WASHINGTON, June 3, 2011 - Thomas Friedman has gone from "nice Jewish boy" supporter of Israel to apologist for anti-Semites. He's gone from supporting Israel to supporting its destruction. How did this happen?
A Jewish Boy
In his book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, Friedman describes his high school years as “one big celebration of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War.” Yes, the 1967 war.
It is striking to learn that the author was a bar mitzvah-ed Jewish boy who, after visiting Israel in December 1968, fell in love with the country and spent three summers living in a Kibbutz near Haifa.
As recently as 2006, in an interview he gave to Debate Link, Friedman delivered a strong defense of Israel regarding collateral civilian casualties, and also comments on anti-Semitism:
“You’re dealing with an enemy [Hezbollah] that has embedded itself in the civilian population (on the Lebanese side) … but at the same time, it was the only way from the Israeli point of view to exact a price on Hezbollah’s constituency that ultimately Israeli hoped – and I don’t think this was a crazy thing – would deter Hezbollah the next time, with people saying “wait a minute, I don’t want to go through this again. So, I don’t think Israel “snapped,” I don’t think it behaved in a particularly irrational manner. It was brutal, but it was an ugly war, and one that Israel didn’t invite.”
"And so the point is, you can’t argue from emotion. You have to argue from facts. And one can simply point out those kinds of contradictions because there is only one way to explain those contradictions, sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes, and that’s anti-Semitism….”
What Is anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism refers exclusively to anti-Jewish feelings, feelings of prejudice specifically against Jews. It also has more complex meaning, referring to an aversion which includes the feeling that the Jews actually represent a threat to the world.
Hence, Jews are feared proportionally to their wish to succeed politically and economically. Conspiracy theorists see their economic and political ambitions as the goal "to conquer the world.”
Anti-Semitism in the Muslim World
In the 1930s and 40s, the Nazis made sure to approach the Muslim world and shared with it their anti-Semitic methods and approach. At this time they established close bonds with leading political figures of Egypt, Iran and Iraq, among others.
After viewing Jews in their midst as dhimmis, or protected minorities, it was probably a huge blow to their pride that those same dhimmis, in 1948, managed to get their own land: Israel.
Thus, conspiracy theories among Muslims against Jews were exacerbated, supported by the economic success of oil producing countries like Libya and Saudi Arabia, which promoted anti-Semitism and justified it with such documents as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which helped them make their case against the Jews and Israel.
Strategist of Evil
Move forward to this year. Friedman accepted an honor from Howard University. He chose not to notice that earlier in the month, on April 2, Howard hosted the notorious and virulent anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan, always true to himself, did not miss that opportunity to target Jews and the Israeli Zionist movement with vicious attacks.
Thomas Friedman and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the Aspen Institute, 2009. (Photo: The Aspen Institute (Flickr))
Now Friedman puts his name to an article containing his recipe to facilitate the Palestinians’ victory over his own people and Israel. In his "Lessons from Tahrir Square," he sees Muslim democracy where most experts see Egypt's deconstruction to a sharia-based state.
The whole Middle East is in uproar, and by all accounts things do not seem to be going towards democracy American style after all. It's in this context we must view Friedman's talk of Palestinian "pacifism" and democracy.
In his article, Friedman in veiled fashion walks a virulently anti-Semitic path trod mostly by Muslims who hide nothing of their hatred and violence toward Israel and the Jews.
Friedman Attacks Israel
Friedman’s veiled anti-Semitism comes bottled for public consumption under the label, "goodwill." Goodwill, all right, but for Israel's attackers. He abandons himself to the most monumental and dangerous single attack against Israel currently found in the media.
What is Friedman thinking when he defends people who are either the perpetrators of crimes of terrorism worldwide, or who stand silently by while terrorists kill innocent civilians?
What is he thinking when he advises the enemies of Israel on the best ways to succeed at destroying Israel and killing Jews?
What is he thinking when he advises the enemies of Israel to stage peaceful demonstrations, when a few months ago those enemies cowardly entered an undefended home and slaughtered a family of five in their sleep?
What does he think he will achieve with the monsters that massacred the Fogels, that slit their throats, including the throat of three-month-old Hadassah?
What does he think he can achieve with Palestinians who rejoiced over those bestial murders, even distributing candies and dancing in celebration?
What is he thinking when he suggests that Palestinians should stage a “peace day?”
Friedman knows all too well that they sleep, dream, and live-for the destruction of Israel; they make no secret of that.
He is out of his mind when he writes, “If Palestinians peacefully march to Jerusalem by the thousands every Friday with a clear peace message …”
We know what Muslim Palestinians want. No peaceful march is in their minds.
Hasn’t three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Friedman ever looked at a map of how Palestinians envision their country after they’ve had their way with Israel?
It is a simple yellow area. And there is no Israel there.
Why not? Because their one goal is to destroy Israel.
Under international law, it is illegal to attack another country. One could argue that all attacks on and incitement against the security of any country are wrong. They should never be tolerated.
I cannot give a pass to Friedman when he uses his rhetoric to incite Muslim terrorists against Israel. His piece is ammunition to Israel's enemies, the enemies of Israeli children, men and women, old and young. Every Jew in Israel is threatened by Friedman’s writings.
His words are worse than a bomb exploding in a crowd. A bomb is bad enough, but its effects are limited to the immediate victims and the suffering of their families.
In the age of cyber-space, when the internet lets news go viral, the negative effects of an attack like Friedman’s will be amplified, endlessly used to fuel terror attacks, endlessly jeopardizing the safety of civilians.
Our Western democratic tradition ensures freedom of speech, and Friedman has the right to avail himself of it. But his is an irresponsible use of that freedom. It endangers innocent lives, and it should be punishable.
This is not about freedom of speech. This is about accepting the consequences of its abuse.
Thomas Friedman is dangerous. He is spreading anti-Semitic rhetoric in an irresponsible way, and no one in the civilized world should condone it. If attacks like his were aimed at France, Australia, China or Kuwait, they would be intolerable.
They are aimed at Israel and are intolerable.
What’s wrong is wrong. And anti-Semitism is wrong.
Goodwill Ambassador Eliana Benador is US Representative of the Shomron Liaison Office, Samaria, Israel; former President of Benador Associates, and a national and international political analyst and global strategist.