Opinion |

The Grotesque anti-Semitic Turn of David Friedman, Trump’s Pick for Israel Ambassador

You don’t even have to be a J Street fan to consider calling them 'Kapos,' as David Friedman has done, as disqualifying for such a symbolic post for the U.S. Jewish community.

David Schraub
David Schraub
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.Credit: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS
David Schraub
David Schraub

Early in the Trump transition phase, it looked as if Mike Huckabee would be appointed ambassador to Israel. Huckabee had recently accused Jews of plotting false flag hate crime hoaxes to frame Donald Trump supporters; he also has a bit of a history of tossing out casual Holocaust comparisons and then getting really angry when Jews cry foul.

But Huckabee will not be our ambassador. Instead, Trump has tapped close adviser David Friedman for the role. Friedman has called Barack Obama an "anti-Semite" and contended that J Streeters are "far worse than Kapos." He also asserted, in the course of advocating "allegiance" standards for Israel's Muslim citizens, that "In the United States, advocating to overthrow the government by force or violence can get you life in prison" (No, it can't). And of course, he's an opponent of the two-state solution.

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It's a little unnerving that the thing Trump looks for in an Israel ambassador is a propensity to frivolously toss out Nazi comparisons. It's almost like he won't actually be a real friend in the White House. Imagine that.

So let's go back to that little bit where Friedman unfavorably compared a significant swath of the Jewish community to Nazi collaborators. Remember last week, when the Senate passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act 97-0 (it was really controversial)? The ASAA incorporates a definition of anti-Semitism which, among other things, considers Israel/Nazi comparisons anti-Semitic. Surely, the spirit of the law also includes other comparisons of Jewish institutions to Nazis or their collaborators, yes?

The ASAA does not contain an "unless you're a right-winger" carve out. Once again, there's an opportunity for Jewish organizations to demonstrate that they're unafraid to call out anti-Semitic rhetoric when it emerges from the right. One does not have to be a J Street member or even a fan to think that comparing them to "Kapos" is grotesque and marginalizing, and should be (what's the word I'm looking for? Help me out, ADL) disqualifying for any administration post – much less one deeply symbolic for America's Jewish population.

In fact, I hereby pledge to donate to the first Senator who announces their opposition to Friedman by citing their vote for the Senate’s ASAA bill. I am 100% serious. It does absolutely no good for the Senate to announce it takes anti-Semitism seriously, then immediately confirm someone who flouts the spirit of the standard they just articulated. Just as Democrats have an obligation to tackle anti-Semitism among their allies, it's time that Republicans take seriously anti-Semitism within their own ranks.

David Schraub is a Lecturer in Law and Senior Research Fellow at the California Constitution Center, University of California-Berkeley Law School. He blogs regularly at The Debate Link. Follow him on Twitter: @schraubd

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