Into the Fray: Perfidious Pete, treacherous Tom – Part 2

As with Peter Beinart, so it is with Friedman. It seems no anti-Israeli accusation is too egregious for them to stoop to.

'NY Times' columnist Thomas Friedman 311 (R) (photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)
'NY Times' columnist Thomas Friedman 311 (R)
(photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)
After so many years of being wrong about the Palestinians being ready to make peace with Israel, it is difficult to take New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s Middle East advice columns seriously. But his latest effort in this genre contains some whoppers that got our attention even if they only provide more proof the veteran writer is still hopelessly out of touch with reality. – Jonathan Tobin, Commentary magazine, April 4, 2012
Beinart’s total disregard for reality, his sanctimonious obsession with moral abstractions, is a great obstacle to real reconciliation because it protects the enemies of peace while making impossible demands on those who really want it. – Daniel Doron, The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2012
Hast thou betrayed my credulous innocence; With vizor’d falsehood and base forgery? – John Milton, Comus, 1634
The latest offerings of ignorance and arrogance from Peter Beinart and Tom Friedman triggered a deluge of well-deserved outrage and an array of caustic critiques of the dubious duo’s duplicitous drivel.
Betrayal of professional integrity
While several commendable ripostes were posted, the first two excerpts above caught my eye as being particularly apt in the way they conveyed the essence of Beinart’s and Friedman’s portrayals of reality – as hopelessly detached from the truth and devoid of context.
Indeed, both men have betrayed their professional integrity by conveying to their readers a picture which is not only wildly distorted and deceptive, but apparently deliberately so.
Both make the dismayed question of the “Lady” in Milton’s 17th-century masque regarding the exploitation of innocent credulity through falsehood and forgery distinctly apposite today.
In last week’s column I pointed out how much of Beinat’s condemnation of Israeli actions was founded on evidence that ranged from the flimsy to the false, and how his inflammatory accusations were based on a selective and slanted presentation of events. This week I will focus on the New York Times’ Friedman.
If not objective at least ‘well-founded’
Of course, it is unlikely that the followers of the opinion columns in the “paper of record” expect the views expressed in them to be objective in the sense that they abstain from taking sides on any given issue. However, one assumes, they would expect them to be well-informed, in the sense that should be moored to some factual foundation, however contentious, rather than fraudulent figments of fantasy.
It is one thing to hold unfavorable opinions of Israel and its government. It is quite another to feign factual support for those opinions by gross misrepresentation.
To his discredit, this is precisely what Friedman has done over a considerable period, with his most recent piece on Israeli arguably outdoing all his previous perversions.
Perhaps a preliminary tour d’horizon of the disingenuous denigration of Israel that has characterized his columns would be useful in setting the context in which the “whoppers”– as Tobin dubs them – in Friedman’s most recent article on the Middle East conflict should be seen.
Constant condescending contempt
Over recent years, Friedman has vented his bias and bile on Israel through a series of articles which convey his condescension and contempt for the Jewish state. One of the most egregious pieces was the disdainfully headlined, “Driving Drunk in Jerusalem” (March 13, 2010).
In it, Friedman adopts the most malevolent elements of anti-Israel slander.
He suggests that the Israeli government was putting the lives of American troops at risk – because during a visit by Vice President Biden, the Interior Ministry announced the approval of an interim planning stage for expansion of a Jerusalem neighborhood situated closer to the Knesset than Du Pont Circle (in central Washington) is to the Capitol.
Approvingly, Friedman quotes Biden’s mindless allegation that “what you are doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and endangers regional peace.”
Had it not been for the carefully choreographed commotion the Obama administration elected to make over the incident, the announcement, in all likelihood, would have gone largely unnoticed.
Feigning dismay
With breathtaking disregard for the truth, Friedman feigns dismay: “Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, and even housing in disputed East Jerusalem, is sheer madness. Yasser Arafat accepted that Jewish suburbs there would be under Israeli sovereignty.”
Why “feigned dismay?” Well, for starters the article was written in March 2010, during a 10-month building freeze on all settlement construction in the “West Bank” which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu imposed despite powerful opposition from his political base, as an unprecedented goodwill gesture, which the Palestinians spurned.
Is it remotely plausible that Friedman was unaware of this crucial and widely publicized information? Was he appalling derelict or deliberately deceitful in creating the impression that Israel was not in fact abstaining from the “sheer madness” of settlement construction?
Moreover, since the neighborhood involved, Ramat Shlomo, falls within the confines of Jerusalem, it was not subject to the construction freeze. Indeed, most of its initial development was undertaken under the government of the Nobel peace laureates Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1990s. So if we are to take Friedman at his word, it would be included in the “Jewish suburbs that Arafat accepted would be under Israeli sovereignty.”
So why would approval of building there be in any way objectionable – let alone “sheer madness?”
But, of course, Friedman’s take on Arafat’s position is – to be charitable – highly “creative.” Indeed, in Tobin’s terminology, it might well be deemed another “whopper.”
For in stark contradiction to his claim that “Arafat accepted that Jewish suburbs [of East Jerusalem] would be under Israeli sovereignty” in a peace agreement, Akram Hanieh, a close Arafat adviser, and a member of the Palestinian Camp David team, states: “Arafat firmly rejected any fragmentation of... the Jerusalem issue and stuck to the Palestinian insistence on Palestinian sovereignty over all East Jerusalem” (Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol.30, (2) p. 87) It would be intriguing to learn on what sources Friedman draws to substantiate his extraordinary claim.
Applauding hypocrisy?
But Friedman misleads his readers not only with what he says – but with what he does not.
So while he applauds Vice President Joe Biden’s display of anger at Israel’s building in east Jerusalem, he conceals the fact that it was none other than Sen. Joe Biden who supported/sponsored and/or cosponsored at least half-a-dozen congressional resolutions calling not only for US recognition of an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but for the US to relocate its embassy to the city.
These included a resolution (S. CON. RES. 21) which... calls upon the President and Secretary of State to publicly affirm as a matter of United States policy that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of the state of Israel; and urges United States officials to refrain from any actions that contradict United States law on this subject.
So when Friedman fawns that he is “a big Joe Biden fan [because] he is an indefatigable defender of US interests abroad,” was he referring to Biden’s earlier endorsement of Israel’s sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem or his later excoriation of Israel’s actions that reflect that sovereignty? Or perhaps the good Tom is so unscrupulous that he is actually lauding Biden’s blatantly hypocritical condemnation of Israel for creating precisely the reality he himself called for?
Brazen effrontery
In his “I Believe I Can Fly” (January 13, 2010), Friedman chides Netanyahu for not extending the building freeze that expired three weeks earlier, for another 90 days. Curiously – or perhaps not – he makes no reference to the fact that the 300-day moratorium on settlement construction did not produce the slightest sign of Palestinian willingness to resume negotiations; nor does he offer any reason why an additional 90 days would do so.
He does, however, have the effrontery to suggest that the refusal to extend the freeze “makes Israel look like it wants land more than peace.”
Really? One can only wonder how Friedman would reconcile this absurd accusation with the fact that Israel has:
• evacuated the entire Sinai Peninsula, forgoing its oil resources and strategic depth;
• withdrawn unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, unearthing its dead from graveyards;
• demolished settlements in Northern Samaria; and
• allowed armed militias to deploy adjacent to its capital and within mortar range of its parliament.
All this in the hope of peace. So might we not ask: Has the New York Times’ foreign affairs columnist lost his mind – or just his moral compass?
Endorsing the ‘Elders of Zion?’
But perhaps most distressing element in his torrent of invidious invective is Friedman’s endorsement of anti-Semitic slander reminiscent of the “Jews rule-the-world” themes in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. You have to read it to believe it.
In his snide “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir” (December 13, 2011), he jeers: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress... was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
In his “Israel: Adrift at Sea Alone” (September 17, 2011), he makes the staggering accusation that the US commander-in-chief is hostage to the Israeli leadership “because the powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the UN, even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America’s.”
Get this: These perfidious US Jews are so wicked – and apparently stupid – they will, for the sake of their kinfolk, coerce their own country to adopt a policy is that not only inimical to its national interest but also to that of their kinfolk, in whose name they are allegedly acting.
Confusing, isn’t it? This, of course, begs the question of how these treacherous wretches attained positions of such awesome power that enable them to bring the most powerful man in the world to heel, when they are so dumb that they cannot – unlike Friedman – differentiate between policies that are in their interests and those that are not.
Embracing a mass murderer
One could, of course, go on cataloging the myriad times Friedman has misread or misrepresented events – from endorsing the Arab Spring as the harbinger of democratic change to applauding Fayyadism as the herald of Palestinian economic vigor. With the Islamists ascendant across the region and the international community on the verge of despair regarding the sustainability of the Palestinian economy, how loopy do his analyses and prognoses seem today?
But Friedman really hits a bizarre note in his most recent column on the Arab- Israeli conflict – “A Middle East Twofer” (April 4, 2012).
Apparently losing patience with recalcitrant realities that regular refute his assessments, he embraces convicted mass-murderer Marwan Barghouti (as left-leaning liberals are wont to do).
Echoing precisely the sentiments that were propounded to legitimize engaging Arafat in the 1990s – and we know how well that worked out – he cites Haaretz in anointing Barghouti as “the most authentic leader Fatah has produced [who] can lead his people to an agreement.”
It should be recalled that Barghouti’s alleged “authenticity” reflects itself in his conviction for five murders – all perpetrated after (!) Ehud Barak’s far-reaching – indeed, irresponsible – 2000 Camp David peace proposals.
Miraculously, Friedman manages to see Barghouti’s recent statement from his prison cell as a call for “nonviolent opposition.”
Indeed, if anything is it quite the opposite. As Ramzy Baroud points out it was a call to cease negotiations with Israel, and for the “launch of large-scale popular resistance... to oppose the occupation in all means.” All means, Tom, not nonviolent ones.
Condoning ‘nonviolent’ murders?
It turns out that Friedman has a very “unconventional” notion of what the term “nonviolent” signifies, for he appears to include – or at least condone – stonethrowing.
Does Friedman really need to be reminded of the lethal consequences of Palestinian rock-throwing, which recently took the lives of one-year-old Yonatan Palmer and his father, Asher? Or of infant Yehuda Shoham who died in hospital a week after a rock hurled by Palestinians through his parents’ windscreen crushed his head. Friedman’s cavalier attitude to “every rock the Palestinians throw” spurred Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York who himself experienced a “nonviolent” Palestinian rock-attack, to dispatch a letter to the New York Times editor.
Koch writes: “Many Israelis as well as foreign tourists have been badly injured, sometimes permanently maimed, in such ‘nonviolent’ assaults. Israelis have even been murdered by rock throwing.” He ends by asking, “Can’t we all agree that in the English language, the terms ‘nonviolent’ and ‘rock-throwing’ are mutually exclusive?”
No allegation too egregious
As with Beinart, so with Friedman: it seems there no accusation is too egregious, no allegation too outlandish for them to stoop to.
They are inflicting great – and greatly unmerited – calumnies on the State of Israel. They are curtailing its ability to fend off the many dangers facing it and its citizens.
It is time to hit back, time for Israel – and its supporters across the globe – to let its detractors know that their unfounded invective has consequences. Just as they conveyed that message to judge Richard Goldstone.