[Marxism] Donald Trump, Israel and the Jews

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 16 08:01:58 MST 2016

NY Times, Dec. 16 2016
Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named David M. 
Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right, as his 
nominee for ambassador to Israel, elevating a campaign adviser who has 
questioned the need for a two-state solution and has likened 
left-leaning Jews in America to the Jews who aided the Nazis in the 

Mr. Friedman, whose outspoken views stand in stark contrast to decades 
of American policy toward Israel, did not wait long on Thursday to 
signal his intention to upend the American approach. In a statement from 
the Trump transition team announcing his nomination, he said he looked 
forward to doing the job “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal 
capital, Jerusalem.”

Through decades of Republican and Democratic administrations, the 
embassy has been in Tel Aviv, as the State Department insists that the 
status of Jerusalem — which both Israel and the Palestinians see as 
their rightful capital — can be determined only through negotiations as 
part of an overall peace deal.

Mr. Friedman, who has no diplomatic experience, has said that he does 
not believe it would be illegal for Israel to annex the occupied West 
Bank and he supports building new settlements there, which Washington 
has long condemned as illegitimate and an obstacle to peace.

The Trump transition team’s statement focused on Mr. Friedman’s long 
history with Israel, portraying him as a friendly supporter of the 
country whose views were in line with the United States’ position toward it.

“The two nations have enjoyed a special relationship based on mutual 
respect and a dedication to freedom and democracy,” it said. “With Mr. 
Friedman’s nomination, President-elect Trump expressed his commitment to 
further enhancing the U.S.-Israel relationship and ensuring there will 
be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligence 
cooperation between the two countries.” The statement said that Mr. 
Friedman was a fluent speaker of Hebrew and “a lifelong student of 
Israel’s history.”

Mr. Friedman’s appointment was quickly praised by the Republican Jewish 
Coalition, whose executive director, Matt Brooks, called it “a powerful 
signal to the Jewish community.”

But beyond Republicans, there were deep concerns over the choice of Mr. 
Friedman. J Street, a dovish lobbying organization that has been 
critical of some Israeli policies, said in a statement that it was 
“vehemently opposed to the nomination.”

“As someone who has been a leading American friend of the settlement 
movement, who lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials,” it said, 
“Friedman should be beyond the pale.”

Mr. Friedman has made clear his disdain for those American Jews — 
especially those connected to J Street — who support a two-state 
solution for the Israelis and the Palestinians. Writing in June on the 
website of Arutz Sheva, an Israeli media organization, Mr. Friedman 
compared J Street supporters to “kapos,” the Jews who cooperated with 
the Nazis during the Holocaust.

“The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty,” he wrote. “But J Street? They 
are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the 
comfort of their secure American sofas — it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”

At a private session this month at the Saban Forum, an annual gathering 
of Israeli and American foreign policy figures, Mr. Friedman declined to 
disavow the comments and even intensified the sentiment.

Questioned by Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief of the Atlantic, Mr. 
Friedman was asked if he would meet with various groups, including J 
Street. Mr. Friedman said he would probably meet with individuals but 
not with the group, according to several people who attended.

Mr. Goldberg then raised the kapos comparison and asked if he stood by 
it. Mr. Friedman did not back away. “They’re not Jewish, and they’re not 
pro-Israel,” he said, according to the people in the room.

Daniel Levy, a left-leaning former Israeli peace negotiator, said that 
in naming an ambassador with the hard-line views of Mr. Friedman, Mr. 
Trump could end up undercutting the security of Israel and the United 
States and condemn “the Palestinians to further disenfranchisement and 

“If an American ambassador stakes out positions that further embolden an 
already triumphalist settler elite, then that is likely to cause 
headaches for American national security interests across the region and 
even for Israel’s own security establishment,” Mr. Levy said. 
“Especially an ambassador committed to the ill-advised relocation of the 
U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”

In its statement, the Trump team noted that Mr. Friedman had held his 
bar mitzvah 45 years ago in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. The wall, the 
holiest place where Jews can pray, is a remnant of the retaining wall 
that surrounded the ancient Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism.

The site today houses the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest 
site in Islam. Control over the site has been a persistent source of 
friction between Israel and the Palestinians, and has sparked violence 
between the two sides.

More recently, the Western Wall itself has been a source of tension and 
clashes between the Orthodox authorities who control the site and more 
liberal Jews, many of whom are from North America and oppose the 
restrictions there on prayer by women.


NY Times, Dec. 16 2016
Hanukkah Event at a Trump Hotel Highlights a Rift Among Jews

As President Obama hosted his final Hanukkah celebration at the White 
House on Wednesday, an umbrella organization of major Jewish groups was 
co-hosting another Hanukkah party less than a mile away — at the Trump 
International Hotel.

The dueling celebrations, the latest instance of the awkward denouement 
of the Obama presidency and the advent of Donald J. Trump 
administration, illustrated a broader rift in the Jewish community.

Several centrist and liberal organizations refused to attend the Trump 
hotel event, co-hosted by the umbrella group, the Conference of 
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Embassy of 
Azerbaijan, and over 250 people protested in the streets outside the hotel.

Protesters and groups that declined to attend spoke of Mr. Trump’s 
divisive statements that many say have spurred anti-Semitism and 
hostility toward minorities, and Azerbaijan’s human rights record.

Ori Nir, the communications director at Americans for Peace Now, a group 
that declined an invitation to the event, said he and his colleagues 
initially thought the invitation was a hoax. The group wrote a letter to 
the Conference of Presidents expressing its concerns. “As members of the 
conference we try to be discreet,” he said. “But this time around it was 
so insensitive that it really merited a public expression.”

Although 71 percent of the Jewish community voted for Hillary Clinton, 
the Jewish response to Mr. Trump’s election has been anything but 
unified. Some Jewish organizations issued messages of congratulations to 
the president-elect, while others have openly and strongly condemned Mr. 
Trump and his appointment of Stephen K. Bannon as chief strategist.

The Conference of Presidents includes a broad range of groups with 
diverse political views, like the Zionist Organization of America and 
HIAS, a Jewish organization for refugees. While many organizations 
attended the event, others issued strong statements condemning the 
choice of venue and the partnership with the Embassy of Azerbaijan.

The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, 
Jewish Women International, HIAS, the Anti-Defamation League and the 
Workmen’s Circle were among the groups that declined to attend the event 
at the Trump hotel.

“To say I was surprised would be an understatement,” Ann Toback of the 
Workmen’s Circle, a progressive Jewish organization, said of her 
reaction upon learning the location and the co-host of the party. “I was 
horrified. It made no sense to me, and it set off a lot of alarm bells.”

The Workmen’s Circle wrote a letter to Malcolm I. Hoenlein, the 
executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents. “As a Jewish 
organization, we cannot and will not condone ― by agreement or silence ― 
the conference’s appalling choices in its partner and the location, both 
of which contradict the stated themes of religious freedom and 
diversity,” the statement read. “Everything about this event is the 
wrong choice.”

Mr. Hoenlein and the Conference of Presidents released a statement 
without further comment: “In a spirit of celebration, mutual respect and 
gratitude, we brought together a full house of guests from many 
different faiths, cultures and countries who joined together with us to 
reaffirm our common humanity.”

The current and former White House liaisons to the Jewish community were 
invited to attend the Hanukkah party as honorees, but they declined, the 
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Nearly 200 people, including dignitaries from Russia, the Palestine 
Liberation Organization and Turkey, among others, attended the party, 
the co-hosts said.

Josh Katzen, the executive chairman of the Committee for Accuracy in 
Middle East Reporting in America, attended the event and described it as 
“very elegant, very nice.” The controversy was not palpable, he said. 
“The naysayers and complainers were completely ignored and not visible.”

Morton A. Klein, the national president of the Zionist Organization of 
America, said he found it “incomprehensible” that organizations would 
not attend the event.

“I find it astonishing that these groups care more about their left-wing 
political beliefs as opposed to caring about developing a good 
relationship with the incoming president of the United States of 
America,” Mr. Klein said.

Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, attended 
Wednesday’s party and said in a statement, “We believe that the 
fundamentally important issue is to focus on the nature and purpose of 
this event and not its venue.”

IfNotNow, a social-action group formed during the 2014 war in Gaza, 
organized the protest outside the hotel. Organizers say interest in the 
group has ballooned in the weeks since Mr. Trump’s election.

Mr. Trump’s appointment of Mr. Bannon as chief strategist was the 
tipping point, said Yonah Lieberman, a founding member of IfNotNow. 
Since Mr. Bannon’s appointment, more than 3,000 people joined protests 
across the United States organized by the group, he said.

Other left-leaning Jewish organizations have also experienced 
substantial increases in volunteers and donations since the election.

“Early indications are that people are using their pocketbooks in 
accordance to their values,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive 
director of T’ruah, a rabbinical human rights organization.

T’ruah’s donations grew thirtyfold in November of this year compared 
with November 2015. Rabbi Jacobs said she was heartened to see various 
organizations taking bold stances after Mr. Trump’s election.

“We’re seeing that organizations that haven’t spoken out this strongly 
before are speaking out, and I think and hope that’s the start of a trend.”

Follow Talya Minsberg @tminsberg on Twitter.

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