Monday, February 14, 2011

In response to Tom Friedman's latest Israel-bashing

In Sunday's NY Times, Tom Friedman spent the entirety of his column bashing Israel for refusing to join the world in celebrating Egyptian 'liberation'. "The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh – right to the very end," wrote Friedman.

Anyone familiar with Friedman's recent Middle East writing knows that he takes great pleasure imagining that Israel is situated between neighbors as rational, honest and amiable as Canada and Iceland, and that Israel chooses to isolate itself only out of some illogical, backwards paranoia. It's as if he is waiting for Israelis to just read his book and realize that the world is flat, and that hi-tech Tel Aviv can link up with hi-tech Lebanon and spread peace via Twitter.

Unfortunately, today Israel represents the realist view in international relations, because of the immediacy of the threats it faces. And Tom Friedman knows best that desperate times call for desperate measures. In 2002, Friedman won his third Pulitzer prize for his post-9/11 reporting on the worldwide terror threat. After the 2005 London bombings, Friedman expressed his
view that there is no legitimacy for terror against the West:
After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us...why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous. (NYT, July 25, quoted in Thomas Friedman)
And yet when it comes to Israel, Friedman switches the logic: blowing up buses is an expression of Palestinian righteous anger, which Israel should act on, without delay. Moreover, Israel should be chastised, daily in my columns, for failing to see the writing on the wall (or rather the blood on the bus) that all we bus bombers are saying, is give peace a chance!

Rather than judge Israel on the standard Friedman lays down for the U.S. and Europe, based on the threats it faces, Friedman judges Israel as guilty for the threats it faces and denies its right to form national policy to guard itself from these threats. The basic denial of Israel's right to defend itself is the most blatant form of anti-Semitism today.  

In his March 2010 column 'Driving Drunk in Jersualem', which was highly criticized in Yediot Achronot, Friedman flipped at Israel's decision to build new homes in Ramat Shlomo during Biden's visit (The recently leaked 'Palestine Papers' showed that Erekat and his team had already agreed that Ramat Shlomo would be part of Jewish Jerusalem). "Israel needs a wake-up call. Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, and even housing in disputed east Jerusalem, is sheer madness."

Let's get this straight: In London, blowing up a bus of innocent civilians is outrageous. In Israel, bus bombings--in addition to cafe bombings, rocket attacks, stabbings, shootings, and all forms of Palestinian violence--are expressions of righteous anger, whereas Israel's decision to build homes is 'sheer madness'. 


Below is my letter to the editor in response to Friedman's column.
Friedman's article only deepens the gap between Israel's security dilemma and the West's wishful thinking. The Egyptian security threat to Israel is a fact, not an opinion, for hundreds of Israel's families who endured fatalities of four wars between the two countries. On Sunday, Ayman Nour, the head of the secular opposition's 'Tomorrow Party' announced: "The role of the Camp David accord has ended." (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 14th) Needless to say, the secular opposition will have no difficulty garnering the support of Islamist parties against the treaty. How exactly does Friedman propose the Jewish state respond to a real threat to its security, even if in there are humanitarian grounds to celebrate? In contrast to the security threat, which Israel knows is real, the fate of democracy in the Middle East has a less dependable track record. Bush insisted on democratic elections in the Gaza Strip after Israel withdrew from it in 2005, and today it is ruled by a terrorist organization which has closed future elections. Hezbollah has now gained control of Lebanon, and today's Iraq is an Islamic republic propped up by U.S. forces. The notion reminiscent of the Bush era that Jeffersonian democracy can be transplanted to the Middle East must be updated to account for the economic, religious and cultural barriers within countries that preclude the liberties on which democracy rests.

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