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Trump pick for ambassador to Israel supports Israeli annexation of West Bank and calls liberal Jews ‘kapos’ (Updated)

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Donald Trump has nominated 57-year-old Long Island native David Friedman to serve as U.S ambassador to Israel. Friedman served as Trump’s Israel adviser during the election campaign and has worked as Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer. He is a vociferous pro-settler advocate who openly advocates for the annexation of the West Bank, and serves as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, a settlement advocacy group. Friedman will join an administration that has continually promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has made clear its opposition to the two-state solution. In announcing the pick Trump called Friedman “a longtime friend and trusted adviser.”

David and Tammy Friedman at a playground which they dedicated in the Bet El settlement, with Former MK and Bet El Founder Yaakov Katz. Baruch Gordon. (Photo: Arutz Sheva)

David and Tammy Friedman at a playground which they dedicated in the Bet El settlement, with Former MK and Bet El Founder Yaakov Katz. Baruch Gordon. (Photo: Arutz Sheva)

Friedman is a writer for the Israeli settler news service Arutz Sheva, and his columns demonstrate strong right wing views concerning the occupation, U.S. politicians, and the Middle East. Friedman has called for ending “the two-state narrative”, describing it as “an illusion that serves the worst intentions of both the United States and the Palestinian Arabs.” Friedman has also referred to the recognition of Jerusalem as “the indisputable capital of the Jewish people” as a holy battle, one that will be won by those who acknowledge Jerusalem as being “the holy capital of the Jewish people—and only the Jewish people”.

In 2015, Friedman wrote an article praising the pre-war sentiment expressed by Mike Huckabee, evangelical Trump-supporter and former Governor of Arkansas, who “referred to war as “killing people and breaking things” until the loser gives up or is destroyed.” Friedman writes that the Obama administration, which is waging countless military operations around the world, has been too docile and light-headed when it comes to “terrorists”.

“The United States has the largest and most powerful military in the world. Under the Obama Doctrine, however, it is no longer in the business of fighting to win,” he argues.

In another stunning column for Arutz Sheva, Friedman accuses Obama of being an anti-Semite, and characterized the centrist Zionist organization J Street as being “worse than kapos”.

“They are far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps,” he wrote.

A faculty house dedicated by Friedman in Bet El's Ra'aya Girls High School. (Photo: Arutz Sheva)

A faculty house dedicated by Friedman in Bet El’s Ra’aya Girls High School. (Photo: Arutz Sheva)

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, tells Mondoweiss that the appointment of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel “is but the latest suggestion of what a Trump administration’s policy toward Palestine/Israel will be and that is a full, unapologetic embrace of Israeli Apartheid. Trump has railed against political correctness throughout his campaign and in many ways he seems to be doing the same thing with shaping his policy on this issue.”

Munayyer explains that “for decades the US has done a sort of “politically correct” dance where they have consistently supported Israel as it colonizes what is left of Palestinian territory while saying they support a Palestinian state.” The nomination of Friedman signals that the U.S. will do away with this farce, and  “just own what they have done for years which is support the apartheid reality on the ground.” Munayyer contends that a Trump administration will treat Israel with light-headedness, which means that “the civil society effort to impose costs on Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions tactics [BDS] has never been more important.”

Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of Jadaliyya, was straightforward in his reaction to Friedman’s nomination, telling Mondoweiss that he “hopes the appointment of such an avowed extremist to the position of US Ambassador to Israel, selected precisely because of his extremist positions, will disabuse Palestinians of any remaining illusions the the United States has anything positive to contribute to their struggle for self-determination.”

Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, shared a similar viewpoint in an email to Mondoweiss, “The nomination as ambassador to Israel of yet another advocate of policies overtly or covertly hostile towards the Palestinians is nothing new. However, Friedman is a major donor to several of the most extreme of Israel’s illegal settlements, is openly opposed to the national rights of the Palestinians, and has vilely slandered the President of the United States, as well as members of liberal Jewish groups. This should be a wake up call for those who have deluded themselves about any possibility under current circumstances of a positive US role in Palestine. This nomination only shows the American political establishment, from the “left” to the extreme right that was brought to power in the 2016 election for what it is: the essential enabler of Israel’s permanent occupation, colonization, expulsion and subjugation of the Palestinian people.”

Jewish Voice For Peace released a statement from executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson condemning Friedman’s nomination as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, arguing that it “indicates that the Trump Administration has aligned itself with the farthest right elements of the Israeli government”, and warning that this signals that the incoming administration will give the Israeli government a free pass to further its abusive control of Palestinian land, and to continue infringing upon Palestinian rights.

Writing on Twitter, London Review of Books writer Adam Shatz put it succinctly: “Let’s call the Friedman appointment by its name: a declaration of war on the Palestinian people.”

(Image: Carlos Latuff)

(Image: Carlos Latuff)

Both Trump and Friedman share the intention of rejecting the two-state solution and abiding by the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which calls for recognizing Jerusalem and Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The bill was passed in 1995 but left unsigned under Bill Clinton and subsequently suspended on 22 occasions—thanks to the presidential waiver authority—mostly due to alleged national security concerns. Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett was euphoric after Donald Trump’s electoral win, calling his election an “opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country”. He said, “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

For this reason, advocates of the two-state solution are troubled by Friedman’s nomination. A press release from the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) president Rabbi Rick Jacobs notes that while URJ supports Friedman’s goal of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and its designation as Israel’s capital, the organization is “greatly concerned” that Friedman is against a two-state solution. The Reform group maintains “that only a two-state solution will allow Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic while also addressing the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians.”

Americans for Peace Now also announced its opposition to Friedman saying, “Friedman opposes the very essence of APN’s values and mission.” The organization added, “Trump repeatedly declared that he would like to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, but coupled with the President-elect’s statements about his intention to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Friedman’s nomination is a destabilizing move, which only adds fuel to the Israeli-Palestinian fire.”

Chemi Shalev, U.S. editor and correspondent for Haaretz, recently published an article arguing that due to Friedman’s right-wing inclinations, “[h]e makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist”. Shalev contends that Friedman will satisfy Evangelicals, Jewish settlers “and bring pleasure to Land of Israel zealots far and wide”. While the Obama administration may have offered Palestinians some semblance of even-handedness, Shalev writes, Friedman and the Trump administration will likely offer them no such thing.

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer based in Sydney. She writes the Sharp Edges column at Shadowproof and politics at Paste Magazine. She tweets at @roqchams.

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37 Responses

  1. Citizen on December 16, 2016, 11:22 am

    Seems clear, Trump is for white nationalism and Israel’s Jewish nationalism. I see why David Duke lauds both.

  2. John O on December 16, 2016, 11:57 am

    For some reason, the final frames of “Dr Strangelove” keep flitting before my mind’s eye. And, when they stop, the final frames of “Dark Star” replace them.

  3. Mooser on December 16, 2016, 12:03 pm

    Not even Josh Marshall likes him: “The Worst of the Worst”

  4. wondering jew on December 16, 2016, 12:09 pm

    Status quo on the west bank will not work. Withdrawal seems like a pipe dream, so Annex and give citizenship to the West bank Palestinians.
    This guy friedman’s rhetoric is for the birds.
    We’ll see if n’yahu can guide Israel in some direction different than that proposed by bennett, now that Trump seems set on giving him free rein.

    • Mooser on December 16, 2016, 3:11 pm

      “This guy friedman’s rhetoric is for the birds.”

      Gee, I’m surprised you can hear the cry of the vulture over the sound Miko Peled barking like a dog, that “son of a general”!

  5. Misterioso on December 16, 2016, 12:13 pm

    If Trump becomes president, he will prove to be Israel/Zionism’s curse.

  6. hophmi on December 16, 2016, 12:20 pm

    Surprising to see Mondoweiss reject such a firm believer in the one-state solution.

    • eljay on December 16, 2016, 1:12 pm

      || hophmi: Surprising to see Mondoweiss reject such a firm believer in the one-state solution. ||

      Really? When has MW ever endorsed a one religion-supremacist “Jewish State” solution?

    • Mooser on December 16, 2016, 1:44 pm

      “Surprising to see Mondoweiss reject such a firm believer in the one-state solution.”

      So a Jewish apartheid Israel is your idea of the “one-state solution”?

    • Talkback on December 17, 2016, 10:48 am

      hophmi: “Surprising to see Mondoweiss reject such a firm believer in the one-state solution.”

      Not suprising that a firm believer of Jewish supremacism perverts not only the concept of a two, but also that of a one state solution.

      • Mooser on December 17, 2016, 11:54 am

        “Not suprising that a firm believer of Jewish supremacism perverts not only the concept of a two, but also that of a one state solution.”

        If you don’t mind my saying so, that’s very well said, and as time goes on, very important to remember.

      • Talkback on December 19, 2016, 8:19 am

        Thank you, Mooser.

      • Mooser on December 19, 2016, 12:19 pm

        You’re welcome, “Talkback”

  7. James Canning on December 16, 2016, 4:52 pm

    Does David Friedman endorse the expulsion of Muslims from the West Bank, subsequent to an Israeli “annexation”?

    • Sibiriak on December 16, 2016, 9:07 pm

      No, of course not. At the end of the day, Israel will only annex territories with relatively small numbers of Palestinians. They will be able to become citizens without threatening Israel’s Jewish majority.

      The Palestinians will be able to do what they wish with Gaza and the remaining areas in the West Bank.

      • DaBakr on December 16, 2016, 11:49 pm


        I think you forgot to emphasize your sarcasm as your comment comes across as totally honest and reasonable.

        I’m sure Phil’s alter-ego funny man will come along shortly to try and clear matters up with an appropriately somber chuckle

      • Mooser on December 17, 2016, 11:56 am

        “I’m sure Phil’s alter-ego funny man will come along shortly”

        Speak of the devil, and he will appear.

  8. ToivoS on December 16, 2016, 6:16 pm

    I think this is good news. The two state solution will be officially dead. The debate can now be focused on justice for the Palestinian people. We will now have to be distracted by the irrelevancies of two states that the hasbara brigade has always used to change the subject when justice is brought up. Not great progress, but progress nevertheless.

    Now the Israelis will be forced to defend either the apartheid solution or advocate for outright expulsion of the Palestinians from the Jewish state of Israel. I am sure they will rise to the challenge but I do not expect Trump to join them there.

    • Sibiriak on December 16, 2016, 9:13 pm

      ToivoS: I think this is good news. The two state solution will be officially dead.

      Officially dead? Unlikely. But if it were to become officially dead, then the focus will shift to 1.5 state solutions, confederations with Egypt, Jordan etc., or simply nmanagement of a “frozen conflict.”

      A single democratic state is not even on the table and will not be put on the table. It can’t be. Because the international community can not and will not support a forced union of Israel +Gaza. Because international law.

    • Maghlawatan on December 17, 2016, 2:17 am

      Trump consists of giving Israelis what they want good and hard. No more bullshit about tikkun olam. Get the golem out where everyone can see it.

  9. gingershot on December 16, 2016, 6:42 pm

    Viva la Revolution!

    How much ‘enough rope’ is in a mile of rope?

    1P1V1S is the cure of the Apartheid

    It’s like the Kahanists in Israel and the US are just bringing on all the clowns they can find for The Big Tent Clown Party

  10. gingershot on December 16, 2016, 6:57 pm

    Alan Dershowitz’s ‘Case for Israel’ has fallen apart

    Alan Dershowitz called it a ‘political bombshell’ he was dropping on an Israeli audience – but it’s worse than that, Alan – it’s ‘an existential bombshell’

    Dershowitz said Israel is not ever going to be the same after the UN Sec Co Resolution against Israel and the ICC case against Israel goes hot, which is what Alan said was going to happen

    The combination punch to the face of Apartheid Israel of the UN Sec Co Resolution and ICC isn’t even the end of the story;

    1 Looming UN Sec Co Resolution
    2 ICC cases going hot according to Alan
    3 Embassy moved to Jerusalem
    4- David Friedman ambassador
    5- Looming Azaria Trial verdict
    6- Looming Amona Evacuation against promised resistance
    7- Palestine Annexation Law
    8- The Settlers turning on Bennett, threats made
    9- Kotel Law against Reform and Conservative
    10- Flaming impunity of Bennett and Bibi in the face of the freiers they made out of the US, stringing them along on the Peace Process along with their Israel Lobby helpmates like Alan

    And the incredibly sleazy picture Israel is now presenting to the world now that we can see it with its mask ripped off operating out in the open – thanks Miko

    Obama is getting ready to UNLOAD on these incredible clowns

    • Maghlawatan on December 17, 2016, 2:19 am

      Yup. The logical endpoint for Zionism. State department lipstick. But the pig won’t fly.

  11. kalithea on December 16, 2016, 9:21 pm

    American chumps threw away billions on a hoax called the two-state peace process. Now, with Friedman leading the settler movement, with U.S. stamp of approval, settlers will pull their pants down and collectively moon the entire world from the West Bank.

    Latuff’s cartoons are an education in awareness. Palestinians were betrayed by Abbas, acting dictator, since he doesn’t believe in elections until he can obliterate all hope for justice. He’s no more than a judas who sold out Palestinians and most of their land to his Zionist masters.

    I agree that the only positive in this is that Israel can no longer hide its ugliness behind a pretense of legitimacy. Let’s waste no time condemning this Apartheid pariah.

    • Maghlawatan on December 17, 2016, 5:25 am

      ‘Abbas couldn’t do anything. Zionism is sick. Just being in Palestine is an achievement.
      Orthodoxy is for apartheid.

  12. Sibiriak on December 17, 2016, 12:00 am

    advocates of the two-state solution are troubled by Friedman’s nomination.

    Advocates for a single democratic state should be even more troubled.

    Erekat said he would like to look Trump and Friedman in the eye and tell them “if you were to take these steps of moving the embassy and annexing settlements in the West Bank, you are sending this region to more chaos, lawlessness and extremism.

    And Trump and Friedman would look Erekat in the eye and say “Bring it on!”

    More chaos, extremism, and violence would make the already highly unlikely one democratic state idea even more unlikely, if that is possible, and would, no doubt, be very, very much welcomed by warmongering expansionist Zionists.

  13. Ossinev on December 17, 2016, 5:17 am

    Officially dead? Unlikely. But if it were to become officially dead, then the focus will shift to 1.5 state solutions, confederations with Egypt, Jordan etc., or simply nmanagement of a “frozen conflict.”

    I`ll raise your 1.5 to 1.7. BTW WTF is a “frozen conflict”. Is it some sort of political dessert ?

    “The Palestinians will be able to do what they wish with Gaza and the remaining areas in the West Bank”. Yup just like they have been able to for the last 50 years – you really should get out more.

  14. Citizen on December 17, 2016, 9:58 am

    This is terrible news. The only positive thing about it is a now glaring wedge within the US Jewish community and hence, it unleashes more public exposure as there can be no longer a bipartisan solidarity of this issue under US two party system. Assuming the main media does its job, informed consent will eventually come to Dick and Jane on this issue. The klieg light is a good thing, AIPAC thrives in the dark.

    • ToivoS on December 17, 2016, 3:17 pm

      I agree with your “positive thing about it” and is why it is good news.

  15. Talkback on December 17, 2016, 10:57 am

    “They are far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps,” he wrote.”

    Yes, yes. Imagine those Germans who were against illegal annexation, illegal colonialization of ocuppied territories and wanted to resue others from Nazi war crimes and their crimes against humanity. These Germans were even worse than Nazis, right? At least in the simple mind of a psychopathic Nazi ambassador.

  16. Bandolero on December 17, 2016, 12:53 pm

    Who could be a better US ambassador to Israel than David Friedman, especially in these difficult times?

    As you are surely all aware Israel’s very existence is under threat. Inside Israel radical Palestinians challenge not only the legitimacy of Israel’s capital Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but the very existence of the jewish state, so the US ambassador will face the challenge to play a role as neutral mediator working with moderate Palestinians like Mohammed Dahlan to marginalize the Palestinian extremists.

    To the north of Israel, after winning the war in Iraq, Hezbollah, the Assad regime and the mullahs of Tehran just scored their biggest military victory in Syria. Partnering with Russia and stronger than ever they now rule from the Hindukush to the Mediterranean Sea, being the most formidable military threat Israel ever faced. Further to the north Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood firmly rule Turkey and start heavily tilting toward Putin. To the south of Israel General Sisi in Egypt, while so far being a good friend of Israel, is also partnering more and more with Russia. So, the friends of the US and Israel in the region are just holding out in the east, especially in Jordan and the GCC. The US ambassador to Israel therefore has to play a big role in making unmistakenly clear to the people of Jordan and the GCC, that the US is a great friend of arabs and muslims, and a neutral mediator interested in nothing else than being friend to all and mediating a just peace between Israel, Palestians and Arabs.

    On the global level, especially in Europe and the US, Israel faces a daunting challenge from anti-semites who single out Israel for human rights and even claim that the only democracy in the middle east is an apartheid state, running a life threatening global campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel. A main task of the next US ambassador to Israel will be to make the case to the world, that Israel is a beacon of justice, human rights and equality for people of all heritage and sects. The next US ambassador to Israel has to unify the world, Westerners and Arabs, right and left, conservative and liberal, jewish, christian and muslim behind Israel,the human rights champion, against the threat of the Iranian anti-semites. At the very least the next US ambassador to Israel should unify the western nations left and right, so Israel is defended on the internatonal stage.

    So,who will be better up to these tasks needed to be accomplished to secure the very existance of Israel than true friend of Israel David Friedman? Nobody. And the Israelis see it this way, too, so Trump’s choice David Friedman is very much lauded in Israel.

    So let’s all have a hopeful view on the future.

  17. Ossinev on December 18, 2016, 1:43 pm

    Thanks for the Wikipedia link. I am now the wiser and will certainly keep the term in reserve for deployment in marital disputes. As for the I/P conflict I think what you are perhaps suggesting is that the Yahoo should up his game from seeking to preserve the status quo to actively seeking to “freeze” the conflict ( NB not freeze the illegal settlements – perish the thought ).

  18. gingershot on December 18, 2016, 5:30 pm

    Richard Silverstein’s site also calling Friedman ‘Kahanist’:

    ‘Trump’s Bankruptcy Lawyer to be New U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Kahanists Now Control U.S.-Israel Relations’

  19. Dan From Away on December 19, 2016, 1:50 am

    Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK, announced on December 12, that her government was adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism which includes, among other things, validating as antisemitic, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

    Donald Trump’s choice for US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has created a firestorm by saying publicly and repeatedly that J Street members are “worse than kapos”?

    Does comparing Jewish political activists to kapos qualify as antisemitic according to PM May and the IHRA definition?

    If so, might the UK rebuke him? Might it refuse to allow him to visit or transit the UK? ? It is one thing for May’s government to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism (which is deeply flawed and to which I will be returning in future posts) as there is no down-side for doing so. It is something else entirely for her government to demonstrate that it will act to proscribe anti-Jewish hate speech.

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