Listen: “You promote racism,” protesters tell Trump’s pick for Israel envoy

Protesters drew attention to how David Friedman – the probable next US ambassador to Israel – has raised funds for illegal settlement activities when they disrupted his confirmation hearing in Washington this week.

Friedman, a right-wing Zionist who has a house in West Jerusalem, has helped funnel tens of millions of dollars to Beit El, an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The protest “was part of a huge campaign that many, many groups have been a part of to work to ensure that David Friedman [does] not become the next ambassador to Israel,” Tali Ruskin, a campaigner with the organizations Jewish Voice for Peace and CodePink, told The Electronic Intifada.

A video of Ruskin shows her standing up and shouting “David Friedman is unqualified for this position … he finances illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

“Our protest was aimed at David Friedman, but also to the senators on the Foreign Relations Committee [to say] that youth, Palestinian and Jewish together, fervently reject the Zionist monopoly over American politics [and] American foreign policy as well as over the Jewish community,” said Taher Herzallah of American Muslims for Palestine.

“We’re not going away”

During the hearing, Herzallah unfurled a Palestinian flag and declared: “My grandfather was exiled by the state of Israel, and I’m right here … We’re not going away. We were there, we are there now, and we will always be there.”

“Palestinians will always be in Palestine,” he shouted at Friedman, before being led out and arrested by police.

Herzallah is no stranger to protesting in this way.

In 2010, he was one of the students who protested a speech by then Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at University of California Irvine. The students, who became to be known as the Irvine 11, interrupted Oren’s speech – in which he defended Israel’s massacres in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009 – and were arrested and eventually convicted in September 2011 on misdemeanor charges.

Another video shows activists with the Jewish activism group IfNotNow also interrupting the confirmation hearing. One member of the group shouted “you promote racism” at Friedman.

“Make a stand”

The activists were removed from the hearing and spent a number of hours in jail. Several face a court date in early March, while others have already paid a small fine.

Ruskin explained that one of the main reasons to engage in civil disobedience of this sort “is to get attention [and] propel people to take further action.”

The US Congress will be on recess next week and senators will be in their home states. “This is the time for folks to set up meetings with their senators in their local offices to tell them to vote against Friedman,” Ruskin told The Electronic Intifada.

Reflecting on his similar experience standing up and protesting Oren’s speech at UC Irvine, Herzallah said that this form of protest “was highly effective in getting the message across to not only those who are sitting in the audience and not only those who are the target of our message, but also to those who are watching on TV or on video.”

He added that it is important for activists in the time of Trump “to recognize that this is the protest era … we have to stand up and make a stand.”

Listen to the interview with Taher Herzallah and Tali Ruskin via the media player above.

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).