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Joe Harris says Friedman Goes Against What His Family Has Stood For

February 16, 2017


In a powerful letter, Joe Harris of Cambridge, Massachusetts describes a number of compelling family stories to share on how, as Jewish Americans and Zionists, Friedman’s nomination will do untold damage to Israeli and to the region.

Dear Senator Warren,

I strongly urge you to speak out and publicly commit to vote against President Trump's pick for the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

Motivated by their deep love for Israel, my parents and others in my family spoke out loudly and repeatedly against extremist elements within the Israeli state.

I am writing largely on behalf of my parents, Jewish Americans and devoted Zionists whom Friedman would likely call “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and “smug advocates of Israel’s destruction.” In fact, my parents held a deep, abiding love for Israel.

Though they lived their entire lives in the United States, they traveled often to Israel and spoke fluent Hebrew; in their professional life, they collaborated with many Israeli scientists, some of whom became close personal friends, and they spent a sabbatical year at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. (They even met at a meeting for the Zionist organization Hashomer Hatzair.) My maternal grandfather, as well as my aunt and uncle Bruria and Zellig Harris, emigrated to Israel later in life. And today, they would be aghast at the nomination of Friedman for the position of Israeli ambassador.

Motivated by their deep love for Israel, my parents and others in my family spoke out loudly and repeatedly against extremist elements within the Israeli state. In 1948, for instance, four members of my family joined Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt in writing a letter imploring American leaders not to legitimize Israeli political organizations that had committed massacres and other acts of terror. My parents never wanted an Israeli state tainted by violence and oppression; they dreamed of a peaceful society with rights for all.

Four members of my family joined Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt in writing a letter imploring American leaders not to legitimize Israeli political organizations that had committed massacres.

In helping extremists violate Israel’s international agreements, fueling the violence that ravages Israel-Palestine, and seeking to muzzle Jewish civil society, Friedman goes against virtually everything my family has stood for. Friedman has not been shy about his support for illegal settlements in the West Bank, to which he has provided substantial funding. He also has strong connections to Israeli groups who have invited wanton violence by encouraging Israeli troops to disobey orders and maintain the occupation of the Gaza strip. And he has targeted any and all Jews who disagree with his extreme positions.

Some would have us believe that we must choose between siding with the Palestinians and siding with the Israelis. This is not true. If they were alive today, my parents would remind us that extremists within Israel have a long tradition of violently subjugating Palestinians while terrorizing Israelis who refuse to fall into line. In 1948, for instance, my family spoke out against Israeli political leaders who massacred Palestinians while instituting what they called a “reign of terror in the Jewish community.” Friedman himself has contributed to this tradition of viciously silencing Jews who dare to protest oppression and violence, as when he said that members of the organization J Street are worse than Nazi collaborators. We are not facing a choice today between Israelis and Palestinians. We are facing a choice between justice and injustice.

We are not facing a choice today between Israelis and Palestinians. We are facing a choice between justice and injustice.

While I am writing in part to honor my family’s legacy, I am also expressing my own views as a Massachusetts constituent, a Jewish American, and a highly concerned citizen of the United States. If our senators choose to support extremist policies in Israel by confirming Friedman, this decision will do untold damage to Israeli democracy and civil society--as well as to the region as a whole. Friedman’s confirmation should be rejected by all who claim to love Israel and seek peace.

Sincerely,

Joe Harris, Cambridge, MA

Update Holocaust Survivors' Descendants Speak Out against Friedman Nomination 

A number of constituents whose families were impacted by the Holocaust wrote to their Senators to explain how their Jewish families' values and experiences compelled them to stand for justice and oppose the Friedman nomination. Here you can read two public letters.

Press Release Sen. Shaheen Reads Letter from Holocaust Descendant at Friedman Hearing, Friedman Responds  

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) read the letter of constituent and Holocaust descendant Alicia Sanders-Zakre urging her to oppose President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

Statement Senate Confirms David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel 

FCNL vigorously opposed the nomination and urged senators to speak out against his nomination and the dangerous pro-settlement, pro-occupation policies that Friedman has advocated.

Action Alert Broad Opposition to Friedman for Israel Ambassador 

A broad spectrum of opponents to Friedman's nomination, including Members of Congress, media, and civil society, are speaking out on Trump’s dangerous choice for U.S. Ambassador to Israel for his extreme positions.

Background David Friedman In His Own Words  

Americans for Peace Now compiled quotes from his articles and speeches so that advocates and lawmakers can understand Friedman's views.

Background Which Members of Congress are Expressing Concerns about Friedman? 

J Street is cataloging the statements of Members of Congress who have expressed concerns about Friedman. A number of Representatives have spoken out against Friedman, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has also raised concerns.