US ambassador to Israel in twitter beef with Haaretz


(JTA) — The U.S. ambassador to Israel offered a rare rebuke of an Israeli media outlet.

David Friedman asked ‘Have they no decency?’ after a columnist for the left-wing Israeli paper Haaretz criticized a West Bank settlement just days after one of its residents was murdered.

Friedman’s tweet Friday apparently was in response to an essay the day before by Gideon Levy, in which the regular Haaretz columnist criticized the diplomat for his personal financial support for the West Bank Jewish settlement of Har Bracha. Describing Har Bracha, which means “mountain of blessings,” as an Israeli land grab, Levy said it should be called a “mountain of curses.”

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

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Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, who was stabbed to death Monday by a Palestinian attacker near the West Bank settlement of Ariel, was a resident of Har Bracha. Friedman, a lawyer for Donald Trump before he ran for president, previously tweeted that he had once donated an ambulance to Har Bracha.

Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken fired back in his own tweet.

“Mr. Ambassador, Gideon Levy is right. As long as the policy of Israel that your Government and yourself support is obstructing peace process, practical annexation of the territories, perpetuating apartheid, fighting terror but willing to pay its price, there will be more Shivas,” he wrote.

Before being named ambassador by Trump, Friedman had written columns for the right-wing Israel National News website in which he sometimes derided liberal Jewish groups. He later apologized for his rhetoric during his confirmation hearings.

Barak David, a reporter for Israel’s Channel 10 TV news, said it is very rare for foreign diplomats to attack another democracy’s media.

“In my 12 years as a reporter covering the diplomatic corps in Israel, I can’t remember a similar case,” he wrote in Axios.

Settlement activists defended Friedman.

“What @AmosSchocken1 doesn’t grasp is that the Amb. was relating to simple menschlichkeit,” tweeted Yisrael Medad, an unofficial spokesperson for the Yesha Council, the umbrella body for West Bank settlements. “The editor couldn’t wait a few days for the paper’s freedom of expression?”