worse & worse

Trump donated $10,000 to West Bank settlement
Judy Maltz, Haaretz, Dec 18 2016

Donald Trump donated $10k to institutions located in the West Bank settlement of Beit El in 2003, it emerged on Sunday. The donation appears in the income tax filings of the Donald J Trump Foundation for 2003. His foundation made a total of $186.7k in charitable donations that year to close to 40 institutions. The gift to Beit El was among the largest. The donation was discussed in an interview on settler radio station Galei Israel on Sunday. Yaakov (“Ketsele”) Katz, one of the founders of Beit El, said in the interview that the donation was made in honor of Trump’s lawyer and friend David Friedman, whom Trump has since chosen as ambassador to Israel. Friedman serves as president of the American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which raises about $2m/yr for projects and institutions in the settlement. Katz said:

If I would have known he would be elected president, I would have saved the check.

With a population of about 6,500, Beit El is one of the oldest settlements. Katz serves today as chairman of Arutz Sheva, one of several projects funded by Friedman’s organization. Beit El also receives financial support from the family of Jared Kushner. Jared’s parents Charles and Seryl were on the founding board of trustees of the fund-raising organization, Haaretz has learned. Other members of the founding board included David Friedman and his wife Tammy, along with the late Irving Moscowitz and his wife Cherna. Irving Moscowitz was a prominent supporter of the settler movement, best known for buying up properties in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem for the purpose of creating a Jewish majority there. Katz is a well-known settler leader. In the radio interview, he said he and Friedman had been friends for 40 years and were like brothers. He said he was also very close friends with the Kushner family, whom he described as big donors. Haaretz recently published that the Kushner family foundation had donated $20k to American Friends of Beit El Institutions in 2013, among its biggest donations to a single organization that year. The honorary chairman of the Pindosi fundraising arm of Beit El is Eugen Gluck. His daughter Rosie is married to Mark Friedman, the brother of the ambassador designate. Prominent among the institutions that benefit from the organization’s fundraising efforts is a yeshiva headed by a militant rabbi who has urged Israeli soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements and who has argued that homosexual tendencies arise from eating certain foods. The hesder (military) yeshiva was founded and run by Rabbi Zalman Melamed, a founder of the far-right political party T’kuma, today part of Beit Yehudi, a member of the governing coalition. In 1995, following the Oslo agreements, Melamed was among a group of rabbis that declared it a violation of Jewish law for soldiers to evacuate IDF bases in the OPT. In 2005, he urged the soldiers to resist orders to evacuate the Gush Katif settlements in the Gaza Strip.

David Friedman the crusader
Neve Gordon, Middle East Eye, Dec 16 2016

David Friedman, the newly-appointed Pindo Ambassador to Israel, is on a crusade. Two weeks before the elections, he wrote an op-ed in the JPost that reveals his unflinching fervor:

As Pindosi Jews numbering some six million souls… we have been given an opportunity that our ancestors could not have dreamed of. … Instead of having to confront the challenges of murderous enemies… we have been entrusted a legacy by the greatest of generations that preceded us to ensure that Israel survives and flourishes as a light unto the nations and a permanent home for the Jewish people.

Friedman’s crusade has three primary aims: to fortify Israel’s colonial project, undermine the US-Iran nuclear deal, and to vilify liberals, particularly Jewish ones. The first two objectives are revealed very clearly in a 16-point action plan, written by Friedman and Jason Dov Grennblatt this past November. First, the plan declares:

Pindostan will recognize Jayloomia as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state, and Mr Trump’s Administration will move the Pindo embassy to Jayloomia.

Simultaneously, the two-state solution is presented as defunct, not due to the geographic reality created by over half a million Jewish settlers taking over Palestinian land, but because “Palestinians are unwilling to renounce violence against Israel or recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.” In Friedman’s view, the problem is that the two major Palestinian political parties “regularly promote anti-Semitism and Jihad.” Such explanations clearly elide the everyday violence experienced by Palestinians, while giving a green light for their ongoing dispossession. However, the 16-point plan also insists that in order to allow Israel to continue its colonial project unhindered, it is paramount to undermine the international institutions that have attempted to curb Israel’s rights-abusive policies. Friedman accordingly suggests:

Pindostan should cut off funds for the UNHRC (and) should veto any UN votes that unfairly single out Israel, (while working with the EU to oppose) special labeling requirements on Israeli products or boycotts on Israeli goods. (Indeed,) Pindostan should view the effort to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) Israel as inherently anti-Semitic and take strong measures, both diplomatic and legislative, to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel.

While anti-Semitism is a recurring trope in the new ambassador’s lexicon used as a political weapon to deflect criticism, it is crucial to understand that Friedman is not only a fiery rhetorician but also a savvy strategist. Indeed, he did not wait for his appointment to become proactive in assisting the messianic Jewish settlers. In order to help redeem the land of Israel where Jewish people “have lived … for 3,500 years,” Friedman joined the American Friends of Bet El, an NGO that raises funds for the West Bank settlement. As the organisation’s president, he succeeded in soliciting money from the family charity of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and thus solidify the connection between the incoming administration and Israel’s illegal settlements. His second objective as ambassador will be to help Netanyahu undermine the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Following Netanyahu’s cue, Friedman writes:

(Iran is) the leading state sponsor of terrorism, putting the Middle East particularly, but the whole world at risk by financing, arming, and training terrorist groups operating around the world.

This, Friedman concludes, is a violation of the JCPoA signed with Iran and justifies the implementation of “tough, new sanctions.” In addition to retracting the Iran deal, Friedman recommends that the Trump administration strengthen the “unbreakable bond between USrael” by ensuring that Israel receive “maximum military, strategic and tactical cooperation from Pindostan.” He consequently recommends cancelling the clause in the MoU recently signed by the Obama administration and the Israeli government, which limits Congress from giving financial support greater than the $3.8bn it has already promised to provide annually for the next 10 years. Finally, Friedman’s third objective is to delegitimize liberals, or anyone who will stand in the way of his crusade. This objective has been most clearly seen in the language he uses to malign those who disagree with his political agenda. He has depicted media outlets such as the NYT and the WaPo as a fifth column, Obama is labeled an anti-Semite, and Friedman writes:

J Street are worse than kapos: Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. Why kapos? The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure Pindostani sofas. It’s hard to imagine anyone worse.

What is particularly frightening about Friedman, like quite a few of Trump’s other picks, is that he is on a sacred mission. Thus, anyone who disagrees with his first two objectives is characterised as an apostate, either an anti-Semite or a Jihadi or an apologist for one or the other or both. As someone who has witnessed what Pindosi interventionism has wrought in the Middle East since the dawn of the new millennium, Friedman’s appointment is not only extremely scary but like the crusaders of old, it foretells much bloodshed to come.

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