SENATE HEARINGS are beginning as soon as THIS WEEK on President Trump’s nomination of his personal lawyer DAVID FRIEDMAN to be the next American Ambassador to Israel.
Friedman has no foreign policy experience. His abrasive and contemptuous temperament is inappropriate as a member of the American diplomatic corps. He is divisive and insulting not only to large portions of the American Jewish community but to the Palestinian people as well.
In an earlier post, I noted that I am a signatory to an open letter sponsored by J Street (an American pro-Israel and pro-peace political organization based in Washington, D.C. that is committed to a two-states for two peoples diplomatic resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) and Amenu (The American Friends of Israel’s Zionist Union, opposition party in the Israeli Knesset) that included dozens of American rabbis and cantors who strongly oppose Friedman’s nomination as the next United States Ambassador to Israel.
After reading this letter, I hope you will feel moved to contact your two Senators, especially if they are in the Senate majority, and express your opposition to Trump’s divisive and potentially destructive appointment.
Here is the original J Street and Amenu rabbinic and cantorial letter:
We are writing today as rabbis and cantors asking President Trump to withdraw the nomination of David Friedman to be the United States Ambassador to the state of Israel. Failing that, we implore the US Senate not to confirm him.
In this letter, we will address concerns around his denigration of American Jews who believe differently from him and his policy positions that we believe run contrary to the interests of the United States and Israel.
The Rabbis of the Talmud are adamant that we are to speak to and about other people — particularly those with whom we disagree — with love and respect. We are taught that shaming a person is tantamount to shedding their blood (Baba Metzia 58b).
Yet Mr. Friedman seems to have no qualms about insulting people with whom he disagrees.
Mr. Friedman has repeatedly compared members of the Jewish community whose views on Israel differ from his own to “kapos,” who were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust. He called members of J Street, a pro-Israel organization that wants to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians, “worse than kapos.” He has even questioned whether its more than 180,000 supporters are really Jews — as if he has the right to decide such a weighty matter.
[Note: Friedman has since said he will walk back these comments, but he has not done so to date nor has he apologized to any individual or group that he insulted. Those close to him claim that he cares deeply about assuring the unity of the Jewish people, but his comments and attitudes suggest that he has no clue about the meaning of and application of the principle of k’lal Yisrael, the “unity of the Jewish people”.]
This is the very antithesis of the diplomatic behavior Americans expect from their ambassadors.
An ambassador is charged with representing our entire nation. It is historically perverse and wildly insulting to characterize Jewish advocates for peace, including many of the signers of this letter, as no better than Nazi collaborators plotting to destroy the Jewish people.
If Mr. Friedman cannot responsibly understand history, he cannot responsibly shape the future.
The situation in and around Israel is volatile. Mr. Friedman’s inflammatory comments about Jews, Palestinians and Muslims and the peace process itself are precisely the type of comments that can ignite further conflict and drive deeper wedges between parties.
While we believe the above should be enough to disqualify Mr. Friedman, we have grave policy concerns as well. Mr. Friedman vocally supports the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which American presidents since Johnson have seen as an obstacle to peace.
Moreover, Mr. Friedman opposes the two-state solution, which has been a policy cornerstone for Republican and Democratic administrations for the past quarter century. We are very concerned that rather than try to represent the US as an advocate for peace, Mr. Friedman will seek to mold American policy in line with his extreme ideology.
We yearn for an Israel that is secure, democratic and the national homeland of the Jewish people. Mr. Friedman’s pro-settler positions and opposition to the two-state solution are in conflict with our views and the majority of American Jews who see settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace and who strongly support a two-state solution. Mr. Friedman’s favored policies would weaken Israel’s security, democracy, and status as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
Mr. Friedman’s apparent inability to speak respectfully about and to people with whom he disagrees and his advocacy of extreme policies which threaten the future of Israel and run contrary to American interests are both sufficient reasons to disqualify Mr. Friedman’s nomination. He is the wrong choice to serve as our nation’s Ambassador to Israel.
I ask you today to contact your Senators and urge them to vote against David Friedman’s appointment as the next US Ambassador to Israel. I also encourage you to contact moderate and reasonable Senate Republicans to register your views.
Note: I speak here only for myself and not on behalf of my synagogue or any Jewish organization.