NEW YORK – Dozens of rabbis are planning to boycott a scheduled speech by Donald Trump to the nation’s largest pro-Israeli lobbying group to protest what they feel is divisive rhetoric by the Republican presidential front-runner.
The rabbis plan to hand out fliers requesting that hundreds of attendees at the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, in Washington either skip Trump’s speech on Monday or stand up and silently walk out as he starts speaking.
“He embodies ‘Sinat chinam,’ senseless hatred,” said Rabbi David Paskin of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, one of the protest’s organizers. “We are against the ugliness that has engulfed this election season. And he has driven much of it, from his comments about Mexicans and Muslims to the violence at his rallies.”
Trump, who holds a significant delegate lead in the quest for the Republican presidential nomination, has left some Jewish leaders uneasy with what they feel is a lack of understanding about the Middle East, his pledge to stay neutral during peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and his inflammatory speech that evokes totalitarian regimes.
One of the former leaders of the liberal Reform movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, believes the walkout will signify that “American Jews are beginning to wake up. And they are getting ready to take on Donald Trump.”
A Trump spokeswoman did not reply to a request for comment.
The candidate has frequently touted his warm feelings toward Israel, noting that his daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism when she married into a prominent Orthodox family, and that he was the grand marshal of a pro-Israel parade in New York City in 2004.
He has said that remaining “neutral” in the peace talks could help him negotiate a better deal, a stance that has upset many Zionists.
An AIPAC official declined comment about the protest but noted that the group invites all active Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to address the conference. Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have also confirmed their attendance.
Trump may have his eyes on running against Clinton in the general election, but in the meantime he’s also stepping up attacks on America’s most watched female news anchor.
Having threatened riots should the Republican Party deny him the nomination in the race for the White House, Trump took time out of his schedule Thursday to fire off three tweets calling out “crazy” Megyn Kelly.
First he complained that she hosted his closest Republican rival, Ted Cruz, whom he has nicknamed “lyin’ Ted” on her prime-time Fox News show “The Kelly File,” the second most watched program in American cable news after that of fellow Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly.
In the morning, he complained about an interview in which Kelly said O’Reilly could have done more to defend her against Trump.
“Her bad show is a total hit piece on me. Tough!” he said.
“Highly overrated & crazy @megynkelly is always complaining about Trump and yet she devotes her shows to me. Focus on others Megyn!” he went on to write at lunchtime.
Trump regularly posts messages from others who denigrate Kelly. The avalanche of criticism prompted one of Kelly’s colleagues to hit back.
“This obsession with @megynkelly is disturbing and not presidential. Please stop. @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted Janice Dean, senior meteorologist at Fox News.
Even after he won the Florida primary on Tuesday, a crushing victory that forced rival Marco Rubio to withdraw from the race, Trump had the knives out for Kelly, calling her “crazy” and “unwatchable.”
Kelly brushed off the vitriol in an interview with More magazine, in which she said she found inspiration from Britain’s first female prime minister, dubbed the Iron Lady for her fortitude.
“I’ve been thinking about that Margaret Thatcher quote where she said something like, ‘I love when they attack me personally because it means they don’t have a political argument left,'” she was quoted as telling the magazine.
A former corporate litigator, Kelly was in 2014 the only woman journalist listed on the TIME 100: The Most Influential People in the World list.