Opinion |

Why We Protested David Friedman’s Senate Hearing

Like Donald Trump, David Friedman traffics in hate. His nomination as U.S. ambassador to Israel represents the moral failure of the Jewish communal establishment.

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IfNotNow members protest during a Senate hearing on David Friedman's nomination to be U.S. envoy to Israel, Washington, February 16, 2017.
IfNotNow members protest during a Senate hearing on David Friedman's nomination to be U.S. envoy to Israel, Washington, February 16, 2017.Credit: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS

David Friedman’s nomination represents the moral failure of the Jewish communal establishment.

Like Trump, Friedman traffics in hate. He has demeaned liberal Jews on multiple occasions. He denies the existence of the Palestinian people. He has funded the building of settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. His vision for the region is a single, undemocratic state that would make the occupation of the West Bank, a daily nightmare for those who live under it, permanent. And with both Trump and Netanyahu in office, Friedman’s dangerous vision, once a far-right fringe idea, could become a reality.

During their meeting on February 15, Trump and Netanyahu showed that they are two sides of the same coin. Both have ignored the fear that U.S. Jews feel in the face of rising anti-Semitism and bigotry at home, much of which comes from Trump’s own supporters. Both use racist, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and encourage alliances with some of the most xenophobic and anti-democratic forces in their respective countries. Both have demonstrated that they intend to further entrench the occupation, which will only guarantee more violence and suffering for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The American Jewish establishment has met all of this with silence. AIPAC has neither denounced the hateful statements made by Trump and his surrogates, nor condemned Friedman’s undemocratic one-state solution. The major Jewish organizations have said nothing about the danger posed by the proposal to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. With Israeli and Palestinian lives at stake and racist violence on the rise in the U.S., Jewish communal leaders have demonstrated a striking absence of moral integrity.

We blew the shofar to interrupt David Friedman’s hearing because we are in a moment of crisis. We were protesting with IfNotNow, a grassroots movement of young Jews calling for an end to our community’s support of Israel’s occupation. By interrupting Friedman’s hearing, we showed Trump, Netanyahu, and the Jewish establishment that we will take action and risk arrest if necessary to end our community’s support for the occupation and stand up against racism and bigotry in all of its forms. We will be the Jewish communal leaders that the established organizations have failed to be.

We are helping to lead the #JewishResistance, standing up for ourselves and for others against the threats posed by the Trump and Netanyahu administrations. Our name is based on Rabbi Hillel’s three questions: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” As, Jews, we have seen the normalization of racism and bigotry before. We were taught by our community that our responsibility was to never again let state-sponsored hatred become policy. And yet in Israel and the U.S., violence against Arabs, immigrants, and other marginalized people is rapidly becoming the norm.

So, next month, we will bring the #JewishResistance to the AIPAC Policy Conference. No organization, and no event, symbolizes the Jewish establishment’s abandonment of the values we hold dear - justice, peace, democracy, and equality - more than the Policy Conference. Last year, when Trump spoke there, AIPAC legitimized and applauded his hateful views. This year, when Trump speaks there as president, thousands of us will be there with IfNotNow to protest.

For American Jews, the sides have never been clearer. Will you stand on the side of Trump, Friedman, and AIPAC? Or will you stand with us?

Lila Weintraub is an organizer with IfNotNow D.C. She grew up in Maryland, where she was involved with the Jewish youth movement Habonim Dror from a young age. Lila attended McGill University from 2011-2015 and has recently returned and made her home in Washington D.C.

Isaac Flegel-Mishlove is an organizer with IfNotNow D.C. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Isaac moved to Washington, D.C. in 2011 where he attended the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Isaac is now deeply involved with Jewish social justice work in the area.

Tom Corcoran is an organizer with IfNotNow N.Y.C. After growing up in Los Angeles, he moved to New York in 2010. Tom is deeply involved in anti-occupation and anti-racist activism, digital organizing and community work in New York.

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