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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tom Friedman tries to pull back from irrelevance

Last week, Tom Friedman wrote an article in the New York Times, in which he warned Prime Minister Netanyahu that his ovation in Congress a few months ago was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

The reaction has been furious, and the Jewish Week reported on Tuesday that Friedman now regrets the use of the term "bought and paid for" and wishes he had written "engineered" instead - as if that would have made it any better.
“In retrospect I probably should have used a more precise term like ‘engineered’ by the Israel lobby — a term that does not suggest grand conspiracy theories that I don’t subscribe to,” Friedman said. “It would have helped people focus on my argument, which I stand by 100 percent.”
Friedman still claims to be a supporter of Israel, albeit one whose column won the approbation of none other than Stephen Walt. This is from the Jewish Week again.
Friedman maintains that he has not changed in his unswerving support for the State of Israel, despite his sometimes sharp criticism of Jerusalem’s policies. He has noted that his was a lonely voice of support for Israel in the mainstream press during the Israeli army’s military campaigns against Hamas and Hezbollah.

“I’m still the same person,” he said, “but I’m reflecting some deep concerns.”
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch isn't buying it.
Tom Friedman is a fine writer with a high public profile. Because he is Jewish and purports to be a supporter of Israel, he apparently believes that that gives him license to constantly criticize the Jewish state and its allies. This week, his attacks were especially outrageous and irresponsible. He attacked Newt Gingrich, Republican candidate for President for his “grovel” before a Jewish audience “by suggesting that the Palestinians are an ‘invented’ people and not a real nation entitled to a state.” I watched the Republican candidates debate before the Republican Jewish Coalition on television, to which he alludes. Gingrich was making an historical point that Palestinians had been part of south Syria and not a separate nation under the Ottoman Empire. Indeed when Romney and Paul both chastised Gingrich for making the historical reference saying it was not helpful to the situation, and the moderator asked each if Gingrich was factually correct, they both said “yes.”

Friedman also accused Gingrich of seeking to deny the Palestinians their own state. But Gingrich never said that, and I have no doubt that he like most American supporters of Israel (including myself), most Israelis and the Prime Minister of Israel Bibi Netanyahu and his predecessors since Oslo support a two-state solution. Friedman outrageously wrote that perhaps Gingrich supports “evict[ing] the West Bank Palestinians through ethnic cleansing.” Gingrich never said any such thing. Friedman offers a third alternative as a possible Gingrich option: one state which would overwhelm Israel’s Jewish citizens, which Gingrich never proposed. The historical fact on Palestinian roots makes no difference today since the Palestinians now perceive themselves and are perceived by others as having a national identity.

Friedman, in the same column, went on to attack Romney for being too willing to support the Israeli government in its goals, accusing him of wanting the U.S. to “serve as [Israel’s] ATM and shut up.” This is an outrageous remark by Friedman.

Friedman writes that the extraordinary positive reception that Netanyahu received when he spoke at the joint session of Congress was “not for his politics” but “bought and paid for by the Israeli lobby.” Coming from an alleged supporter of Israel, a Jew himself, this canard is especially offensive. This infamous statement will be joined with the Protocols of Zion, one a libel, the other a forgery – because of the status of its author – and used around the world by those who hate the Jews and Israel. No explanation or apology on the part of Friedman can undo the damage.

Friedman attacks the foreign minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman – originally from Russia – for not denouncing the recent election in Russia as fraudulent. How foolish can Friedman be to demand such masochistic behavior on the part of the Israeli government? Russia supplies military arms to Syria and supports Iran and Friedman wants the Israeli government to further antagonize Putin, when the Israeli foreign minister is seeking to woo Putin to Israel’s side? Friedman points to the fact that Israel’s representatives receive a hard time on college campuses. I believe they do in part because of the inciting comments of columnists like Friedman.
Read the whole thing. Because of the platform from which he writes, Friedman will continue to be read and debated by the Jewish community. At least we should not relate to his writing as a gospel. His columns should be read with a critical eye and every 'fact' he cites should be checked and rechecked. The man cannot be trusted.

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At 1:53 AM, Blogger mark sh said...

Excellent analysis, thanks. Friedman can't even recognize anymore how bigoted his point of view has become. Some of his remarks are plain anti-semitic (the fact that he is a Jew and self-proclaimed supporter of Israel doesn't change this). And judging by the most "recommended" comments in the NYTimes he found the right audience -- a virulent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish crowd. If he doesn't know the meaning of what he actually says he might just read these comments, they explain the meaning of his column(s) pretty well.


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