Hundreds of Jewish scholars of holocaust history call on Americans to 'mobilise in solidarity' against Trump

'Our reading of the past impels us to resist any attempts to place a vulnerable group in the crosshairs of nativist racism'

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The Independent US

Hundreds of Jewish scholars of the holocaust have signed a statement condemning the “hateful and discriminatory language and threats” against minorities during Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and called on Americans to "resist attempts to place vulnerable groups in the crosshairs of nativist racisms."

The statement, signed by more than 250 Jewish professors from across America, expresses the need to “evaluate where the country stands” following the election, and “resist the degradation of rights that Mr Trump’s rhetoric has provoked.”

Published in the online LA-based Jewish Journal, the message opens by stating: “As scholars of Jewish history, we are acutely attuned to the fragility of democracies and the consequences for minorities when democracies fail to live up to their highest principles.

“The United States has a fraught history with respect to Native Americans, African Americans and other ethnic and religious minorities. But this country was founded on ideals of liberty and justice and has made slow and opportunities for all.” 

It goes on to describe “the racial, ethnic, gender-based, and religious hatred” that has been "provoked" during Mr Trump's campaign and in the wake of his election, citing the “numerous attacks on immigrant groups” from both the President-elect and his supporters.

The statement asserts that it is their “duty” as historians to support and resist victims of such hatred, stating: “Our reading of the past impels us to resist any attempts to place a vulnerable group in the crosshairs of nativist racism. It is our duty to come to their aid and to resist the degradation of rights that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has provoked."

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Referring to the victimisation of Jews during the Trump campaign, the statement reads: “The candidate himself refused to denounce - and even retweeted - language and images that struck us as manifestly anti-Semitic. By not doing so, his campaign gave license to haters of Jews, who truck in conspiracy theories about world Jewish domination.”

The statement concludes by calling on other Americans to "mobilise in solidarity" against the discrimination the has arisen from the Trump campaign. “We call on all fair-minded Americans to condemn unequivocally the hateful and discriminatory language and threats that have been directed by him and his supporters against Muslims, women, Latinos, African-Americans, disabled people, LGBT people and others," it states.

“Hatred of one minority leads to hatred of all. Passivity and demoralisation are luxuries we cannot afford. We stand ready to wage a struggle to defend the constitutional rights and liberties of all Americans. It is not too soon to begin mobilising in solidarity.”

Professor David Biale, the Jewish scholar who wrote the initial statement, which he then invited fellow scholars to contribute to, said it was launched as both a show of solidarity and way for to warn against history being replicated.

Mr Biale, a professor of Jewish history at the University of California, told The Independent: “We started circulating it in a very informal way via email, and it went viral. The statement in full got published on a Jewish news website and it began being shared on social media. 

“The incredible outpouring of support from other Jewish scholars showed the feeling people had that they really needed to find a way of stating their horror at what has happened here politically, and to do so from the perspective of the field, because those of us who have studied Jewish history are very aware of what happens when democracies fail, and the consequences for minorities in particular.

“This is a platform for Jewish historians to come together to support people who may feel endangered, and to be ready to respond to policies that bear similarity to the sorts of things that we study historically. If we see them being replicated, we can draw attention to the consequences of those kinds of policies.”

Mr Biale said it was too soon to know what Mr Trump’s policies would be, but expressed concern at the anti-Semitic support during the campaign and the decisions the President-elect has made so far. “It’s too soon to know what his policies will be, but the ‘alt-right’ movement that supported Trump showed a tremendous amount of anti-Semitism during the campaign," he said.

“And the fact that he’s appointed Steve Bannon as his senior advisor, who seems to hold anti-Semitic views, makes us very worried. Even if Bannon himself isn’t an anti-Semite, he’s connected with Breitbart, which allows this kind of anti-Semitic expression.”

Mr Trump’s presidential campaign has emboldened the American far-right, energising white supremacists and helping to unleash a swarm of online anti-Semitism.

The day after the election, which coincided with the 78th anniversary of Kirstallnacht in Germany – when fascists torched, vandalized and destroyed Jewish homes, shops and synagogues – vandals in Philadelphia sprayed anti-Semitic messages on shop windows, allaying fears of a rise in anti-Semitic attacks during a Trump presidency.

Since Mr Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton there has been a spike in reports of hate crimes across the US, with more than 200 incidents reported in the three days after the election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.