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IRF Reacts to the Violence in Charlottesville

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The International Rabbinic Fellowship condemns in the strongest of terms the racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia reflected in the message of the far right groups of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who protested in Charlottesville. While the Constitution defends their right to express their hateful ideas (except where they incite violence), all people of good conscience and especially public officials across the spectrum, must equally express their First Amendment rights and forcefully reject these messages of hate and division and their agents.

In addition to our condemnation of these hateful ideologies, we must speak out here specifically against two additional aspects of the events in Charlottesville and the subsequent commentary about them.

First, we condemn all violence perpetrated in the name of ideology. We are horrified by the violent clashes that erupted between protesters and counter protesters reaching its crescendo in the murder of a young woman at the hands of what currently appears to be a Neo-Nazi sympathizer. This year we have been witness to growing incidences of ideological and political violence by the fringes of the political spectrum, both far right and far left. Such violence has no place in a democracy where vigorous debate, political activism, and decision making at the ballot box are the only acceptable and legitimate methods for navigating our disagreements and civic life.

Simultaneously, however, we condemn all false equivalencies between violence by protesters and counter protesters in Charlottesville, where such equivalencies leave minorities and endangered populations more vulnerable to attack, and where they strengthen hate groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. While disavowing violence is important no matter who commits it, anything short of a clear-throated and unequivocal condemnation of hate groups who seek to "take back America" from Jews and people of color is dangerous and only further lends tacit support to the activities of those groups.