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April 05, 2011

Thomas Friedman, Belligerent Or Not?


The Israeli Hebrew daily Yediot Achronot published a very bizarre item today. The last paragraph of a news item about the New York Times' denial that it refused to print Richard Goldstone's retraction states:

Yediot Achronot would like to clarify that contrary to what was reported yesterday, journalist Thomas Friedman did not publish columns belligerent towards the State of Israel. We apologize for the error.

Perhaps Yediot was compelled to publish this sentence following some sort of threat by the New York Times. This apology does not reflect well on Yediot in light of the fact that the earlier statement that Friedman published columns hostile towards Israel is 100 percent accurate.

On Oct. 19, 2011, Friedman wrote ("Just Knock It Off"):

. . . when America asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security but would actually enhance it, there is only one right answer: “Yes.� It is a measure of how spoiled Israel has become that after billions and billions of dollars in U.S. aid and 300,000 settlers already ensconced in the West Bank, Israel feels no compunction about spurning an American request for a longer settlement freeze . . .

Yes, I know, Netanyahu says that if he did that then the far right-wingers in his cabinet would walk out. He knows he can’t make peace with some of the lunatics in his cabinet, but he tells the U.S. that he only wants to blow up his cabinet once — for a deal. But we will never get to that stage if he doesn’t blow it up now and construct a centrist coalition that can negotiate a deal.

On Nov. 13, 2010, Friedman wrote ("I believe I can fly,"):

If you jump off the top of an 80-story building, for 79 floors you can think you’re flying. It’s the sudden stop at the end that tells you you’re not. It’s striking to me how many leaders and nations are behaving today as though they think they can fly — and ignoring that sudden stop at the end that’s sure to come. . . .

Well, first there’s Israel’s prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, who has been telling everyone how committed he is to peace with the Palestinians while refusing to halt settlement building as a prerequisite for negotiations. At a time when Israel already has 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, Bibi says he can’t possibly take another pause in building . . .

Netanyahu toys with President Obama, makes Israel look like it wants land more than peace and risks never forging a West Bank deal . . .

That’s the sudden stop at the end — unless the next war comes first. But, for now, Bibi seems to think he can fly.

On Dec. 11, 2010, Friedman wrote ("Reality Check"):

The failed attempt by the U.S. to bribe Israel with a $3 billion security assistance package, diplomatic cover and advanced F-35 fighter aircraft — if Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu would simply agree to a 90-day settlements freeze to resume talks with the Palestinians — has been enormously clarifying. It demonstrates just how disconnected from reality both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships have become.

Oil is to Saudi Arabia what unconditional American aid and affection are to Israel — and what unconditional Arab and European aid and affection are to the Palestinians: a hallucinogenic drug that enables them each to think they can defy the laws of history, geography and demography. It is long past time that we stop being their crack dealers. . . .

Israel, when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not “How much?� It is: “Yes, whatever you want . . .

On Feb. 1, 2011, Friedman wrote ("B.E. Before Egypt, A.E., After Egypt"):

But Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel is in danger of becoming the Mubarak of the peace process. Israel has never had more leverage vis-Ă -vis the Palestinians and never had more responsible Palestinian partners. But Netanyahu has found every excuse for not putting a peace plan on the table.

On Feb. 13, 2011, Friedman wrote ("Postcard from Cairo, Part 2"):

Israel today has the most out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven cabinet it has ever had.

Rather than even listening to what the democracy youth in Tahrir Square were saying and then trying to digest what it meant, this Israeli government took two approaches during the last three weeks: Frantically calling the White House and telling the president he must not abandon Pharaoh – to the point where the White House was thoroughly disgusted with its Israeli interlocutors – and using the opportunity to score propaganda points: “Look at us! Look at us! We told you so! We are the only stable country in the region, because we are the only democracy."

True, the New York Times likely distinguishes between State of Israel and the Israeli government, but in any event Yediot Achronot was justified in calling Friedman's columns belligerent. Too bad editors did not have a backbone to stand up against the unknown pressures that the Times apparently applied.

-- By Yishai Goldflam

Posted by TS at April 5, 2011 06:43 AM


It's our fault, you know. Those of us who read His Most Esteemed Eminence's well-written articles and books over the years and foolishly extolled his work, I mean. Owing to some personality defect, it seems, Friedman's writing of late has devolved into resentful, narcissistic braying out of apparent frustration that not everyone always agrees with everything he says. He has become a charicature of himself. So, since he can't handle it, I say we stop heaping praise on him.

Posted by: Ben at April 5, 2011 03:03 PM

I have ALWAYS found Friedman's writing to show him as a resentful, narcissistic, arrogant braying ass and I stopped reading him years ago.

Posted by: brynababy at April 7, 2011 06:32 PM

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