APN today sent the following letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations regarding its decision to partner with the Republic of Azerbaijan for a Hanukkah party to be held at the Trump International Hotel in Washington:
Stephen Greenberg, Chairman
Malcolm I. Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
(via email and fax)
7 December, 2016
Dear Stephen and Malcolm,
As longtime members of the Conference of Presidents, we were shocked to learn that you have decided to celebrate Hanukkah by partnering with the Republic of Azerbaijan and by choosing the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC as the venue. We take issue with your choice of both partner and venue. Your failure to consult members of the CoP before making these odd decisions further compounds our frustration.
The Republic of Azerbaijan is a controversial partner. Yes, Azerbaijan has tightened its relations with Israel. We welcome this friendship. However, Baku’s record on human rights and civil rights is dismal, as laid out in detail in the annual State Department Human Rights report. Inviting members of the CoP to celebrate “freedom and diversity” with official representatives of the Azerbaijani government is more than insensitive. It sends an unfortunate and dangerous message that the CoP endorses illiberal policies around the world.
Your choice of venue for the celebration is no less controversial. We want to assume that you were not deliberately making a political statement by choosing the Trump International Hotel for this celebration. But regardless of your intent, you should have expected that in the current toxic political environment, it would be interpreted as such. The leaders of America’s umbrella organization of national Jewish organizations – representing organizations across the political spectrum – have no business putting themselves or the groups that are part of the CoP in such a position.
We have communicated with you many times in the past about the need to seek consensus among CoP members regarding sensitive decisions and positions. We never would have imagined that such consultations would be required regarding decisions on holiday celebrations. We urge you to take action immediately to move this year’s party to a politically neutral venue, and to re-issue the invitation to remove Azerbaijan as a partner. We also call on you to consult with member organizations when you face similar decisions in the future.
James B. Klutznick, Chair of the Board of Directors
Debra DeLee, President and CEO
Martin I. Bresler, Immediate past Chair