Dear Mr. Schumer: Jewish academics from across the country voice fears about new ambassador to Israel
The appointment of bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel is encountering fierce resistance from Jewish academics over his positions on Israel. The appointment is also tied to broader fears about the future of American democracy under the Trump administration.
In a letter to incoming Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer over the weekend, 120 Jewish studies professors representing nation-wide universities denounced Friedman for describing the liberal Jewish organization J Street as “kapos” and for deriding the Anti-Defamation League as “morons.” The letter was posted in its entirety Friday on the website of the Jewish Journal, and included the signatures of professors from Vassar College, Cornell, Princeton, and Harvard, among many others.
In the letter, the academics described Friedman’s “rhetorical extremism” as “cause for grave concern on its own. But it is matched, if not superseded, by the extremism of his positions on Israel, which demonstrate that he cannot be an impartial broker of peace or an effective diploma.”
The letter took aim at Friedman for his role as president of a charity supporting the “radical West Bank settlement” of Beit El, and for contributing to Israeli news outlet Arutz Sheva, which the professors described as “radical” and “far right.” The authors also worried that Friedman’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would “place him to the far right even of the current Israeli government. He is opposed to a two-state solution, which has been America’s own policy for several decades. He favors annexation of the West Bank, in contravention of international law, the consequences of which would be the denial of the rights of Palestinians to self-determination and, if the Palestinians of the West Bank are not granted Israeli citizenship, the end of Israeli democracy.”
It is not yet clear what Schumer’s response is to the letter, or what impact the missive will have, if any. In December, Schumer said he would not be taking sides for or against Friedman in the Senate. Schumer’s office told news site the Hill at the time that he and Friedman had not spoken, though five House of Representatives members, three of whom were Jewish, spoke out against Friedman’s nomination, according to the site.
“The signers of this letter represent a diversity of views on Israeli and American politics,” the professors concluded. “But we are united in our belief, drawn from the study of modern Jewish and Israeli history, that democracy is the best guarantee of equal rights for all, including Jews. We are concerned that the incoming administration, as reflected in this case in its nominee to the ambassadorship of Israel, does not hold to that basic truth.”