Friedman Watch is bursting at the seams this week, with David Melech Friedman busy as a beaver. Here is the rundown of what the US Ambassador to Israel has been up to.
- Master of Ceremonies: Friedman’s centrality in orchestrating the US embassy move to Jerusalem was underscored by the Ambassador’s headlining role at the opening ceremony. Opening the fête, Friedman said, “Make no mistake: Today's historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage, and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J. Trump.” On the heels of the celebration, Friedman received the Friends of Zion Award from the evangelical Christian group that festooned Jerusalem with “Trump Make Israel Great Again” signs. For more on why the ceremony might have turned your stomach and/or made your head explode, don’t miss the latest op-ed from APN’s Debra Shushan in Haaretz.
- Gaza: As Friedman and Netanyahu celebrated the embassy opening (along with a Republican-only Congressional delegation), dozens of Palestinians were shot to death by the Israeli troops along the Gaza fence – 58 in total – on the bloodiest day of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war. In an interview with Breitbart, Friedman described the carnage as a “public relations event,” alleging that the media bore “some responsibility” given its “coverage of Palestinians running to the fence, burning tires.” (The rest of the responsibility, according to Friedman, belonged to Hamas.) As for Israel, Friedman lamented that it “continues to be judged by a different standard than any other nation in the world.”
- Selection of Bigoted Pastors: After the State Department disavowed responsibility for selecting Robert Jeffress (homophobic purveyor of views that Jews are going to hell, Islam is evil, Mormonism is a cult, and Catholicism is the product of Satan’s genius) it emerged that the choice was made by Ambassador Friedman. Defending the move to Breitbart, Friedman said, “I chose those pastors because they deserve to speak . . . because they represented a community [evangelical Christians] very much in support of what happened yesterday.”
- Non-representation of US Government Policy: While giving a State Department briefing on the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, Friedman deflected a Palestinian reporter’s question regarding whether he considers East Jerusalem and the West Bank to be occupied. Rather unusually for an ambassador (whose job it is to represent the policies of the US government), Friedman responded, “I have my own personal views. . . . I’m not the ultimate policymaker, so I’m going to defer to others. I think the – I think the situation in the West Bank is unique and unprecedented from a – compared to any other particular geographic locations that have similar issues, and I think it really calls for unique and different kinds of thinking, but as far as the actual terminology, I think I’ve expressed my views in the past. But I’ll stand on those and allow the policymakers to answer your question at the right time.”
- Support for Extremist (and Terrorist?) Organization: It emerged that the foundation which Friedman formerly headed, Friends of Beit El Yeshiva (a religious institution in the radical West Bank settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah) financially supported Komemiut – an extremist group among whose activists are those who support expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, call on Jews not to rent apartments to Arabs, and extol Baruch Goldstein (who massacred Muslim worshippers in Hebron). It is currently unclear whether Komemiut is the same organization as an identically named group on the US State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations. After initially confirming that the organization to which Friedman’s foundation donated funds was the one on the terror list, Komemiut’s leader Mussa Cohen later denied the connection.
We hope you get some rest, Mr. Ambassador. You’ve sure had a hectic week!
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