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Adjectives Fail Me. Best to Let David Friedman Speak for Himself

Invoking the murder of six million Jews in an effort to discredit women who accused Trump of sexual assault is nauseating | Opinion

Peter Beinart
Peter Beinart
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David Friedman, President-elect Donald Trump's pick as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
David Friedman, President-elect Donald Trump's pick as U.S. ambassador to Israel.Credit: Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP via AP
Peter Beinart
Peter Beinart

I’ve spent the better part of two days trying to craft a column about David M. Friedman, the man Donald Trump has just nominated to be America’s Ambassador to Israel. I can’t do it. Adjectives fail me. Better to let him speak for himself. What follows are selections from Friedman’s writings, with brief responses in italics.

August 20, 2015: “The Jew is convicted and sentenced in a show trial, although subsequent evidence emerges which results is his complete exoneration and pardon. That was the affair of Captain Alfred Dreyfus that captivated France from 1894 to 1906. But it sure sounds like Chuck Schumer in 2015 the blatant anti-Semitism emanating from our President and his sycophantic minions is palpable.”

Dreyfus, a French Jewish officer wrongly convicted of treason by an anti-Semitic French military establishment, spent five years in prison on a remote island in French Guiana. Schumer, a Jewish Democratic Senator from New York, opposed President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, and will soon become, with Obama’s support, the Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate. The parallel escapes me.

Oct 20, 2015: Palestinians in the West Bank “have freedom of speech, the right to free enterprise, the right to worship freely, the right to elect their leaders.”

Palestinians in the West Bank live inside the state of Israel. The Israeli army—and the army of no other country—can enter any square inch of the West Bank any time it chooses and arrest anyone it wants, including officials of the Palestinian Authority. Thus, the real “leaders” of West Bank Palestinians are the leaders of Israel. But West Bank Palestinians cannot elect them because they cannot vote in Israeli elections. As non-citizens, West Bank Palestinians live under military law. This dramatically restricts their freedom of speech, worship and their right to pursue free enterprise. Under Military Order 101, for instance, West Bank Palestinians need Israeli military permission to hold a political gathering of more than ten people, even if it is occurring in a private home. West Bank Palestinians also require Israeli military permission to visit Jerusalem, the West Bank’s religious and commercial hub. How easy is it to obtain that permission? According to Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer specializing in Jerusalem residency issues, “Due to Israeli restrictions, today it is easier for a Palestinian Christian living just south of Jerusalem in Bethlehem to worship in Washington’s National Cathedral than to pray in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Today a Muslim living in Turkey has a better chance of getting to Jerusalem to pray at the Old City’s al-Aqsa mosque than a Muslim living a few miles away in Ramallah.” (Although Seidemann wrote these words in 2010, he confirmed to me that they remain true today).

November 28, 2015: “When Russia defeats ISIS, it will have accomplished something that the United States hasn’t done since 1945 nor Israel since 1973: win a war.”

Evidently Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), The Gulf War (1991), Bosnia (1995) and Kosovo (1999) don’t count.

November 28, 2015: “Obama and Kerry only want to fight Republicans, not terrorists.”

According to estimates by non-governmental organizations, the United States military has launched more than 500 drone strikes that have killed more than 3,000 alleged terrorists on President Obama’s watch. (George W. Bush authorized 50). According to the Defense Department, during the Obama administration, the United States military has conducted more 13,000 airstrikes against ISIS. How many bombs has Obama dropped on the GOP?

June 15, 2016: “Are J Street supporters really as bad as kapos? The answer, actually, is no. They are far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction.

Kapos starved, beat and even murdered their fellow Jews. J Street supporters do not do this. If they did, they would be prosecuted. J Street supports policies that may have the effect of endangering Israeli Jews. (David Friedman may also support policies that have that effect—that’s what the intra-Jewish over Israel policy is largely about). But there is no evidence that J Street sets out to endanger Israeli Jews. Were J Street supporters really “advocates of Israel’s destruction,” why would they join an organization whose slogan is “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace?”

October 20, 2016: “While the revelation of Mr. Trump’s demeaning comments caught on tape some 11 years ago brought him, as one would expect, widespread negative attention, The New York Times ran with the story with all the journalistic integrity of the worst gossip rag. If only the Times had reported on the Nazi death camps with the same fervor as its failed last-minute attempt to conjure up alleged victims of Donald Trump, imagine how many lives could have been saved.”

This fall, at least eleven women accused the Republican presidential nominee of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The New York Times did not “conjure” them “up.” Its coverage of their accusations has nothing to do with its coverage of the Holocaust 75 years ago. Invoking the murder of six million Jews in an effort to discredit women who accuse a powerful man of sexual assault is wrong.

Yes, I just wrote those words. In the age of Donald Trump and David Friedman, the point is no longer self-evident, just as its no longer self-evident that Charles Schumer is not Alfred Dreyfus and J Street supporters do not seek the murder of other Jews. Welcome to America in December 2016.

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