Opinion

Resisting Trump Means Resisting Netanyahu

Tel Aviv joined cities around the world to protest Trump. For us, it's not theoretical. The new administration's decisions could have an immediate, serious impact on the safety of both Israelis and Palestinians.

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

The watchword at Saturday’s global, glorious women’s protests, including the one across from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, was “resistance.” Resistance to Donald Trump and everything he stands for.

So – how do you resist Trump in Israel?

My view is that in principle, any in-your-face act against the Netanyahu government or the occupation, any non-violent move that causes them distress, such as a show of support for Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Gisha, Adalah, the Palestinian Authority or any other entity that embarrasses the Israeli government internationally, is an act of resistance against Trump because this Israeli government and the new one in America are joined at the hip.

But more specifically, there is an act of resistance that may well present itself to Israelis very soon, and at the Tel Aviv rally it was hard to miss: the U.S. embassy. Trump may very soon announce that he’s moving it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Israeli government, along with its supporters, is of course cheering him on.

Aside from the Palestinian violence and crushing Israeli response that such a move would almost certainly provoke, it would grant U.S. approval of Israel’s theft of what is now East Jerusalem from the Palestinians in the Six-Day War. It would announce America’s opposition to a Palestinian capital in any part of Jerusalem, which means opposition to Palestinian statehood and recognition of Israel’s hostile rule over those people forever.

If the announcement of the embassy’s move to Jerusalem is made, there will be endless ways in which Israelis can protest it in the streets and elsewhere, with the goal of suspending the actual move indefinitely and damaging Trump (and Benjamin Netanyahu) politically.

There would be international fury against such a decision, and the voices of Israelis would be of critical importance. So that’s one opportunity for Israeli resistance against Trump that could well be waiting around the corner.

Protesters demonstrate against U.S. President Donald Trump in Tel Aviv on January 21, 2016.
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Another, directly related opportunity involves Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel. In his columns last year for a pro-settlement, anti-Arab website, David Friedman described J Street and its supporters – who stand roughly on the right wing of Meretz – as “smug advocates for Israel’s destruction,” and as being “far worse than kapos.” Last month Friedman was asked at the Saban Forum in Washington D.C. if he stood by those remarks. He did, saying J Street and its supporters “are not Jewish, and they’re not pro-Israel.”

J Street and other Jewish liberals have called on the U.S. Senate to reject Friedman’s nomination. The voices of Israeli liberals would naturally aid that effort. But if Friedman is approved, then Israeli liberals will be able to take very direct action, to carry out a pointed act of resistance against Trump: They will have the opportunity to boycott his man in Israel.

The U.S. ambassador in this country meets with thousands upon thousands of Israelis at all levels and in all sorts of settings. Not all of them work for Netanyahu; they include cultural figures, academics, community activists and all sorts of other people, a great many of whom would want nothing to do with an individual who declares J Street and its supporters – and, by extension, all Jewish leftists and liberals – to be far worse than kapos.

David Friedman is a moral leper, and that’s the way he should be treated. He should be pronounced muktzeh – untouchable, unclean. In the exact same way that America’s mainstream entertainers boycotted Trump’s inauguration en masse, decent Israelis in every field should boycott Trump’s presumptive ambassador to Israel en masse, and do it publicly, declaratively. 

So these are two suggestions for potential Israeli resistance to Trump. No doubt there will be many, many others in the four years to come, if the curse lasts that long. As over 2.5 million protesters heard Saturday in streets around the world, including Tel Aviv’s beachfront, this was only the beginning.

Larry Derfner is a copy editor at Haaretz and he blogs at www.larryderfner.com. His memoir "No Country for Jewish Liberals" (Just World Books) will be published in April 2017. Follow him on Twitter: @DerfnerLarry