Maligned by Trump's Pick for Israel Envoy, J Street Mobilizes to Block David Friedman's Appointment

Jewish group formerly singled out by Friedman encourages those opposed to his appointment to contact senators in protest.

Billionaire real estate developer Donald J. Trump, center, his daughter Ivanka Trump, right, and attorney David Friedman exit U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010.
Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg

A Jewish-American organization viciously attacked by the U.S. ambassador designate to Israel is now spearheading a campaign to get his appointment blocked. 

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to begin hearings Thursday on the appointment of David Friedman – who supports Israeli settlement expansion and opposes the creation of an independent Palestinians state – to the position of ambassador to Israel. Ahead of these hearings, J Street, a pro-Israel anti-occupation organization, is urging all those who oppose Friedman’s appointment to write their senators and encourage them to reject his nomination.

For their convenience, J Street has published on its website a sample letter, which summarizes the ambassador-designates controversial views and statements.  

“As your constituent, I strongly urge you to reject Donald Trump’s choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman,” the letter says. “Mr. Friedman poses a threat to longstanding U.S. policies in the Middle East that have been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike.”

J Street email sent out to encourage constituents to fight the appointment of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.

For Friedman’s appointment to be blocked, all the Senate Democrats, as well as three Republicans, would have to vote against him.

Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who served as Trump’s lawyer for 15 years, has referred to J Street activists as “worse than kapos” - a reference to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. He heads an organization that raises several million dollars a year for the West Bank settlement of Beit El. 

Other liberal Jewish organizations and movements opposed to Friedman’s appointment include Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Association of Reform Zionists of America, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Israel Policy Forum, National Council of Jewish Women, New Israel Fund and the Union for Reform Judaism. 

Although they will not be voting on Friedman’s appointment, eight members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, have already voiced opposition to it. The only senator thus far to express some reservations has been Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who issued the following statement through her spokesperson: “Senator Gillibrand has serious concerns about David Friedman’s nomination and will be looking to hear those concerns addressed during his confirmation hearings.”

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, also from New York, has thus far refrained from any public statements on the matter. Last month, a group of 120 Jewish studies professors from across the United States opposed to Friedman’s appointment sent him a letter urging him to vote against. 

The confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin the day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets in Washington with President Donald Trump