No Holds Barred: What's up with Tom Friedman?

Columnist’s recent piece on Hizbullah's Fadlallah shows a man who's line between right and wrong is becoming blurred by the day.

By
July 19, 2010 21:47
Fadlallah in 1985.

Fadlallah sunglasses 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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It wasn’t all that surprising to hear that Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, publicly mourned the death of the arch-terrorist and spiritual head of Hizbullah, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. After all, Britain is the country which, we now know, did a deal with Muammar Gaddafi in 2007 to grant BP oil drilling rights in return for the release of the Lockerbie bomber, the worst mass murderer in British legal history.

Still, Guy’s praise for the terrorist, describing him as someone who made you into a better human being, seems unhinged. “I remember well, when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a Muslim acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. Truly he was right... You knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith... If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples’ lives will be truly blighted. The world needs more men like him.”

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Hmmm. Tell that to the families of the 300 American marines and embassy personnel who were killed in a massive suicide truck bomb attack in 1983 that Fadlallah personally sanctioned. Tell it also to the families of the Western hostages of the 1980s in Lebanon who were kidnapped and lost years of their lives at Fadlallah’s command. Tell it especially to the Israeli civilians who have lived and died under Hizbullah’s rockets from Lebanon, all authorized by Fadlallah. Just imagine what would have happened to Guy had she publicly lamented the death of an unrepentant IRA terrorist who murdered hundreds of British civilians and then died peacefully in his sleep. Does Britain make a policy of employing ambassadors who are certifiable?
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BUT EVEN more puzzling is The New York Times column about Fadlallah penned by Tom Friedman, a man for the whom the line between right and wrong is increasingly blurred by the day.

Recall that three weeks ago Friedman wrote a column accusing Israel of employing “Hama rules”’ in Gaza, thereby comparing a thriving democracy battling Hamas, a terrorist organization that fired thousands of rockets at its citizens, to a bloodthirsty tyrant in Syria who mowed his people down with tanks when they dared rise up against his brutal regime.

Now, in his column on Fadlallah, Friedman begins by condemning CNN for firing its senior editor for Middle East affairs, Octavia Nasr, after she tweeted that she was “sad to hear of the passing of’ Fadlallah,” adding for good measure that the terrorist was “one of Hizbullah’s giants I respect a lot.”



Friedman concedes that Nasr’s posting was “troubling,” but not because she lamented the death of a terrorist but because “reporters covering a beat” undermine their credibility when they “issue condolences” for the people they cover.

If that amorality weren’t wacky enough, Friedman then begins to personally praise Fadlallah, quoting Richard Norton of Boston University who said that Fadlallah supported women and “was not afraid to speak about sexuality,” adding that “he even once gave [a mosque sermon] about sexual urges and female masturbation.”

In the long line of recent bizarre columns by Friedman, this one wins a prize.

For the record I too am a cleric who writes about sexuality. My book Kosher Sex has appeared in 17 languages and its follow up, The Kosher Sutra, was likewise a best-seller. Having been raised by a single mother and as the father of six daughters, I too am a strong advocate for women. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were the spiritual head of a genocidal terrorist movement who publicly preached about the need for more suicide bombs against children, then notwithstanding how many lectures I might give about masturbation, it would not save me from being seen as a monster. Friedman’s train has simply left the tracks.

But lest you conclude that the three-time Pulitzer-prize winner has lost all sense of morality and the ability to condemn murder, he does confess that Fadlallah “was not a social worker. He had some dark side.”

Well now, Tom, you don’t say. Really?

Dark side, Tom, is Mel Gibson, who is a racist and misogynist. But even Mel hasn’t killed anyone or advocated that civilians be blown up (at least not yet). But here is Fadlallah in a 2002 interview with the Daily Telegraph: “I was not the one who launched the idea of so-called suicide bombings, but I have certainly argued in favor of them...[the Palestinians] are in a state of war with Israel. They are not aiming to kill civilians but, in war, civilians do get killed.”

Fadlallah is, of course, lying through his teeth, as the first target of a suicide attacker is civilians which is why, after the Mercaz Harav massacre in Jerusalem of March 6, 2008, when a Palestinian gunman walked into a yeshiva and shot eight rabbinical students dead, Fadlallah called the attack “heroic.”

While some imams courageously ruled that suicide bombings were against Islamic law, Fadlallah defended the religious basis for these terrorist attacks to the Daily Star.

The State Department officially classified Fadlallah a terrorist and, according to Bob Woodward, it was the CIA which, in 1985, was behind an attempt to kill him with a car bomb in Beirut.

Fortunately, not all journalists have abandoned reason when it comes to Fadlallah. The London Telegraph’s executive foreign editor Con Coughlin wrote of Fadlallah, “When you look back at his track record, you can see he was right up there with other infamous terror masterminds, such as Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal.”

I recently wrote that Tom Friedman is often difficult to read because he seems enraptured with his own genius. But nothing excuses a level of arrogance that rewrites the Western world’s most cherished values, among which “Do not murder” is the most simple and basic.

The writer is the founder of This World: The Values Network and has just published Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.

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