For the past several years, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, that guru for American Jewish liberals, has shown that he doesn’t really understand Israel or the region.

His misunderstanding of Israel is evident in his underlying assumption that appears in his columns repeatedly: that were Israel to just leave the settlements, peace would flow like a river.

Well, Israel uprooted all 21 settlements from Gaza in 2005, but instead of peace, received an unending barrage of missiles in return.

The settlements are a consequence of the conflict, not its cause. The PLO, if anyone has forgotten, was established in 1964, three years before the Six Day War and any thought of a West Bank settlement.

As for Friedman’s failure to understand the region, readers need look no further than his breathless “Postcard from Cairo” columns at the outset of the Arab Spring last February. To have read Friedman then was to believe this was 1989 all over again, and that Hosni Mubarak would be deposed and replaced by the Egyptian version of Vaclav Havel.

In one piece, he castigated Israel for not being more supportive of the protesters in Tahrir Square. “The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment,” he wrote, “and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh – right to the very end.”

Wrong. Israel wasn’t supporting Pharaoh, but rather deeply concerned that following the Egyptian revolution, Sinai would turn into a terrorist base, the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline would be a constant target of attack, the Israeli Embassy in Cairo would be ransacked, and the Muslim Brotherhood – and Salafists to their right – would win the country’s parliamentary election.

Now, in his latest piece on Israel that appeared Wednesday entitled “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir,” Friedman demonstrated that he also doesn’t know America.

In a line that could have come straight from the pens of AIPAC-bashers Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, Friedman wrote that he hoped Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he loathes, understood that the standing ovation he got in Congress earlier this year was not for his politics, but rather one that was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

That’s right – that wicked, despicable Israel lobby.

According to Friedman, anybody who supports Israel must be on the nefarious Jewish lobby’s payroll. Otherwise, how could they dare? Maybe Friedman should consider the possibility that the ovation was the result of America’s elected officials – in tune with the feelings of their constituents – seeing in Israel a plucky little country that shares their own basic values and is trying to survive in an awfully bad neighborhood.

Maybe Friedman should consider that the ovation was the result of politicians understanding that this conflict is not about one settlement, or one Jerusalem neighborhood, but rather over the Jewish people’s right to a homeland.

No, that can’t be. In fact, writes Friedman – always concerned about Israel’s soul – were Netanyahu to go to the University of Wisconsin, many students, including Jews, would stay away because they are confused by Israeli policies: the current spate of right-wing Knesset legislation, the segregation of women on buses, the settlements.

And then came the kicker. Friedman’s proof that Israel is merrily heading down the path toward the abyss is that radical left-wing Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy says so.

Dubbing Levy a “powerful liberal voice, writing in Haaretz,” Friedman quotes from a recent Levy column: “What we are witnessing is w-a-r. This fall a culture war, no less, broke out in Israel, and it is being waged on many more, and deeper, fronts than are apparent. It is not only the government, as important as that is, that hangs in the balance, but also the very character of the state.”

Friedman’s use of an extremist such as Levy to prove his point is akin to taking the writings of America-bashing left-wing linguist Noam Chomsky as proof that America is bad.

The problem with Friedman and those sharing his sentiments about Israel is that they take an exception and make it the rule.

This school of thought takes a sex-segregated bus in Mea She’arim and turns the whole country into Iran; takes rocks thrown by bad, misguided youth at an IDF base and turns Israel into a country on the brink of civil war; and takes the government’s refusal to bail out a failing commercial television station as putting Israel on the fast track to Soviet Russia.

What is needed is some proportion. The burning of mosques by Jewish hooligans is deplorable, but it is no more representative of the country – or the direction it is going – than Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ burning of a Koran in May was a reflection of America. Friedman should know this.

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