The coupling between the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government has created some iconic, unforgettable pictures. But none can compete with the messianic radiance on the face of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, when he was breaking down a fake wall with a sledgehammer in the tunnels under Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood.
That picture was more powerful than a thousand conferences in Bahrain. I’ve met tourists who’ve come down with Jerusalem Syndrome; they weren’t dangerous, but no one thought to make them an ambassador.
In response to the criticism, Friedman tweeted: “Fake News: ‘Friedman uses sledgehammer to destroy wall under Palestinian homes.’ Real News: ‘Friedman uses sledgehammer to break ceremonial cardboard wall to open once-in-a-century archeological discovery.’”
With someone else, a cardboard wall with photographers waiting behind it would have raised suspicions that this path had been opened before – but not with Friedman. Maybe he didn’t know that the place had already been inaugurated a year ago, and maybe it wasn’t important to him.
In any case, this engineered picture, planned down to the last detail, is the problem. The sledgehammer that Friedman hoisted didn’t blaze a path to any archaeological discovery, it just hammered another nail into the coffin of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”
The small hammer ceremony was only meant to produce a ridiculous video, and it’s another small gamble with the blood of the people who live here. But the U.S. administration doesn’t think that way. In an interview with the Walla news website, U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt said: “Not dealing with history, or in some cases falsifying history, has never helped the peace process.” This was for peace, idiots.
The previous time the Trump administration acted to promote peace it moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. A “great day for Israel, the U.S. and peace,” Benjamin Netanyahu declared, as tens of thousands of people came out to protest in the Gaza Strip. The price of this peace is being paid to this day by the Israelis who live near Gaza.
Anyone interested in peace doesn’t busy himself with the archaeology of a ruined kingdom but with the future of the existing kingdom. There’s no point in explaining this to Friedman, the person who called J Street “worse than kapos” and who supports annexing the West Bank. We saw an example of his sharp diplomatic instincts when he accepted from the group Achiya, which helps children with learning disabilities, a picture of the Temple Mount without the Dome of the Rock and needed time to understand what the problem was.
Friedman’s appointment as ambassador said everything that was necessary to say about the White House’s commitment to a less bloody future for us and the Palestinians. Still, Friedman’s cardboard wall is the very picture of the current point in time: the coming together of the messianics, at the height of their hubris, blind to everything but themselves.
“Why did an American ambassador come to this event to speak here?” Friedman asked. The answer was especially important this week, which marks the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he said in his speech in front of the remnants of the cardboard wall. It wasn’t the Republicans or Democrats who gave us our rights, but God, he added. And how did our forefathers know which rights? “They read the Bible,” Friedman said.
On Thursday, the United States celebrated the 243th birthday of that declaration. The colonies went to war over the right to life and freedom, declaring that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
If only Friedman had seen the people of Silwan, a number of questions would have come to him about the “consent of the governed” – the people under whose homes he was inaugurating excavations. But Friedman sees archaeology and all he remembers from the Declaration of Independence is the Bible.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now