experience with discrimination and immigration quotas last century.
Trump’s call to deport and ban Muslims was among the reasons J Street initially declared Trump to be unfit to be president last spring.
This new executive order singling out Muslim-majority countries is an affront to our commitment as Americans to tolerance and an insult to our collective memories as Jews of religious persecution. It may only be a stepping stone for even more radical and racist policies.
And this disgraceful initiative will have direct consequences for America’s ability to engage constructively in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It damages America’s standing in the Middle East and in the Muslim world, hampering our ability to gain the trust needed as a broker for peace.
That’s why when people ask me whether J Street’s recent efforts to combat the refugee ban and take a stand against Islamophobia advance our core mission, I answer yes without hesitation.
The values fueling our commitment to a two-state solution are the same ones driving us to stand up for the most vulnerable. And it’s America’s commitment to these values that gives our nation the moral and political standing to pursue peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
P.S. — J Street’s 2017 National Conference is only a few weeks away (February 25-28). It will be the first major gathering of American Jews since Inauguration Day and an unparalleled opportunity to show the Trump administration and the world where our community really stands. We hope you’ll join us in Washington, DC.
Sign and share our petition demanding Congressional action to block Trump's refugee ban.