The New York Times’ Charlie Brown

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


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For decades now too many Western politicians, diplomats, and pundits have played Charlie Brown to the Palestinians’ Lucy. No matter how many times the Arabs have invited Westerners to kick the football of “land for peace,” only to jerk the ball away at the last minute, there remains no end of Westerners eager to line up and take another try no matter how many times they land flat on their backs.

Thomas Friedman might hold the record for falling for this trick. Just recently he endorsed a call by jailed terrorist murderer Marwan Barghouti for a “non-violent” uprising against Israel “with civil disobedience or boycotts of Israel, Israeli settlements or Israeli products.” Friedman does have one condition for his support: that the Palestinians present “a detailed map of the final two-state settlement they are seeking.” In the same column, Friedman also endorsed the view that creating a Palestinian state can create peace and stability by providing an alternative “model” to the Islamist states coming into being as a result of the “Arab Spring” uprisings: “the rise of Islamists in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria, Israelis and Palestinians” create “a greater incentive than ever to create an alternative model in the West Bank — a Singapore — to show that they [Israelis and Arabs], together, can give birth to a Palestinian state where Arab Muslims and Christians, men and women, can thrive in a secular, but religiously respectful, free-market, democratic context, next to a Jewish state.”

No better example of the persistent hold of received wisdom and unexamined assumptions can be found than Friedman’s column. The biggest assumption, of course, is that a critical mass of ordinary Palestinian Arabs––as opposed to the duplicitous or Westernized elites Friedman talks to––want a state more than they want to destroy Israel. If we attend to deeds rather than deceitful words, the evidence that the destruction of Israel trumps acquiring a state is overwhelming. For starters, Palestinians have squandered every opportunity to create their own state, beginning with the U.N.’s 1947 partition plan. As Efraim Karsh writes of the rise of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, “Had Arafat set the PLO from the start on the path to peace and reconciliation, instead of turning it into one of the most murderous terrorist organizations in modern times, a Palestinian state could have been established in the late 1960s or the early 1970s; in 1979 as a corollary to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; by May 1999 as part of the Oslo Process; or at the very latest with the Camp David summit of July 2000.”

And why have the Palestinians consistently rejected these opportunities for a state? One simple reason: an absolute rejection of the legitimacy of Israel and its right to exist. This rejection of Israel is obvious in the non-negotiable demand of a “right of return” for the ever-growing number of “refugees,” a demand that if granted would create a demographic WMD that would destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Nor is this rejection of Israel a consequence of Arafat’s failures as a leader, as compared to the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas: “For all their drastically different personalities and political styles,” Karsh writes, “Arafat and Abbas are warp and woof of the same fabric: dogmatic PLO veterans who have never eschewed their commitment to Israel’s destruction and who have viewed the ‘peace process’ as the continuation by other means of their lifelong war.”

Thus in the 2007 Annapolis Conference, when Israeli president Ehud Olmert offered a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank on the condition of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas turned him down, demanding again the “right of return,” the euphemism for the slow-motion demographic destruction of Israel. So too in 2009, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded recognition of Israel as a condition for negotiations, Abbas responded, “A Jewish state, what does that suppose to mean? You can call yourselves as you like, but I don’t accept it and I say so publicly.” Netanyahu’s repeat offer a few months later was scorned throughout the Arab world. American “ally” Hosni Mubarak said that “no one will support this appeal in Egypt or elsewhere.” Chief Palestinian “peace negotiator” Saeb Erekat said that Netanyahu “will have to wait 1,000 years before he finds one Palestinian who will go along with him.” In August of that year, as Karsh concludes this history of rejection, Fatah’s general congress “reaffirmed its long-standing commitment to the ‘armed struggle’ as ‘a strategy, not tactic . . . in the battle for liberation and for the elimination of the Zionist presence. This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated.’” Given this six-decade-long irredentist history, what sort of “detailed map of the final two-state settlement” does Friedman think the Palestinians will offer to earn his endorsement of their protests?

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  • Larry

    Remember too, that although Singapore is surrounded by muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia, the vast majority of Singaporeans are Chinese, followed by Hindu and Buddhist Indians, with muslim Malays falling a long way third in numbers.

  • Anamah

    The difference between a delusional thinking and a dreamer of fantasies, is here in this man unable to a comment without loosing the real world and his logic ability to recognize it. He sees what he imagine must be or what he would like to see… but can not find the world reality and the obviousness of the facts. The sad syndrome is a constant in The New York Times. Thomas Friedman remember me, The NYT Walter Duranty, receiving the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for describing the image of his own imagination… denying the Soviet horror and its killing methods. What a shame the perseverance of this unforgivable scam by and for American Progressives.

  • Rifleman

    After all, these are the folks that fall for the "peaceful agrarian reformer," line every time.

  • Anonymous

    friedman = hack

  • Ddispozadaburka

    The World is Flat
    Everything is good.
    Globalization means Islamization.
    All is well.
    Ask how much he charges per speech.
    Suddenly the world isn't so flat anymore!

  • BS77

    Friedman put all his chips on his idiotic leftist tripe years ago….he isn't about to fold yet. One day he will probably have an epiphany….and go silent, rather than admit the folly of his words.

  • mrbean

    Tom Friedman is an idiot. His worship for Communist China — which in typical Friedman fashion routinely takes the form of acknowledging its failings, yet nevertheless lusting after the same power that creates those failings — is manifest evidence of his idiocy. He’s coy, but he can’t disguise his unwholesome passion for totalitarianism. It’s not just his totalitarian yearnings, though, that make Friedman stupid. It’s also his blatant inability to align facts and conclusions. His latest article praising the Palestinians while he has tongue in A$$ of Obama ignores completely that the Palestinians in their own words and by their actions are openly committed to the genocide of the Jewish people and the destruction of Israel, therefore, have foreited their rights to even exist at all let alone be given their own UN and US sanctioned terrorist state.

  • Sage on the Stage

    Some years ago, Tom Friedman gave a talk at a community center not far from here. As I entered the building, one of Friedman's bodyguards was sitting at the front desk. He said a few things about Friedman; I responded that one or two of his statements weren't accurate. He proceeded to laugh and do his level best to humiliate me. Goes to show you that Friedman's widely heralded geniality is just a pose.

  • Ludvikus

    What an excellent piece of analysis of the Soft, Spineless, Jewish liberal mentality that believes that Israel is so unfair to the unfortunate displaced Palestinians! I can only think of Daniel Pipes who could compete with Bruce Thornton is eloquence and informed historical and political knowledge.

    I only have a problem with the issue of the demographic "WMS." Here, I think, a better understanding of Nationalism, and the rise of the Nation-State I believe is necessary. This historical phenomenon came to prominence in 19th century Europe in which Zionism was itself one of these, while Arabs and Muslims were politically asleep – except for the Turks, who had Ataturk. The French had Napoleon besides the French Revolution. But the unfortunate Germans only had Bismark who re-created the German Empire out of Prussia and on the ashes of the Holy Roman Empire.

    My point is that Nationalism needs to play out its role in history. Israel is a manifestation of Jewish nationalism. Unfortunately, Arab nationalism is marred by Islamism – which the state in which Europe was during the Protestant Reformation, when the Catholic Church still dreamed of the Christian Empire being perfected from its Medieval days.

    But the state of politics and international relations is like expecting a democratically elected citizen to assume the status of a medical doctor and perform brain surgery; the only good thing about democracy is that it's far better than all the other systems – especially that of Iran, or the Islamization of Turkey, and soon Egypt.

  • Schlomotion

    Quick check: Who won more Pulitzer Prizes, Bruce Thornton or Thomas Friedman? Which one has the degree from Brandeis in Mediterranean Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, and which has the UCLA degree in Comparative Literature? Which one lectures in the United States and which one did actual investigative journalism in Beirut and Jerusalem? Which one talks to Bill Maher, and which one talks to James Baker? Which one is in the Order of the British Empire and which one orders Christopher Dawson books on Amazon?

    • stern

      Every question you ask is absolutely irrelevant (not surprising, given the irrelevance of all your comments). The only question to ask is "Which one is realistic and which one is the hopeless, idiotic and very dangerous dreamer?"

      • Schlomotion

        It's irrelevant that hobbling hacks are trying to take out recognized world class journalists using character assassination in blog posts?

        • Choi

          Friedman is a WORLD CLASS LEFTY FOOL and YOU are a JEW-HATING LEFTY TROLL.

          • Schlomotion

            And your Pulitzer Prize resume must be enormous.

          • Christian West

            hi, Shmoclotion:

            Winning Pulitzer prize may say many things about the winner – among them: correct type of stupidity, political correctness, islamophilia, anti-American and anti-Israeli bias, leftism… etc. The very fact that a cretin like Thomas Friedman sits on Pulitzer Prize board tells just about everything about its worth.
            If one wants a more reliable or ideologically and politically neutral source of information the Google is way superior, if not always perfect, method of reviewing a "celebrity".
            For example submitting to google search ""Thomas Friedman" "useful idiot"" returns 12.500 results, "Thomas Friedman is an idiot" 7.750 while ""Thomas Friedman" is a moron" returns a whooping 180.000.
            I haven't tried "Thomas Friedman is a cretin", or "Thomas Friedman sucks" or "thomas Friedman is a pathetic liar", or "Thomas Friedman an enemy of Jews", but you are welcome to give it a try.
            And by the way graduating from this or that university is rarely indicative of person's smartness. Look, your president Barack Hussein O'Bimbo graduated from Harvard university as Constitutional Law Professor which didn't prevent him from, once again, making a complete idiot of himself a few days ago. Yes, I know he is only an affirmative action president, still his ignorance is astounding.

          • Schlomotion

            That is a fascinating Marxist deconstruction of the Pulitzer Prize system.

          • http://www.quotingislam.blogspot.com traeh

            It is logically fallacious to answer an argument by pointing to the resume of the person making the argument. The only relevant question is whether the argument is correct. The rest is just ad hominem, a logical fallacy.

          • Schlomotion

            It may be logically fallacious according to your slender grasp of some logic, but we don't live on a piece of paper trying to prove the sides of a triangle using Euclid's Postulates. I am not writing logical proofs for a class. I am not designing a circuitboard or making software. In real life, the fact that a man has a career and an education and has been recognized several times with one of the highest awards in our country for good writing, has physically participated in world travel and first hand investigation, has interviewed and discussed political matters with world leaders doesn't erase simply because a feebly structured invective of blog posting by Bruce Thornton begs that OPINION.

            Human cognitive bias is a valid criteria for evaluating humans. Humans are social beings, not substances or polygons or lists of line items. Metaphorically, you may prefer that I restrict myself to the "substance/content" of Mr. Thornton's argument and not the substance/content of his character, but in that, you are like so many of the pawns here, simply trying to limit thought and constrain argument. I am not insulting Mr. Thornton for the concavity of his cranium or his apparent Marfan's Syndrome, I am pointing out that he is only published by a small cabal of self-informed propagandists, and therefore his Markov chain of social capital is considerably smaller, more self-referential, and thus more counterfeit than that of Mr. Friedman, and I am perfectly free by all logic developed in the ancient world and over the past century, (especially) Fuzzy Set Theory, Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, Quantum Mechanics, Fractals, Discrete Time Differential Equations and Stochastic Neural Network Theory to say so.

            Also, my argument is NOT a logically fallacious ad hominem attack, it is a simple comparison of the reliability of two individuals based upon their personal investment in their lives and the lives of others. Friedman is building his life and the world by writing analytical tomes, Thornton is tearing down the lives of others by using pseudo-Classical argumatic frippery. Mr. Thornton is making the implicit and explicit ad hominem attack based upon his own purported credentials and expertise, and he relies on the dubious claim of social and intellectual validation by his peers such as the number of times he has been passed as intellectual scrip on The Glazov Show. There are all kinds of logic, and yours is very limited. So please, do not bring a switchblade comb to a gun fight.

          • Christian West

            ShmocLotion,

            So you fancy yourself a gunfighter? And the above sub-intellectual, incoherent and comically pompous drivel is supposed to be yet another projectile fired from your gun? Wow!!!
            I have news for you: with the exception of a moron or two the vast majority of the commenters here consider you a village idiot of the frontpage magazine. At least the cretinous T. Friedman makes good living parading his idiocy, but what do you get out of parading yours?

          • Schlomotion

            Don't worry about it. It's not something you could use.

          • Christian West

            Schmoclotion,

            It's not something you could use.

            Well, we all could use a good laugh.
            So, again: "the cretinous T. Friedman makes good living parading his idiocy – what do you get out of parading yours?"

          • Schlomotion

            How can I ignore such a bold question as this?

          • Christian West

            ShmocLotion,

            Well, use buffoonery, as demonstrated above. The last refuge of a fool, you know. Should come naturally to you….

        • stern

          What character assassination? Since when is a list of facts "character assassination"?

          Your argument remains completely irrelevant.

    • http://www.quotingislam.blogspot.com traeh

      None of those questions decides which of the two men is correct.

      You are engaging in a form of ad hominem, a logically fallacious way of arguing.

    • aspacia

      O won the prize for doing zip, zero, zilch. Oh, and Arafat, the murderous terrorist also won it. That said, this prize has been sorely diminished by immoral, mutlculturalists.

  • MethanP

    ?: Does Tom Friedman have any credibility left outside the far left?

    • stern

      Yes with Jew haters like Shclokmeister above.

      • Schlomotion

        I don't hate Thomas Friedman, or most Jews for that matter. As I have written, Thomas Friedman has a lot of credibility… and a lot of Pulitzer Prizes. You better get Brent Bozell on here to show that the Pulitzer Prize is a massive scam.

        • stern

          The man may have won a Pulitzer, but he's still an anti-Israel putz; one has nothing to do with the other. And gee, you don't hate most Jews. Aren't we lucky. As long as your court Jew behaves himself, you're just fine with him, right? But when some of us uppity Jews actually want our own country and are prepared to fight for it, well heck, that's just too darn much, ain't it? I mean, we really should know our place, shouldn't we?

          You have passed your best-by date on this site. The smell is starting to become overpowering.

          • Schlomotion

            You just said that most Jews are "court Jews" and called yourself "an uppity Jew." Thou shalt not STEAL the lingo of Black Nationalists. Just stop stealing. Stop stealing schtick. Are you going to stand outside polling places in regalia next and wield a baton? You are defending theft of land, theft of credentials, and theft of rightfully earned community respect of Jewish leaders. You are calling Thomas Friedman an Uncle Tom. I feel like I am talking to a Kach Party member.

          • stern

            If earning the "community respect" of a-holes like you means betraying my people, forget about it (I suppose now I'm stealing the lingo of Italian New Yorkers?).

          • Schlomotion

            If your people aren't Americans, and you live in America, that doesn't speak very well for you. If your people are Israeli and you live in Israel, it makes sense, except for the part where you expect Americans to have an innate, normative Israelophilia.

  • PAthena

    The very name "Palestinian" for Arabs is part of an attack on Israel and Jews. The name "Palestine" was given to Judea by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 A.D. to eradicate all memory of Judea and the Jews; he outlawed Judaism and renamed Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina," Aelius being his gens name. From that time on, "Palestine" was synonymous with "land of the Jews" or the Holy Land (since Jesus was a Jews), and "Palestinian" another name for "Jew." That is why Great Britain, after World War I, was given the "Palestine Mandate" to be the "homeland pf the Jews."
    Calling Arabs who are enemies of the Jews and israel, "Palestinian," with all the phoney history and propaganda, is an effect of the invention of the "Palestine Liberation Organization" (P.L.O.) by Gamel Nasser, ruler of Egypt, and the Soviet Union in Cairo, in 1964. So Thomas Friedman is an ignoramus.

  • Ghostwriter

    Quick check:Who is a friend and ally of the United States and ACTUALLY cares about it? If you said Israel,you'd be correct. Which people burns the American flag every five minutes and screams "Death to America" in that same amount of time. If you said the Palestinians,you'd be right. When 9/11 happened,which majority of people mourned the deaths of three thousand innocent Americans while the other majority danced and sang and passed out candies at the same event? If you said the majority of Israelis mourned while the majority of Palestinians (and most of the Muslim world) celebrated that same event,you get a gold star.
    Bonus question:Which group of people encourage their children to hate Jews,strap bombs to themselves and blow up innocent people in theaters,restaurants,pizza parlors,malls,places like that? If you said the Palestinians,you'd be right.

    • Schlomotion

      Israel is an overrated client state. If your guest looked like Seth Green, ate all the food out your fridge, rifled through your file cabinet, gave friends photocopies of your private documents, constantly begged you for money, always talked about how morally superior and how oppressed he is, had loud opinions on why every political leader in your country is bad, was constantly picking drunk fights with brown people and expecting you to block the punches aimed at his nose, you would probably first wonder why the heck you keep him around, and secondly, wonder what was the big favor he did you in the past to become such an enabled moocher, thirdly, you'd probably go shopping for a medium-sized Rubbermaid container and some duct tape.

      • Ghostwriter

        In your post,Scholomotion,are you talking about Israel or yourself? The Israelis don't ask us to defend them. They do a pretty good job on their own. It's the Muslims that always want to pick fights with the Israelis. They don't want peace with them and want to exterminate them. Your moral equivalence falls flat on its face.

        • Schlomotion

          Oh really? Preemptive strike seems to come up in a lot of Israeli history, including the Six-Day War. It is my understanding that a preemptive strike is "picking a fight." Also the term "moral equivalence" doesn't apply, as you cannot equate the morality of amoral peoples.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Thomas Friedman lost any credibility he might have had probably when The New York Times lost all
    credibility, a rag and a sop fit for each other and useless as Communism./Leftism and all forms of
    anti-Americanism can get. Friedman is a traitor to truth, justice and the American way………William

  • Not Ovenready

    What, oh what, is special about Friedman? That he is with the NYT??? Big deal. He's a zero.

  • Ed Frias

    In a warped way Friedman is correct. Barghouti is the most genuine Palestinian. He's a mass murderer rotting in prison for life. You can't get more Palestinian than that. I'm waiting for Friedman to nominate Barghouti and Friedman himself, for the next Nobel Peace Prize.

  • Ed Frias

    Thomas Friedman's hero is a genocidal Arab mass murderer.
    The following are some of the more heinous terror attacks for which Marwan Barghouti is responsible:
    Jun 12, 2001 – The murder of a Greek Orthodox monk on the road to Ma'ale Adumim.
    Jan 17, 2002 – The shooting attack during a bat mitzva celebration at a banquet hall in Hadera. Six Israelis were killed in this attack, 26 were injured.
    Jan 22, 2002 – The shooting spree on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem. Two Israelis were killed, 37 wounded.
    Feb 25, 2002 – The shooting attack in the Jerusalem residential neighborhood of Neve Ya'acov. One Israeli policewoman was killed, 9 Israelis were wounded.

  • Ed Frias

    Feb 27, 2002 – The murder of an Israeli at a coffee factory in the Atarot industrial zone of Jerusalem.
    Feb 27, 2002 – The suicide attack perpetrated by Daryan Abu Aysha at the Maccabim checkpoint in which two policeman were injured.
    Mar 5, 2002 – The shooting spree at the Tel Aviv Seafood restaurant. Three Israelis were killed, 31 wounded.
    Mar 8, 2002 – A suicide terrorist was killed in Daheat el Barid as he was on his way to carry out an attack in Jerusalem.
    Mar 27, 2002 – The interception of an ambulance and the confiscation of an explosive belt which was being smuggled from Samaria into Barghouti's terrorist infrastructure in Ramallah.
    Marwan Barghouti was also directly responsible for operating the terrorist cell of Raed Karmi in Tulkaram which carried out a series of deadly terrorist attacks.

  • Ed Frias

    The best response to show how insane Thomas Friedman is.
    Read the full article.
    http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinio
    David Keyes
    Free a mass-murderer for peace?
    November 24, 2011
    Why is it that when discussing politics, otherwise rational people go insane? No other field of study lures man into the depths of such muddled thinking.

    The latest outrage is the renewed campaign to free a mass murderer from prison in the name of peace. Marwan Barghouti is serving five life sentences for masterminding a series of deadly terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

  • Ed Frias

    Marwan Barghouti has openly said in recent years that he would conduct peace negotiations with Israel (no problem) while also conducting terror attacks against Israel. He sees a dual stream effort – mass murder of Jews and conversations with Jews.
    He also wants to flood Israel with millions of violent Arabs to implement the Arafat stages plan.

    The left sees him as moderate, too.

  • Ed Frias

    Never in history was there a Palestinian state. The original Palestinians in the 20th century were Jewish—they called their newspaper the Palestine Post and their orchestra the Palestine Symphony. In those days, the Arabs called themselves Greater Syrians. Even after Israel's birth in 1948, no Arabs called themselves Palestinians. The "Palestinians" began calling themselves that only after the 1967 war, when the Egyptian Arafat needed an identity for the Pals.

  • Ed Frias

    So with each decade and more outrageous tactic, the Palestinians have proven
    themselves less and less worthy of trust. Kidnapping Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, hijacking jets, bombing civilians on buses, shopping malls, pizzeria's, disco's etc. Then naming streets after these mass murderers which is why they cannot ever be allowed to control Jerusalem.

    The Pals leadership has truly been twisted.
    Teaching their kids to strap bombs on them for 72 virgins shows how sick they have been.
    I dont see how peace is possible with child abusers like PA and Hamas.

  • Ed Frias

    The ongoing incitement against Israel and Jews that is rife in the Palestinian school system speaks to their real hated intent.

    You can't make peace with Muslim people's who embrace and glorify death. You can't make peace with people who teach their children that Jews are pigs and monkeys and drink the blood of Arab children. You can't make peace with people who do not recognize your right to exist. You cannot make peace with people who openly call for your destruction. Let's be honest, if Israel agreed to move all 6 million of its Jewish population to an area the size of a postage stamp and gave the Arabs the rest, that would not be acceptable to them. BECAUSE THEY WANT ALL OF ISRAEL.

  • rulieg

    this article doesn't even mention the nastiest implication of Friedman's dream world. he envisions a "Palestine" where "Christians and Muslims" can live next to a "Jewish" state. so he is basically accepting that Palestine will be Judenrein. but he doesn't bother to point out that Israel is ALREADY multicultural, with Arab, Christian, Muslim, and Jew all living side by side.

    of course if he said that, he'd be complimenting Israel, and G-d forbid Friedman would do THAT.

  • Flowerknife_us

    The World according to Friedman?

    The United States is the greatest example of a pluralistic melting pot- ever. He picks Singapore? Really?

    Even writers of fiction need plausable story lines.

  • Jakareh

    I can provide the visual aid Friedman requested.

    Just take a map of that New Jersey–sized patch of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River; erase the Green Line separating the Jewish State from Gaza and the so-called West Bank; change a few names, like Ben Gurion International Airport to Yasser Arafat Pan-Islamic Buraq-Port, and Tel Aviv to Hitleriyah (an international name to show how cosmopolitan Palestinians are); scratch off where it says “Israel” and write—in really big letters—“Palestine, a Province of the Glorious Islamic Caliphate, Rightful Ruler of the Entire World”; go some ways offshore, draw a circle about a mile in circumference, write “This Space Reserved for Jews”. Voilà! You have the very modest Palestinian claim right in front of you.

  • elvisbarry

    Friedman is the Edward G Robinson Character in The Ten Commandments….Traitor to his own people