Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Thomas Friedman myth

Op-ed: Columnist's application of globalization theory to Arab-Israeli conflict is delusional

Giulio Meotti
Israel Opinion

Thomas Friedman is one of journalism's greatest celebrities, the single most famous US interpreter of the Middle East and the liberal columnist who has the most influence on the way Americans understand Israel. His 1989 book “From Beirut to Jerusalem” has been a best-seller, as was “The world is flat.”

Friedman also plays a major role in shaping Obama’s rhetoric about Israel’s return to the pre-1967 armistice line, which the late Abba Eban dubbed the “Auschwitz borders.”

For the first time now, the four digits (1967) have become formal American policy. It was also a Friedman victory. It was he, after all, who invented the so-called “Saudi plan for peace in the Middle East.” And it was Friedman who wrote that the White House is “disgusted” with Israeli interlocutors. In Manhattan, Friedman is an elegant and wealthy Jewish intellectual. But what are the consequences of his ideas for Israel, the only UN member surrounded by neighbors willing to kill themselves to destroy the Jews, and the nation globally elected to be an emblem of evil?

Friedman has created a myth of personal disillusionment with Israel that is designed to lend credibility to his indictment against the Jewish State. His method is simple and delusional: Applying the globalization theory to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mutual respect, money, education, computers, Internet, hedonism and modernity are Friedman’s solutions to the nationalistic bloodbath. Economics trumps politics in his technocracy.

As a Jewish reporter in Beirut and Jerusalem, Friedman confessed, he was unable to remain objective because of the “tribal” nature of the conflict. He has described his personal biography as the story of “a Jew who was raised on . . . all the myths about Israel, who goes to Jerusalem in the 1980s and discovers that it isn’t the summer camp of his youth.”

The famous columnist has always been a militant of the Palestinian cause. By the time he graduated from Brandeis University, he was identifying with “Breira”, a pariah group within the American Jewish community. He belonged to the steering committee of a self-styled “Middle East Peace Group” that vigorously opposed the mounting storm of protest among American Jews over Yasser Arafat’s appearance before the United Nations in a time when the Palestinian leader proudly claimed Jewish lives.

In 1985, after the Shiite hijacking of a TWA airliner, Friedman attacked Israel for not releasing the 700 terrorists whose freedom the hijackers were demanding. Israel’s refusal, he claimed, “certainly contributed” to the hijacking.

Friedman has always defended Yasser Arafat and failed to draw attention to his evident connections to terrorism. Friedman then demonized Ariel Sharon, while praising Arab dictators such as Saudi Prince Abdullah. Friedman also “criticized” the Israeli settlers, an entire population group that loyally serves in the army, pays its taxes and defends the state, demonizing them in global columns.

According to the US columnist, Israeli settlers are a “cancer for the Jewish people” and those who “collaborate” in the building of settlements are “enemies of peace” and “enemies of America’s national interest,” no less. Friedman has compared Islamist fanatics who want to destroy Israel to the “lunatics of the Likud” and Arab dictators whose endorsement of suicide bombings threatens Islam to the “collaborators” whose support for a “colonial Israeli occupation” threatens coexistence.

Friedman has always been diligently undermining Israel’s claim to the moral high ground by placing victims of terrorism on the same plain as their barbaric perpetrators. “What Israeli settlers and Palestinian suicide bombers have in common is that they are each pushing for the maximum use of force against the other side,” he wrote after the killing of Kobi Mandell.


For Friedman, building a home on disputed territory is apparently the moral equivalent of stoning Jews to death. To equate the two, as Friedman always does, is to create moral mush. At age fourteen, Kobi was immobilized and stoned to death, his body hidden in a cave. The terrorists soaked their hands in the boy’s blood and smeared the walls of the cave with it.

Friedman also compared terrorist militias in Iraq, who butchered Americans and Iraqis alike, to the Jewish inhabitants of Judea and Samaria. One of Friedman’s columns in 2004 was particularly shocking: “...Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he’s had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates.”

Friedman’s language resembled that of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. His incredible words, coming at a time when anti-Semitism is skyrocketing globally, were repulsive. From Friedman’s mansion in the Maryland’s woods the Middle East maybe looks really flat. But that’s not an excuse for pushing what can be called Zionicide.

Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism

1 comment:

Robert said...

I cannot disagree with any of the points you have made. Friedman is in the same league as some of our local journalists, like Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, and some other of their cohorts at Haaretz.