The desperate flailing of a bankrupt ideology.
Thomas Friedman created a firestorm with his most recent NY Times article, “Newt, Mitt, Bibi, and Vladimir,” in which he intensifies his “friendly” assault on Israel.
Given the heightened concentration of poison in his already-toxic anti-Israel venom, it is necessary to contextualize Friedman’s latest attack on the Jewish state, to understand who Friedman is, the ideology he promotes, and how this shapes his views on, and actions towards, Israel.
Friedman is a self-professed “friend” to Israel only because Israel represents the ultimate litmus test of his “progressive” agenda. If only Israel could make peace with the Palestinians—should a glorious symphony be crafted out of Middle East chaos—then, to him, this would vindicate his far-Left ideology. If it can happen in Israel, then peace can be forged anywhere and everywhere. And this is Friedman’s goal, an objective which has come to define his being—the quest for trans-national, fully-integrated world peace, beginning with the “two state solution” in the Middle East, and then radiating outwards.
Given this perspective, it is not surprising that Friedman refers in his article to pseudo-dictator Vladimir Putin. He does so, ostensibly, to imply that Israel, led by Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is transforming into authoritarian Russia, its democracy being undermined by “right-wing” elements. However, I propose a different, perhaps even subconscious reason to evoke Putin. In reality, for Friedman, the struggle to forge Israeli-Palestinian peace constitutes a type of ideological “Cold War,” with Israel playing the part of the former USSR. If only stubborn Israel would “democratize” (i.e. make peace with the Palestinians), then his Cold War—the battle against global turmoil, inequality, poverty, death and destruction—would be won, leaving in its wake a grand utopian village.
What Friedman fails to recognize, though, is that the real Cold War ended a long time ago—and the world is still an imperfect place. Moreover, Friedman has it backwards: in fact, it is the Palestinians that represent the “USSR” in his twisted analogy. Israel wants peace, has stated so many times, and, more importantly, has taken “bold,” tangible steps to achieve peace (see comprehensive proposals tabled to the Palestinians in 2000 and 2008, as well as the Gaza withdrawal in 2005). More concretely, Israel has already made peace with two Arab nations—when there was a real peace to be made. The Palestinians, on the other hand, fundamentally reject the notion. Whether it is preaching “death to Jews” to children in official PA schools and media, or the recent reunification between alleged “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, his Fatah party, and Hamas, Palestinians across the board unequivocally call for Israel’s demise, and overtly work towards that goal—by refusing to recognize the Jewish state’s legitimacy; by “de-Judaizing” Jerusalem by decimating archaeological sites while concurrently fabricating historical falsities to justify their claim to the holy city; by foregoing negotiations, and instead seeking a unilateral declaration of independence at the UN, etc.
Nevertheless, Friedman targets Israel uniquely, presumably since “the Jews should know better.” And this is where his elitism comes into play. According to Friedman, only Israel can make peace; the Palestinians, being “weak” non-entities cannot possibly be held accountable for their actions given Israel’s “supremacy.” Hence his obsession with Israeli policies and complete disregard for Palestinian belligerence.
In this respect, when Friedman says he is showing Israel “tough love,” what he is really saying is that pummelling Israel into submission is justifiable, a means towards an end, that end being the ushering in of Friedman’s designs of “utopia.” Indeed for Friedman, pushing Israel to the brink is a “necessary evil,” as, in his view, doing so represents the first step in ending all evil. The problem is that his vision is delusional. The “peace process” has been exhaustively implemented for over 20 years. And it failed miserably. You cannot blame the Friedmans of the world for trying; rather, they can, and should, be blamed for not accepting that their two-decades-long efforts have made the Middle East less hospitable for Israel. The reason being, their expectations are detached from reality—utopia is a lie.
Friedman and his ideological counterparts have also taken to demonizing Israel’s “extremist” settlers—those who explicitly reject the “Land for Peace” paradigm. Friedman’s hit-list also includes the democratically-elected Israeli MKs who recently proposed legislation to clamp down on the foreign-funding of non-representative, subversive NGOs, and to impose a measure of accountability—that exists in all other democracies—on Israel’s Supreme Court. Additionally, Friedman shows particular disdain for Israel’s growing religious and Russian populations. The reason for this is that none of these cohorts share Friedman’s worldview, nor his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—they revile it. And herein lies the greatest irony of all: Friedman attacks these people not out of concern for Israel’s democratic character, but rather to protect the centrality of an unpopular, increasingly narrow segment of the populace, whose opinions continue to have a disproportionate influence over Israeli policy—his Left. The truth is that popular representation in Israel—Freidman’s purported aim—would entail the marginalization of his views. Therefore, by demonizing those—which together comprise the majority—who reject his ideology, Friedman’s attacks can only be seen as an attempt to circumvent Israel’s democracy, and not the other way around.
Friedman’s criticism of leading Republican presidential candidates serves the same purpose. For example, the fact that Newt Gingrich recently called the Palestinians an “invented” people is in reality anathema to Friedman. We know this because in his recent article he did not even attempt to justify or explain Palestinian nationalism, but rather sidestepped the issue by engaging in a tirade about how Israel is a “colonialist” entity. What really irks Friedman about Gingrich’s comment is that the Republicans are deviating from the status quo by infusing a modicum of truth into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This threatens the perpetuation of Friedman’s precious, albeit faulty ideals, which, in turn, explains his contempt.
According to Friedman, “I’m certain there are many out there like me…who are deeply worried about where Israel is going today. My guess is we’re the minority.…” And this is the crucial point. Friedman is indeed in the minority—not because other “Jews are drifting away,” as he claims, but rather because they simply do not share his opinions. Contrary to Friedman, most Jews are not afraid of the direction Israel is taking—nor are most of Israelis for that matter—as they agree with Israel’s present course, veering away from the “two state” solution.
The professional peace-processors, Friedman included, have failed—a reality now accepted by the majority. Nevertheless, the measure of a man is not whether he is right or wrong, nor whether he succeeds or fails, but rather his ability to recognize his shortcomings and move on.
Thomas & Co., with all due respect, it is time to move on.
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