U.S. Protesters Aim to Make Trump Feel at Home When He Visits Israel

Democrats Abroad-Israel and Pantsuit Nation in Israel hope to attract thousands to rally outside U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv

Demonstrators take part in a protest outside the US embassy in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv against President Donald Trump, January 21, 2016.
JACK GUEZ/AFP

U.S. President Donald Trump may think he is getting away from partisan domestic strife when he arrives in Israel on May 22, but he won’t be leaving his opposition behind.

In what may be the first overseas anti-Trump protest to be held while he is in the country, a demonstration against Trump’s “destructive policies” and “hateful rhetoric” is being organized for when he lands in Israel, after his first stop in Saudi Arabia.

“As soon as we heard Trump was coming to the Middle East and Israel, we decided it was a real opportunity for progressives in Israel to mobilize and help bring the resistance to the administration,” said Heather Stone, a Tel Aviv lawyer who was recently elected chairman of Democrats Abroad-Israel, which is spearheading the event.

“Since this is the first time he travels overseas, we want to show that this is the kind of resistance he should be met with by Americans abroad, and that his foreign trips are opportunities for marches and rallies around the world,” she added.

“We need to show him that not everyone in Israel loves him,” said Mindy Goldberg, founder of Pantsuit Nation in Israel, the Facebook-inspired grassroots political movement that is also sponsoring the demonstration.

“There are thousands of us who oppose him, the policies of his administration and the disgrace that he has brought to the American presidency,” added Goldberg. “Even though we are living in Israel, we care deeply about our home country, and our family and friends living there, and we are worried about what is going on.”

The latest dramatic development in the Trump White House – the sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday – have lent added urgency for expatriates to “show there is major concern” about the president, said Stone.

Many Americans in Israel are “deeply concerned over the ‘hate-fueled ideology’ of the administration and Trump’s failure to lead,” she said, adding that it has “frightening ramifications in America and around the world” and “damages American credibility.

“The attempted Muslim ban – alongside the rise in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and racism – negate the founding principles of American democracy, and disrupt the lives of Israelis and Palestinians,” said Stone.

The May 22 protest will be held in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, with organizers saying it is open “to everyone who wants to come and demonstrate for freedom, democratic values, diversity and inclusion – all things that should be common to the U.S. and Israel. This is of grave concern for all of us. The assault on democracy is not unique to the U.S. – we are seeing it in places like Israel, in places like Turkey.”

Both Stone and Goldberg stressed that the demonstration was not intended to send a message regarding Trump’s still-amorphous plans regarding Middle East peace. The focus of the event is Trump’s rhetoric, leadership and domestic policies, because both groups profess a “big tent” on sensitive Israeli-Palestinian issues and because, Goldberg notes, “We don’t really know what his intentions are in the region yet.”

Democrats Abroad-Israel has been largely dormant for decades, but was revitalized during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Marc Zell, the chairman of Republicans Overseas, dismissed the protest as a “waste of time,” but refrained from condemning it outright, saying they had the right to speak out.

“The only thing the Democrats are able to do is resist,” said Zell. “This is what they’ve been doing since November 8. They still haven’t been able to get over the fact they lost the election, and in this country they are really in the minority. You can call them snowflakes and crybabies, but they have every right to do it.”