Jewish authors join chorus of condemnation against Trump’s ‘moral equivalency’
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Jewish authors join chorus of condemnation against Trump’s ‘moral equivalency’

Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman and Nathan Englander warn Jews as president fails to address alt-right's ramped-up anti-Semitic rhetoric

Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.

From left: Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman and Nathan Englander. (Photo of Chabon courtesy; Waldman by Reenie Raschke; Englander by Juliana Sohn)
From left: Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman and Nathan Englander. (Photo of Chabon courtesy; Waldman by Reenie Raschke; Englander by Juliana Sohn)

Authors Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, and Nathan Englander joined the growing number of Jews vocally criticizing President Donald Trump for equating the alt-right and white supremacists with counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Responding to the violence that occurred this past Saturday causing the death of one counter protester and the injury of dozens more, Trump said that the alt-right mob contained some “very fine people” and that “both sides” were responsible. The group was protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, who fought to secede from the union and preserve slavery during the Civil War.

Throngs of self-identified white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched towards the monument chanting slogans including, “Jews will not replace us.” Representatives for several alt-right organizations took advantage of the occasion to rail against Jewish manipulation of the media and government.

Trump’s response has received strong bipartisan condemnation from both within and without the Jewish community, including from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who said that white supremacy is “repulsive,” and that “there can be no moral ambiguity.”

Chabon and Waldman’s joint letter chided Jews who have supported the President’s “long and appalling record of racist statements, at worst assenting to them, at best dismissing them as the empty blandishments of a huckster at work.”

“You have tried to allay or dismiss your fears with the knowledge that most of the President’s hateful words and actions… have targeted other people,” the letter said. “Now he’s coming after you.”

Christopher Cantwell, speaker for Unite the Right, shows off his weapons in this screenshot from Vice documentary 'Charlottesville: Race and Terror,' screened August 14, 2017. (Screenshot)
Christopher Cantwell, speaker for Unite the Right, shows off his weapons in this screenshot from Vice documentary ‘Charlottesville: Race and Terror,’ screened August 14, 2017. (Screenshot)

Jewish leaders have been speaking out with increasing urgency as neo-Nazi groups seek to flex their muscles and gather momentum under the perceived endorsement – or at least lack of censure – from Trump.

In another open letter, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote that Trump’s moral equivalency was “shameful,” and decried “the delayed, hesitant and contradictory reaction of our nation’s leader, when precisely the opposite response is so desperately needed.”

Englander described the anti-Semitism he experienced during his childhood and the notable absence of it today – until the surprising violence Saturday that led to Heather Heyer’s death.

“I understood that, in my 40s, I was already part of history,” he wrote. “That certain things I knew didn’t need to be known anymore. And yet… in one single day in Charlottesville, Virginia, all of that is lost.”

Not all involved have been critical of Trump’s response. Former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke thanked the president in a tweet this past Tuesday for his “honesty” and “courage” in condemning the “leftist terrorists” who confronted the neo-Nazi torch bearers.

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