WASHINGTON — One of Donald Trump’s closest Jewish associates said rabbis who plan to protest the Republican front-runner’s speech at the upcoming AIPAC conference should be ashamed of themselves.
“Anyone who believes that @realDonaldTrump is a racist doesn’t know #Trump at all,” Michael Cohen, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president and Trump’s special counsel, said Thursday night on Twitter. “Shame on the protesting rabbis with #AIPAC.”
Several groups of rabbis — chief among them, the Reform movement’s rabbinical association — have said they plan to protest Trump’s speech Monday evening at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.
The rabbis have said they do not fault AIPAC for inviting Trump. The pro-Israel lobby has invited all the major candidates to speak, and all but Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have accepted.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) March 18, 2016
The protesters object to Trump’s broadsides against minorities, including Mexicans and Muslims, and say he must assume responsibility for violence at several of his rallies.
Cohen made headlines last year when he told The Daily Beast news site that there is no such thing as marital rape. Cohen later apologized, and the Trump campaign distanced itself from him, although he has retained his position in Trump’s corporation. The Daily Beast was reviving allegations from a 1993 book that Trump had raped his first wife, Ivana. Both Donald and Ivana Trump have said that the allegation is scurrilous.
Some 40 rabbis are reportedly planning to boycott Trump’s speech.
The group of mainly Reform and Conservative leaders have opted to skip the speech in protest of Trump’s policies and hateful rhetoric, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, who according to the report is among one of the organizers of the boycott, wrote in a blog post: “We have been urging rabbis to simply not attend the Trump speech — to let our absence be felt and noted.”
“Yes, AIPAC must be hospitable to Trump, but that does not mean that AIPAC participants are hospitable to the candidate’s ideas and candidacy,” he said.
At the same time, Salkin discouraged jeering, walkouts, or any other “more aggressive” forms of protest.
“I hope that there will be no aggressive responses to Trump’s appearance. Such actions would violate AIPAC’s hospitality; guarantee that the protesters will be forcibly ejected from the hall, and would give Donald Trump extra ammunition. This is someone who has no qualms speaking crudely about women, Mexicans, Muslims, the handicapped, and immigrants; does anyone really want to add ‘rabbis’ to his verbal hit list?” he wrote.
The Reform Movement earlier this week blasted Trump for his “hate speech,” but backed AIPAC’s invitation of the Republican front-runner to speak at its annual conference.
Along with Trump, Republican candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will address the three-day event. Vice President Joe Biden is also scheduled to speak.
Earlier this week, an AIPAC staffer sent out an email missive to student activists warning them that any disruption could result in the rescinding of their conference credentials and blacklisting from all future AIPAC events. The organization later distanced itself from complaints that it was unfairly targeting students, and said that the email was sent in error and without authorization.
In the email, received by a number of college students on Monday and seen by The Times of Israel, the AIPAC staffer wrote: “I am acutely aware that there may be speakers at this year’s Policy Conference whose views you do not agree with.” The email did not specify which speakers might be objectionable to attendees, but it was understood to be referring to Trump.