Into the Fray: Fatuous, feckless Friedman

‘Robbed Cossack’: Hebrew idiom for a villain who complains about the wrongs (imaginary or not) done to him that he has done to others.

'NY Times' columnist Thomas Friedman 311 (R) (photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)
'NY Times' columnist Thomas Friedman 311 (R)
(photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)
Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided
– Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) at the annual AIPAC conference, June 4, 2008
Congress maintains its commitment to relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and urges the President, pursuant to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995... to immediately begin the process of relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.... None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be available for the publication of any official government document which lists countries and their capital cities unless the publication identifies Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
– Section. 212 of the “Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003,” relating to “United States policy with respect to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Delaware), cosponsor of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.
Whereas in 1990, the US Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly declared that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, “must remain an undivided city”... therefore, be it – Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring) That the Congress... strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city in which the religious rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected as they have been by Israel during the past twenty-five years; and calls upon the President and the Secretary of State to issue an unequivocal statement in support of these principles.
– Resolution S.CON.RES.113 (June 18, 1992) co-sponsored by Sen. Joseph R Biden Jr. (D-Delaware)
Keep these excerpts in mind – their relevance will soon become evident.
The cry of the ‘robbed cossack’?
It is, of course, possible to conceive of more deplorable examples of shoddy and shallow journalism than Tom Friedman’s mendacious and misleading rant, titled, “Why not in Vegas?” against Mitt Romney’s visit to Jerusalem this week. However, I must confess, none springs readily to mind.
Friedman launches into his derogatory diatribe by accusing Romney of (gasp) fund-raising. Of course, coming from an Obamaphile, that is rich.
After all, while there may be many reasons for Obama’s victory over Sen. John McCain in 2008, clearly far from the least significant among them was Obama’s massive funding advantage, outdoing his rival by a ratio of over 3:1 – and half-a-billion dollars – after opting out of the public funding option, despite a pledge not to.
So now Friedman is griping at Romney’s efforts to somewhat level the financial playing field. Imagine the impudence of the GOP upstart! How dare he? Would “hypocritical” be an appropriate epithet here?
People in glass houses
Friedman seems to be particularly upset by the support of Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson for Romney.
He attempts to wax sarcastic: “Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro- Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? “I mean, it was all about how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return.
Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem.
“They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas.”
Putting aside the tone of misplaced contempt for a moment, one might get the impression that Obama lacks support from like-minded plutocrats such as the shadowy George Soros, who has donated heavily to Obama-philic causes.
So why the disdain? Or is it just that Friedman feels that political opponents have no right to their positions and, hence, all attempts to enlist resources to promote them are to be belittled and besmirched.
Obama has engaged in intensive efforts to raise funds abroad. According to one source, “Obama has out-raised [Romney] almost 3:1 from ‘off-shore donors.’” The Wall Street Journal reported that an “invitation for an August fund-raiser asked guests to join “Americans Abroad for Obama and special guest George Clooney for a reception in Geneva,” with dinner costing $20,000 a head, or $30,000 a couple.
The Hollywood Reporter also mentions the Clooney event, and gives details of Obama’s fund-raising efforts in... China.
These are headed by Robert Roche, an entrepreneur who was appointed in 2010 by Obama as a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations and today is co-founder and chairman of a Shanghai-based marketing corporation called “Acorn [I kid you not] International.”
So perhaps a plastic replica of the Great Wall of China in Hollywood would suffice?
Doubletalk, double standards
Friedman seems to have taken particular umbrage at Romney’s statement designating “Jerusalem [as] the capital of Israel.” He jeered that “it was all about money – how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear.”
Really, Tom? Take a look at the introductory excerpts above, espoused by the president and vice president – not only designating Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but averring that it should remain undivided.
Were these statements – at least as, if not more, explicit and far-reaching than Romney’s – merely disingenuous pandering to the “Israeli Right”? Were they no more than manipulative trickery to gain the support of Jewish voters? It would certainly seem so – given the fact that today the White House not only refuses to name the capital of Israel but seems unable to acknowledge that it has a capital at all.
Indeed, in light of these unequivocal declarations as to the indivisible unity of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, would Friedman suggest that the Obama-Biden duo were “abasing themselves by saying whatever the Israeli Right wanted to hear” when they made them? Or were they “abasing themselves by saying whatever the Israeli Left (and the Palestinians) wanted to hear” when they went back on them?\
Shades of Walt and Mearsheimer
Friedman continues his Stephen Walt- John Mearsheimer-compliant Judeophobic bluster that he began when he alleged that the standing ovations Netanyahu received during his 2011 address to the US Congress were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
In his new article, he writes: “The main Israel lobby, AIPAC, has made itself the feared arbiter of which lawmakers are ‘pro’ and which are ‘anti-Israel’ and, therefore, who should get donations and who should not – and you have a situation in which there are almost no brakes, no red lights, around Israel coming from America anymore.”
So there you have it. According to Friedman, the Jews control US foreign policy and America is no more than a banana republic, where elected representatives are willing to sell their nation’s – and hence their constituents’ – interests to the highest bidder and can be bought by conniving Judeo-plutocrats – with hooked noses? What more could subscribers to the Walt-Mearsheimer doctrine ask for? But perhaps – just perhaps – Friedman, in his (il)liberal arrogance, is missing a point that Romney isn’t.
Compatible spirits?
Perhaps the members of Congress, as the elected representatives of the American people, have a better feel for the instincts of their electorate, instincts that are reflected in the sentiments Romney conveyed in his Jerusalem address: “Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel. We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies.
“We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace. We serve the same cause and provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies of civilization.”
Yes, it may be pre-election rhetoric, but it does seem to express a fundamental spirit of kindred ideals that have underpinned the relationship between the two countries – and explains its durability and warmth far better than Friedman’s alleged Shylock-syndome.
Whining about wedges
Friedman whines: “In recent years, the Republican Party has decided to make Israel a wedge issue.”
Actually it was quite the opposite.
After all, it was none other than Barack Obama who explicitly adopted “wedgeinserting” as a policy. In July 2009, while hosting a group of American Jewish leaders at the White House, he informed them that he sought to put “daylight” between America and Israel.
In fact he underscored that this was a measure to contrast his approach with that of his Republican predecessor, remarking that “For eight years [during the George W. Bush administration], there was no light between the United States and Israel.”
Clearly, the idea of placing a wedge between the US and Israel was a deliberate choice of the current Democratic administration. And it is not entirely implausible to surmise that – judging from the tenor of some of his previous articles – Friedman had a role to play in the conception of the “wedge/daylight policy.”
Having helped create the problem, he now bemoans the consequences.
Political amnesia?
Friedman complains that since “the GOP decided to ‘out-pro-Israel’ the Democrats by being even more unquestioning of Israel... this has pulled the Democratic Party to the right on the Middle East and has basically forced the Obama team to shut down the peace process and drop any demands that Israel freeze settlements.”
What a short memory you have, Tom! Have you forgotten that it was the Obama administration which, for the first time ever, made the settlement freeze an issue in the “peace process,” which previously had been conducted without any such demand of the Palestinians.
In fact, the “right-wing” Netanyahu is the only Israeli leader, who – against his own domestic political base – agreed (unwisely) to such a freeze, which, however, elicited no response from the Palestinians – other than a demand that it be extended.
So if there is a culprit to be identified for “shutting down the peace process,” perhaps it should be the Obama administration for creating greater Palestinian intransigence.
‘You didn’t get there on your own’
Friedman’s bile and bias are evident in his attempt to belittle Israel’s technological achievements and entrepreneurial culture; and his chiding Romney for comparing it favorably with the Palestinian culture. Although he does acknowledge that “Israel today is an amazing beehive of innovation [and] something Jews should be proud of,” he attributes this – in the best “you didn’t get there on your own” tradition – in large measure to “an influx of Russian brainpower [and] massive US aid.”
But the Palestinians have received massive international aid for over two decades and have not been able to achieve anything approaching economic stability. So maybe it is a cultural thing, which by the way is why there was such an influx of Russian brain power.
Some cultures – as in Israel – embrace their refugees, integrate them into their society and turn them into valuable contributing citizens; others – as in the Arab world – refuse to integrate them, preserve their suffering and exploit them deliberately as political pawns.
Maybe this, more than anything else, encapsulates the essence of the conflict.
Until Friedman realizes this, he will not be able to make any useful contribution to the discussion, beyond the fatuous, feckless and fraudulent offerings he has provided up to now.