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US ambassador takes aim at Israeli paper over op-ed on settlement donation

US ambassador David Friedman visits the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem on May 15, 2017
Menahem KAHANA (AFP/File)
Controversial columnist slams donation as testament to 'moral makeup' of the 'occupation-friendly ambassador'

The United States’ ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, took aim at Israel’s Haaretz daily on Friday accusing the newspaper of lacking "decency" over an opinion piece that called a West Bank settlement to which the diplomat had donated an ambulance, and which was the site of a deadly stabbing attack earlier in the week, a "mountain of curses."

Days before the op-ed by the controversial award-winning journalist Gideon Levy was published in the left-leaning Haaretz, Friedman had thrust his decades-old donation to the Har Bracha settlement outpost into public memory with a tweet condemning the murder of Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal there.

“20 years ago I gave an ambulance to Har Bracha hoping it would be used to deliver healthy babies. Instead, a man from Har Bracha was just murdered by a terrorist, leaving behind a wife and four children. Palestinian “leaders” have praised the killer. Praying for the BenGal family,” Friedman wrote.

Levy’s op-ed, published two days after the stabbing and Friedman’s tweet, called Har Bracha (Hebrew for “Mountain of Blessing”) a “mountain of curses”, and slammed the ambulance donation as a testament to the “political outlook“ and “moral makeup” of the “occupation-friendly ambassador.”

“With Friedman’s ambulance or without it, Har Bracha (literally, “Mountain of Blessing”) is a mountain of curses,” Levy wrote.


“It was a settlement established, like all the others, to poke a stick in the Palestinian eye and drive a stake into any chance of an agreement. A provocation,” he added. “In the case of Har Bracha, the stick in the eye is palpable; it overlooks Nablus and threatens its development."

"Because of it and other settlements like it, the Israeli army 'operates' in Nablus as if it owns it, as it did during the past few days, indiscriminately wounding and killing as it hunted down the terrorist,” Levy wrote, referring to clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians during operations to locate Ben Gal’s killer.

Friedman responded to the piece on Friday, accusing the paper of lacking “decency” for deriding the community of the murdered rabbi.

"What has become of @Haaretz ? Four young children are sitting shiva for their murdered father and this publication calls their community a “mountain of curses.” Have they no decency?", Friedman wrote.

Bvyas10 via Wikimedia Commons

Haaretz's publisher Amos Schocken responded to Friedman's attack, defending Levy's op-ed saying that "there will be more shivas" as long as Israel's policies in the Palestinian territories go unchanged.

"Mr. Ambassador Gideon Levy is right. As long as the policy of Israel – that your government and yourself support – is obstructing [the] peace process, practical annexation of the [West Bank] territories, perpetuating apartheid, fighting terror but willing to pay its price, there will be more Shivas," Schocken wrote on Twitter.

Friedman has a long history of strong support for Israel and backing of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and seen as major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Levy, who authored the Haaretz op-ed, is a controversial figure for the Palestinian cause in his country. For more than 25 years he has written of the hardships of life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

One of his columns, published during 2014's war in Gaza, which condemned Israeli pilots for their role in Operation Protective Edge, became so controversial that Haaretz briefly issued him with a bodyguard.

Levy won the won the Olof Palme human rights prize in 2015 and the Euro-Med journalism prize in 2008.


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