According to then-U.S. Ambassador David Friedman’s new memoir, Sledgehammer: How Breaking with the Past Brought Peace to the Middle East, radical Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), a member of the “Squad” of antisemitic Congresswomen, accused Israel of “war crimes” shortly after visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.
I was paid a visit by a group sponsored by J Street. Many were surprised that I met with them given the outrageous conduct they displayed in opposition to my Senate confirmation as well as their anti-Israel advocacy. But I decided, nonetheless, to give them an audience. I was optimistic that there might be some common ground with an organization that claims to be pro-Israel. There turned out to be no basis for my optimism.
J Street brought to the meeting Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a progressive Democrat from the state of Washington who was making her first visit to Israel. Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president, introduced Jayapal and invited her to speak.
“Mr. Ambassador,” she began. “This is my first visit to Israel and it’s an incredible country. I just visited Yad Vashem, so I certainly have a good sense of the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish People. But I also just visited Khan al-Ahmar, and I must say that there Israel is committing a war crime.”
The conditions in Khan al-Ahmar are the object of misguided activism within Western Europe and progressive America. If you drive down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea on Highway 1, you see the “village” on the right alongside the road — a scattering of tents and tin-roof huts with an occasional camel or motorcycle interrupting the desert landscape. Khan al-Ahmar is inhabited today by about 150 Bedouins, a significant increase from the past before left-wing NGOs made it a cause célèbre.
It is illegal and unsafe housing, pure and simple. But Israel’s government has been attempting to change that for years … The Israeli Supreme Court has made numerous rulings that the community is illegal but has delayed its demolition in order to encourage a consensual resolution.
I turned to Congresswman Jayapal and began, “If, after visiting Yad Vashem, you consider Khan al-Ahmar a war crime, then you didn’t pay sufficient attention at Yad Vashem.
“In your vast study of the Holocaust, did you happen to notice whether Hitler gave the Jewish people ten years to litigate their rights to remain in their homes? And was there a judicial system in Nazi Germany that bent over backward to find a means for Jews to live safely and with dignity?’
I went on. “You may be right that there is a better way to resolve the Khan al-Ahmar dispute, although none has been presented, and I would be happy to have that discussion. But accusing Israel of committing a war crime tells me you know nothing about Israel and nothing about war crimes.” I turned to J Street’s leader and then back to the congresswoman. “You have been ill served by your tour guides.” And I walked out.