A delegation of some 100 rabbis staged a walkout from the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on Monday evening to protest Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump as part of an effort to boycott what they describe as the candidate’s "message of hate," according to protest organizers.
While activists from the far left crowded outside of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference to deride Trump as a "racist," a more unlikely group of AIPAC loyalists used the opportunity to stage a walkout from the event hall as Trump walked onto the stage.
The group, comprised of several hundred rabbis and pro-Israel advocates, said that while they do not support anti-Zionist groups such as Code Pink, which staged an array of events outside the forum to mock Trump, they still wanted to voice their displeasure with the candidate in a public fashion.
"As AIPAC supporters, we are deeply opposed to giving Trump the floor, to letting him continue his message of hate that is not aligned with our values and our Zionism," said Rabbi Menachem Creditor, one of the boycott's organizers.
While Trump received applause and cheers from the crowd, individuals could be seen heading toward the venue’s exits as he took to the podium.
During his speech, Trump touted his pro-Israel credentials and elicited raucous rounds of applause from the crowd when he discussed the Iran nuclear deal and other issues important to pro-Israel advocates.
"My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran," Trump said to massive cheers. "We received absolutely nothing in return" for the deal, Trump said.
"I’ve studied this issue in great detail, and I’d say, greater by far than anybody else," Trump added to laughs and cheers of approval. "And it is a bad deal."
Creditor and allies who boycotted the speech made clear to the Washington Free Beacon that they are not affiliated with the many anti-Israel activists who annually stand outside the forum deriding the Jewish state and those who back the pro-Israel group, which is among the largest in America.
But in an election year that has seen many firsts, many Israel supporters have found themselves at least partly aligned with the scores of liberal activists fighting to take Trump down.
"AIPAC has seen itself as a platform for all presidential candidates" from both sides of the aisle, Creditor said when asked about the situation.
While the rabbi said he disagreed with AIPAC's decision to host Trump, he understood why the group felt obligated to provide the candidate a platform.
"The question then becomes, ‘What do we do as activists in AIPAC’" to register opposition to Trump, Creditor said. "The answer is we are present and we walk out as a group."
"There is a very strong progressive movement in the AIPAC world and it's gaining strength," Creditor said, adding that he and his allies like to "keep our eyes on the nuance."
An AIPAC spokesman did not comment on the walkout.
Meanwhile, outside the event center, liberal protestors crowded the sidewalks, bullhorns in hand, to shout messages of opposition to Trump.
"Who wants to protest Donald Trump?" shouted a man wearing a suit festooned with dollar bills.
When asked why he felt compelled to protest Trump outside of the AIPAC conference, the man in the money suit, who identified himself as David, said. "I think he’s a dangerous man."
Trump, David said, is promoting a crackdown on freedom.
‘That's how Hitler started," he said, repeating a charge often used by Trump’s detractors. "He seems harmless now," but is using "bullying" and "intimidation" to advance his viewpoints.
Other activists with the Code Pink organization, which protests the AIPAC conference every year, also spoke out against Trump, describing him as "very dangerous to this nation."