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David Friedman is out of step with American Jews and dangerous for Palestinian human rights

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As a Jewish American and a Palestinian human rights activist, we stand united in our opposition to President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of bankruptcy attorney David Friedman to be the next US Ambassador to Israel. Friedman, who has no diplomatic experience, is aligned not with American Jewish positions, but with Israel’s illegal settler movement. He is hostile to the two-state solution and refers to the West Bank as Judea and Sumeria, a biblical name used by settlers and Israel’s extreme right. Friedman’s reference to the West Bank by this name reflects his support for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which would force the Palestinian population either to leave or be contained in enclaves, not unlike South African apartheid era bantustans

Friedman’s appointment would signal a break with decades of US foreign policy criticizing settlement expansion and maintaining at least the appearance of support for a just and peaceful solution to the conflict (US military aid to Israel, which the Obama administration just increased to 38 billion over the next ten years, has always acted counter to peaceful resolution). Friedman has made clear that he intends to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, an action that would fly in the face of international law and the positions of our European allies. He heads up an organization that has raised tens of billion of dollars for the illegal settlement of Bet El, located outside of Ramallah. He has stated that supporters of the liberal Jewish organization J Street are worse than “kapos,” Jewish prison guards who worked in Nazi death camps.

From insulting liberal American Jews, to supporting illegal settlers, Friedman’s positions are out of step with trends among American Jews. According to a 2013 Pew Center poll, only 17 percent of American Jews say that continued settlement building helps Israel’s security. Forty-four percent, the plurality of American Jews, see settlements as harmful to security. In contrast, 42 percent of Israeli Jews say settlements help Israel’s security while only 30 percent say they are harmful. But, Friedman is supposed represent US positions, not the Israeli right wing!

Unlike Israeli Jews, trends among American Jews show a sharp move away from religious practice and towards secularization, assimilation, and identification with the less religious Union for Reform Judaism movement. These Jews, who make up 65 percent of American Jewry, are less likely than their orthodox counterparts to express blind support for Israel’s policies. While they report emotional attachment to the state of Israel, they tend to disagree with the ideology supported by Friedman that the land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people by God.

In November, 2016, Friedman and Jason Dov Greenblatt released a 16-point plan for US relations with Israel under the Trump administration. Along with suggesting that the US “cut off funds for the UN Human Rights Council,” they also portray Iran “as the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” arguing that Iran is in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and calling for the implementation of “tough, new sanctions.” Friedman’s position on Iran, while in alignment with Netanyahu’s wishes, is inconsistent with American Jewish opinion. A 2015 LA Jewish Journal survey found that 48 percent of American Jews support the Iran deal and only 28 percent oppose it (25 percent reported that they hadn’t heard enough to form an opinion).

Ariel Gold:

As a modern Jewish-American woman, I am an example of the changing trends in American Jewry. My grandmother immigrated to the US from Poland as a young child in the early 1900’s. Her parents settled in Utica, New York, where they helped establish the local Utica chapter of the Zionist Organization of America in 1938. Our family’s roots stretch back to 14th century Jewish scholar and Kabbalist, Joseph Karo, buried in the Northern Israeli town of Safed. I was taught, like most American Jews, that Israel was our protection after centuries of anti semitism, culminating the in the Holocaust. I joined a Reform synagogue upon reaching adulthood, but my feelings of connection to and support for Israel as a Jewish State were shattered with the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians. Horrified that Israel was committing this act in my name, I began to look critically at the history of zionism, at Israel’s foundation of ethnic cleansing, and at the state’s ongoing violations of international law and Palestinians’ human rights. In the fall of 2016, I spent 6 weeks in Hebron with the Palestinian human rights group, Youth Against Settlements, experiencing directly the most ideologically extreme and violent members Israel’s settler movement.

Incitement to settler violence is at its most extreme in the city of Hebron, but it is commonplace and normalized throughout Israeli society. In October 2016, Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, who heads up Israel’s rights wing Habayit Hayehudi Party, stated that Israelis should be ready to “give our lives” to annex the West Bank. Friedman’s denunciation of the two-state solution and support for Israeli annexation of the West Bank provides dangerous legitimation for such calls.

Issa Amro:

As a Palestinian native of Hebron, I know all too well what ‘giving lives’ to annex the West Bank looks like, as well as the consequences that follow. I was 14 years old when Brooklyn born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, killing 29 Palestinians in worship and injuring another 125. Since then, Hebron has been a divided city. While Israeli settlers roam the streets freely, openly carrying machine guns, Palestinians like myself face movement barriers, closed military zones, 12 permanently staffed checkpoints, and constant harassment. The Youth Against Settlements center, which is also my residence, is regularly invaded by aggressive settlers and soldiers.

Since university, my life’s commitment has been to using nonviolence as a way to campaign for equality, freedom, and an end to Israeli apartheid. In 2010, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) declared me the Human Rights Defender of the Year for Palestine. In 2013, the European Union gave me official Human Rights Defender designation. In 2011, I was a guest of the US State Department as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). While I experience immense commendation and support from the International community, at home I face settler death threats and persecution by Israel. Currently, I am undergoing trial in Israeli military court on trumped up charges in an effort to silence my voice and shut down my endeavours. Friedman’s appointment would harm, rather than support my nonviolent work and would green light an increase in settler violence in Hebron and throughout the West Bank.

More and more American Jews are aligning with the nonviolent movement for Palestinian human rights. Last spring, hundred of American Jews, including prominent Jewish-American journalist and political analyst, Peter Beinart, traveled to the West Bank to stand shoulder to shoulder with Palestinians in Hebron and West Bank village of Susiya. They faced arrest as they joined their Palestinian counterparts in an attempt to clean out an abandoned Palestinian factory and transform it into a Cinema. This, not support for the Israeli extreme right and settler movement, is the trend of American Jewish opinion on Israel. It is how to support a peaceful solution to the decades old conflict. Peace talks, protection for human rights defenders, and adherence to international law is what the the next US Ambassador to Israel should be supporting and why we are asking you to add your name to CODEPINK’s petition calling on the incoming 116th US Congress not to confirm David Friedman.

Issa Amro

Issa Amro is an internationally recognized Palestinian human rights defender from the West Bank city of Hebron. He is the founder and director of the Palestinian led organization, Youth Against Settlements, that documents human rights violations and provides protection and infrastructure for Palestinian families. He has testified before the UN on numerous occasions and received many awards and recognitions for his work. He is currently undergoing trial in Israeli military court. His twitter handle is @issaamro.

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Ariel Gold

Ariel Gold is the national co-director for CODEPINK and leads their campaigns for Palestinian rights.

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25 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth on December 20, 2016, 10:34 am

    Can someone please explain why Beinart gave a backhanded endorsement to Friedman, basically saying that maybe inexperience isn’t really a bad thing, and completely omitting his hardline stance on settlements and calling other Jews ‘kapos’?

    It’s hard to envision the end-game here.

    • Mooser on December 20, 2016, 12:21 pm

      “It’s hard to envision the end-game here.”

      Perhaps a letter to the Editor, I think it’s a guy named Jeff Goldberg, will engender an explanation of the Atlantic’s stance on Zionism and American relations with Israel in the next issue. Worth a shot. don’t you think?

  2. amigo on December 20, 2016, 2:39 pm

    petition signed

  3. Elisabeth on December 20, 2016, 2:41 pm

    SAmaria, not SUmeria for God’s sake!

    • RoHa on December 20, 2016, 6:27 pm

      I’m pretty sure the Zionists want to extend their holdings to Sumer.

      • DaBakr on December 21, 2016, 3:10 am


        so then you probably heard the joke that the way to solve the crisis in the middle east is make the 22 arab nations along with israel and the west bank into the united states of israel.

      • Talkback on December 21, 2016, 8:18 am

        Say DaBakr, how many Nonjews per Arab state are Jews allowed to expell and or disenfranchise? Or are Palestinian Nonjews enough?

  4. Maghlawatan on December 20, 2016, 3:04 pm

    Friedman is in sync with the people who run Israel and a majority of Israeli Jews. None of them realise what they are doing.

    • jd65 on December 20, 2016, 10:13 pm

      Why pay them that compliment? I think they know exactly what they’re doing.

      • Maghlawatan on December 21, 2016, 6:04 am

        They think the Holocaust will excuse everything. It won’t.
        They think YESHA whose costs increase at 7% per year is affordable. It isn’t. They think US power is forever. Wrong

  5. Mooser on December 20, 2016, 3:12 pm

    “October 20, 2016: “While the revelation of Mr. Trump’s demeaning comments caught on tape some 11 years ago brought him, as one would expect, widespread negative attention, The New York Times ran with the story with all the journalistic integrity of the worst gossip rag. If only the Times had reported on the Nazi death camps with the same fervor as its failed last-minute attempt to conjure up alleged victims of Donald Trump, imagine how many lives could have been saved.” David Friedman

    Poor Josh Marshall

  6. mcohen. on December 20, 2016, 3:45 pm

    Great guy because bankruptcy lawyers are good at dividing up the goodies.

    • John O on December 20, 2016, 4:18 pm

      … and the way Israel is going, they’ll need a good bankruptcy lawyer pretty soon.

    • Talkback on December 21, 2016, 8:27 am

      Divide up the goodies? That would mean that both parties legally acquired the goodies. War and expulsion is not a mean of acquisition since 1945.

  7. Maghlawatan on December 20, 2016, 4:17 pm

    Israel is morally bankrupt so Friedman is a super choice

  8. gingershot on December 20, 2016, 4:21 pm


    Richard Siverstein correctly identifies David Friedman as a Kahanist.

    Not just out of step – way beyond the pale – ‘Kahanist’

  9. gingershot on December 20, 2016, 4:52 pm

    Caroline Glick to Friedman’s rescue!

    Choice Glick on Friedman at JPOST (she is unquestionably my favorite JPOST columnist) – she goes after J Street (apparently run by Soros and Muslims, basically) and kissing off of the Diaspora. She ends by implying it’s every man for himself-time in Israel and the Diaspora and the Liberal Diaspora has made it’s (wrong) choice

    ‘And now, here comes Friedman, who sees no point in going along with this anti-Israel nonsense. Friedman not only doesn’t view Israel’s refusal to deny civil and property rights to its citizens in Judea and Samaria as a reason to oppose Israel. He supports these rights. He even supports Israel’s legal right to govern Judea and Samaria’.

  10. jd65 on December 20, 2016, 10:17 pm

    we are asking you to add your name to CODEPINK’s petition.

    Signed, w/ comment. I personally don’t know if these online petition thingies ever have any real effect. But I can’t think of a good reason, for myself, not to sign this one…

  11. Marnie on December 21, 2016, 12:11 am

    If the pick of David Friedman doesn’t help so called ‘liberal zionists’ find their spines, it’s hard to imagine what will. It’s way past time to get off the fence and stand for justice and with the Palestinian people, with no excuses or strings attached.

  12. captADKer on December 21, 2016, 11:44 am
    gold is ” a freedom fighter with love” who,
    unlike real witches, doesn’t rate the stake-
    MW has hit the bottom by this contributor

    • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 1:05 pm

      “MW has hit the bottom by this contributor”

      You think so, “capt”? She can write an English sentence, and link text. That’s more than some contributors can manage.

  13. ToivoS on December 21, 2016, 3:56 pm

    Napoleon is credited with the statement ‘when you see your enemy making a mistake do not interfere’. That is my feeling about the Friedman appointment. This cannot be good for Israel and the Zionist cause. Best to sit back and let it go forward.

  14. jd65 on December 21, 2016, 4:08 pm

    Also, and maybe this goes without saying, Issa Amro is da’ man.

    All the luck in the world and more power to you, Issa :)

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