Earlier this week, I was asked to participate with two others in a press conference in Washington, D.C. on behalf of J Street which was convening in its 6th Annual National Conference.
I joined Dr. Charles Gati, Senior Research Professor of European and Eurasian Studies of Johns Hopkins SAI, a former state department consultant and Holocaust survivor, and Dylan Williams, Vice President of Government Affairs for J Street. I was asked as a former co-chair of the Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street and now as the national chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America.
We were being questioned about President Trump’s nomination of David Friedman to be the next United States Ambassador to Israel. All three of us were strongly opposed to the nomination.
We oppose Friedman because of his long-standing support of the settlement enterprise, his public opposition to the two-state solution, and his assaults against large segments of the American Jewish community that support the two states for two people’s resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We said that Friedman’s policy positions run counter to the long-held positions of every American President in the last 25 years who have supported the two-state solution, his slander of J Street supporters as “worse than kapos,” his charge that the ADL is led by a bunch of “morons,” and that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are anti-Israel and anti-Semites.
These positions and statements ought to disqualify Friedman’s appointment to any position in the government, let alone as the chief American diplomat in one of the most sensitive regions in the world.
I was asked by Al Jazeera English whether or not I accepted Friedman’s statements at his Senate hearing in which he recanted virtually every position he ever held and every statement he ever made vis a vis Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I said that I do not accept anything he said in the hearings as reflective of his true beliefs and as an indication of how he would conduct himself should he be confirmed by the Senate in the next few days.
In particular, I was moved by Dr. Charles Gati. He was ten years old when the Nazis invaded Budapest in 1944 and ordered the expulsion and murder of all that city’s Jews. Charles was spared being shot and thrown into the Danube River due to pure luck.
His opposition to Friedman was based not only on his policy positions and ill-temperament but because Friedman showed how woefully ignorant he is of Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust when he callously used the word “kapo” to describe J Street supporters.
After hearing Dr. Gati, I told him and Dylan Williams that meetings ought to be arranged this week one-on-one between Charles and every reasonable Republican Senator. I am certain that Charles would persuade any reasonable leader to oppose this nomination.