A number of liberal rabbis from the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements announced they will not participate in an annual pre-Rosh Hashanah conference call between Jewish religious leaders and the president of the United States. They cited as their reason Mr. Trump’s reaction to the recent Charlottesville protests.
It will be recalled that the president was sharply criticized in some quarters for not attributing the attendant violence only to white supremacist and neo-Nazi demonstrators but also to counter-protesting leftists.
A little context here should be illuminating.
The fact is, the annual conference call was initiated after President Obama’s first year in office and continued throughout the eight years of his presidency. This despite the hostility he often evinced toward Israel and its government.
And it also continued notwithstanding Mr. Obama’s adamant refusal to connect the numerous terrorist acts on his watch with anything having to do with Islam, despite virtually all of the perpetrators turning out to be Muslim extremists who more often than not shouted “Allahu Akhbar,” the Islamic call to arms, as they butchered men, women, and children. Nor could the president even bring himself to mention the words “terror” or “terrorist” in the same sentence with any form of the word “Islam.”
The conference calls continued even after Mr. Obama’s shameful reaction to the 2015 Paris shootings by a self-proclaimed jihadist who told reporters he was targeting Jews at the crowded Hyper Cacher kosher food market in Paris on a Friday afternoon.
Four Jewish customers were killed but President Obama infamously said in response to an interviewer’s question about whether the media might at times be overstating the level of alarm people should have concerning terrorism:
Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.
President Obama plainly wished to avoid noting that the site of the murders was a kosher market or that the targets were Jews, who could be expected to be there, especially on a Friday. He also chose not to let the word “Muslim” escape his lips, instead labeling the terrorists “who behead people” and “randomly shoot…folks in a deli” as “vicious zealots” – as though their Islamist beliefs had nothing to do with their actions.
Lest one think his comments were not deliberate, Obama White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama said what he said:
The [language] that the president chose was used to indicate the individuals who were killed in that terrible, tragic incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they happened to be…. There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.
One can only shake one’s head at these verbal somersaults undertaken to shield Islam from any identification with terrorists and downplay the danger they pose to Jews. Yet no one pulled the plug on the annual phone call.
Perhaps what happened in Berkeley, California, this past Sunday might possibly make the religious leaders reconsider their boycott, although we highly doubt it. Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin called for antifa – the group President Trump said shared responsibility for the Charlottesville violence along with the white supremacists and neo-Nazis – to be classified as a “crime-gang” under California law.
He said the group believes violence is acceptable in countering what it terms right-wing extremism and noted that on Sunday antifa disrupted a largely peaceful “No Marxism in America” demonstration in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Civic Center Park.
The antifa counter-demonstrators, armed and dressed uniformly in black, jumped over police barriers and chased Trump supporters.
The mayor said that although he doesn’t support the far right, “I think we are going to have to think ‘big picture’ about what is the strategy for how we are going to deal with these violent elements on the left as well.” This, of course, was the point President Trump was trying to make with his comments on Charlottesville.
In a perfect world, the liberal rabbis who trumpeted their intention to snub the president would revisit their opposition to Mr. Trump’s Charlottesville stance. Yet we have little doubt – especially given their politically-tinged silence in the wake of Barack Obama’s reaction to the Hyper Cacher murders – that they won’t.