Trump’s Daily Bankrupcy and the Ambassador to Israel

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David Friedman, named by Donald Trump as his Ambassador to Israel, is ideologically to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg)

By David Remnick / The New Yorker
December 16, 2016


When one read this morning in the paper that Friedman “has no experience in diplomacy,” one could only mutter, “No kidding.” But having no experience in a given field seems to be, in the Trumpian universe, the greatest of virtues. The contempt for experience (as a marker of “élitism”) is parallel to the contempt for science, for fact, for restraint, for consideration, for decency, for a sense of the past.


Every morning since November 9th, you wake up and read the news and think, This has got to be an issue of The Onion. Because, while so much of the media, in ways subtle and broad, attempts to normalize the Trump ascendancy, while we are told that patriotism demands that we accept Trump and “give him a chance,” the President-elect acts in ways that leave even dystopian satire behind. His behavior has little to do with conservatism or libertarianism or populism; his mode is recklessness, a self-admiring belief that unpredictability is the path to national salvation.

And so every day brings at least one fresh outrage: the appointment of a national-security adviser whose temperament resembles those of the unhinged generals in “Dr. Strangelove”; a keeper of the environment who denies the science of climate change; a chief strategist and senior counselor who ran a Web site laced with racist poison and bogus “news”; an Attorney General who regards the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive” and once referred to a subordinate as “boy.”

It seems almost sadistic to go on. It’s the holiday season, after all. Suffice it to say that the appointments, contrary to Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp,” comprise a reinvention of the swamp, a new, improved version of the swamp, in which the super-wealthy and the oil and gas industries are vested with singular authority. All of this is set against a background of brewing scandals, myriad conflicts of interest, the gleeful humiliation of longstanding foes, and a President-elect who refuses to show even a measure of curiosity about the possibility that Russian intelligence agencies meddled in a national election. Continue reading “Trump’s Daily Bankrupcy and the Ambassador to Israel”

The U.S. Is Finally Out of the Closet

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David M. Friedman, left, with Donald J. Trump and his daughter Ivanka in 2010. (photo: Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg)

Following the appointment of a settlement-loving envoy, the pretense is over: the United States will no longer be able to claim that it is an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By Gideon Levy / Haaretz
December 18, 2016


This means the United States will no longer be able to claim that it is an honest broker. It never was one, but now the mask is off. In those terms, Friedman’s appointment is right and good. The Palestinians, Europeans and the rest of the world should know: America is for the occupation. No more pretense.


President-elect Donald Trump has decided to appoint an anti-Israeli and racist lawyer as ambassador to Israel. That is, of course, his prerogative. With David Friedman’s appointment last Thursday, the United States has finally come out of the closet. From now on, it officially supports the establishment of an Israeli apartheid state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Friedman is not the first Jewish ambassador to Israel — a matter that has always sparked questions of dual loyalty — but he is the first declared friend of the settlements in this position. His predecessor, Dan Shapiro, was also a friend of the settlements, like all the ambassadors before him — representatives of governments that could have stopped the settlement project but did not raise a finger to do so, and even financed it.

But now we have an ambassador who has also contributed to the dispossession from his own pocket. Continue reading “The U.S. Is Finally Out of the Closet”

Trump’s Envoy Should Be Persona Non Grata

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David Friedman, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick as U.S. ambassador to Israel. (photo: Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP via AP)

If the settlers had a state of their own in the West Bank, he might be suitable to serve as ambassador there.

By Haaretz Editorial Board
December 18, 2016


If the settlers had a state of their own in the West Bank, he might be suitable to serve as ambassador there, and maybe not even that, because his basic identification must be with overall American interests. He must also understand the security and diplomatic interests of Israel in general, not just the settler tail that wags the dog.


Donald Trump’s transition team announced Thursday that the president-elect intends to appoint his close associate David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman, a lawyer specializing in bankruptcy cases, was one of Trump’s key campaign advisers.

More than anything, Friedman is an extreme right-winger and an avid supporter of the settlements and annexation to Israel of West Bank territories. He called members of the moderate organization J Street, whose positions many Israelis support, “worse than kapos [privileged prisoners in Nazi concentration camps],” an expression that could incite violence against them. His worldview is simplistic and befits a propagandist and a preacher, not a diplomat. Continue reading “Trump’s Envoy Should Be Persona Non Grata”

Friedman Is Hostile to Two-State Solution

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David M. Friedman, left, with Donald J. Trump and his daughter Ivanka in 2010. (photo: Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg)

By Isabel Kershner and Sheryl Gay Stolberg / The New York Times
December 16, 2016


“He has made clear that he will appeal to a small minority of Israeli — and American — extremists, ignoring the majority of Israelis who continue to seek peace. Friedman’s appointment as ambassador runs directly contrary to Mr. Trump’s professed desire to make the ‘ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians.”


He is president of the American fund-raising arm for a yeshiva in a settlement deep in the West Bank headed by a militant rabbi who has called for Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlers.

He writes a column for a right-wing Israeli news site in which he has accused President Obama of “blatant anti-Semitism,” dismissed the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, likened a liberal American-Jewish group to “kapos” who cooperated with the Nazis, and said American Jewish leaders “failed” Israel on the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, David M. Friedman, an Orthodox Jewish bankruptcy lawyer from Long Island, is Donald J. Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, despite his lack of diplomatic experience and frequent statements that flout decades of bipartisan American policy. Continue reading “Friedman Is Hostile to Two-State Solution”

Portland Ads Link Violations at Standing Rock and Palestine

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Panel ad on a Tri-Met bus in Portland, Oregon. (photo: Occupation-Free Portland and Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign)

By Occupation-Free Portland / Mondoweiss
December 7, 2016


“We wanted to show that Caterpillar is complicit in serious human rights violations that are contrary to Portland’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy.”


Occupation-Free Portland, a coalition of faith, social justice and peace organizations, in collaboration with Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC), have launched an ad campaign on TriMet buses serving the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. The ad reads, “Portland: Divest from Caterpillar. Caterpillar Violates Human Rights from Standing Rock to Palestine.” The ad shows a photograph of a Caterpillar bulldozer that was used to desecrate a sacred burial site on land promised to the Standing Rock Sioux nation by an 1851 treaty. It also shows a photograph of a Palestinian child left in the ruins of her home demolished by a Caterpillar bulldozer.

“We wanted to show that Caterpillar is complicit in serious human rights violations that are contrary to Portland’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy,” said Maxine Fookson, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and the steering committee of Occupation-Free Portland.

The ad campaign comes as Portland’s City Council prepares to vote on December 15 on whether the city will continue to invest in Caterpillar. Since 2014, the city has invested more than $110 million in commercial paper issued by Caterpillar.

Continue reading “Portland Ads Link Violations at Standing Rock and Palestine”

Encountering Peace: Encountering Peace?

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Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags during a rally in Nabi Saleh. (photo: Reuters)

Most of the world, including the Arab world does not really care about the Palestinian people and their cause.

By Gershon Baskin / The Jerusalem Post
December 7, 2016


And while everyone is busy talking about BDS, Israel is continuing to build settlements and confiscating more land from the Palestinians. But to what cause? That is what troubles me. There will be no imposed solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. No one can force the Israelis and the Palestinians to act against their own interests, nor will any world power apply effective pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to do what they are not prepared to do.


I don’t know what Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu thinks, what his plans are, his grand strategy for the future of Israel. I know that he is an intelligent man. I know that he does think strategically. I know that he sees himself and his position in historical terms. I believes that he believes that he is the savior of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. He has told us that he is here to prevent the next Holocaust and that he will never compromise on Israel’s security.

But what’s beyond that? What does he really want to do with Judea and Samaria? Does he really imagine that the creeping annexation, now being advanced by a new law that gives the right to the government to confiscate private Palestinian land and turn it over to Israelis, will continue to go by unnoticed and be unchallenged?

Continue reading “Encountering Peace: Encountering Peace?”

Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Would Damage Free Speech

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Wheeler Hall at University of California, Berkeley. (photo: Los Angeles Times)

By Liz Jackson / Los Angeles Times
December 6, 2016


The State Department standard . . . conflates criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Jewish hatred, shutting down debate by suggesting that anyone who looks critically at Israeli policy is somehow beyond the pale. It has no place on college campuses in particular, where we need students to engage in a vigorous exchange of ideas.


Since Donald Trump’s election, a wave of hate attacks have targeted Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups.

What’s the government doing about it? Nothing.

But the U.S. Senate did pass a bill last week called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which cracks down on the constitutional rights of college students and faculty to criticize Israel. The House will vote on it any day now.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act endorses the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “delegitimizing” Israel, “demonizing” Israel or holding Israel to a “double standard.” The bill directs the Department of Education to consider this definition when investigating complaints of anti-Semitism on campus. But the bill does not add any new protections for Jewish students; the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Department of Education’s interpretation of the statute, already protects Jewish students against discrimination.

Continue reading “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Would Damage Free Speech”

Anti-Semitism Bill Could Make Activism a Civil Rights Violation

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Senator Bob Casey (D. Pennsylvania) (photo: pennlive.com)

By Josh Nathan-Kazis / Forward
December 5, 2016


“Before Congress imposed its discredited redefinition of anti-Semitism on the DOE [Department of Education], civil rights investigators consistently found that actions critical of Israel — like mock military checkpoints, or teach-ins on Gaza — are the kind of free-speech expression to be expected on a college campus and are not anti-Jewish harassment. After this legislation, it could go the other way.”


After pro-Palestinian student activists set up mock West Bank checkpoints on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012, Jewish groups filed a civil rights complaint with the federal government.

Jewish organizations charged that the mock checkpoints, meant as a protest against the Israeli government, combined with other incidents to create a hostile environment for Jewish students.

The federal Department of Education dismissed the complaint, saying that the protest was an instance of free expression.

Now, a new bill speeding through Congress could change the way the Department of Education reviews such complaints. If it succeeds, critics say, the federal government could determine that protests like the mock checkpoint constitutes civil rights violations.

The bill “opens the door to considering anti-Israel political statements and activities as possible grounds for civil rights investigations,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, chief of staff of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington. “Whether you agree with the BDS movement or not, aligning oneself with it and even participating in the effort should not subject someone to a civil rights investigation.”

Continue reading “Anti-Semitism Bill Could Make Activism a Civil Rights Violation”

What Now?

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(photo: Sarah Robinson)

By Sarah Robinson
December 8, 2016

[Ed. note: Sarah Robinson is a South African/Canadian writer who has worked as a human rights observer in Israel/Palestine with Ecumenical Accompaniment Program to Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT). On October 17, Sarah was detained as she arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport  in Tel Aviv. She was subsequently deported and banned from re-entry for five years.]


I am not done. As I have committed to before, I will do what I can where I am to collaborate in the struggle to bring justice to Palestine and Israel. I am not giving up. I will not let the Israelis win. They cannot overcome my desire and my heart for a solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict. It is likely that I will never have the chance to have my feet on the ground in Palestine but my heart will always be there.


It has been just over seven weeks since I was deported from Israel while trying to visit Palestine. I wrote a post detailing my experience which I shared on my blog and my Facebook page. The post was read by several thousand people and the story was picked up by multiple news agencies and spread further. It was interesting to receive feedback from people who had had similar experiences while trying to enter Israel. For many readers, my post was their first exposure to what the Israeli’s are afraid of and, as a result, how they treat foreigners attempting to get to Palestine. I understand that the publicity my post received has not helped my chances of getting back to Israel and Palestine but I believe it was important to share my story.

Continue reading “What Now?”

On Optimism and Despair

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit, Krün, Germany, June 2015
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit, Krün, Germany, June 2015. (photo: Pete Souza / White House)

A talk given in Berlin on November 10 on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize.

By Zadie Smith / The New York Review of Books
December 22, 2016


At this moment, all over the world — and most recently in America — the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. Here in Germany you will remember these martial songs; they are not a very distant memory. But there is no place on earth where they have not been played at one time or another. Those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along.


First I would like to acknowledge the absurdity of my position. Accepting a literary prize is perhaps always a little absurd, but in times like these not only the recipient but also the giver feels some sheepishness about the enterprise. But here we are. President Trump rises in the west, a united Europe drops below the horizon on the other side of the ocean — but here we still are, giving a literary prize, receiving one. So many more important things were rendered absurd by the events of November 8 that I hesitate to include my own writing in the list, and only mention it now because the most frequent question I’m asked about my work these days seems to me to have some bearing on the situation at hand.

The question is: “In your earlier novels you sounded so optimistic, but now your books are tinged with despair. Is this fair to say?” It is a question usually posed in a tone of sly eagerness — you will recognize this tone if you’ve ever heard a child ask permission to do something she has in fact already done.

Sometimes it is put far more explicitly, like so: “You were such a champion of ‘multiculturalism.’ Can you admit now that it has failed?” When I hear these questions I am reminded that to have grown up in a homogeneous culture in a corner of rural England, say, or France, or Poland, during the 1970’s, 1980’s, or 1990’s, is to think of oneself as having been simply alive in the world, untroubled by history, whereas to have been raised in London during the same period, with, say, Pakistani Muslims in the house next door, Indian Hindus downstairs, and Latvian Jews across the street, is thought of, by others, as evidence of a specific historical social experiment, now discredited.

Continue reading “On Optimism and Despair”