The boundless ignorance and deceptive arguments of the New York Times' "Middle East expert."
When it comes to Thomas Friedman’s all-too-often misguided and misleading commentary on the Middle East, and especially on the Arab-Israel conflict, one must keep in mind that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. In his New York Times article of April 4 (“A Middle East Twofer”), Friedman does offer one accurate insight into the psyche of Israel’s population: Israel can accommodate a Palestinian state on its border only when Israelis can feel strategically secure. Everything else in his article is so inaccurate that it borders on mendacity.
He starts off with praise for Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian terrorist leader serving five consecutive life sentences for the murder of many Israelis in terror attacks. Friedman considers Barghouti to be “the most authentic leader Fatah has produced.” He is right. Barghouti is one of the most, if not the most, authentic of all Palestinian leaders living today. But Friedman fails to note, or fails to mention, that Barghouti’s authenticity, and his popularity with the Palestinian rank-and-file, arise from his success at killing Israelis and his ability to plan and execute lethal terror attacks.
Yet this “authenticity,” festooned as it is with the blood and gore of hundreds of Israelis shot or stabbed or blown up or burned alive, inspires Friedman to place great confidence in Barghouti’s call, from his jail cell, for non-violent civil disobedience; even though, as Friedman envisions it, this “non-violence” can include throwing rocks and waging economic and political war and lawfare against Israel.
He neglects to ask if Israelis share his confidence in such an “authentic” leader. He fails to note the real purpose of Arab economic and political warfare against Israel, the goal of lawfare, and the life-threatening potential of stone-throwing. For Palestinian leadership, and for much leadership of Arab countries, the end-game goals of all of these endeavors do not include peace with Israel. Rather they are part of the 65-year war waged for the destruction of Israel and its replacement with “Palestine.” How did Friedman miss these critical points?
He misses a similar critical point when he urges the Palestinians to offer Israel a peace plan in the form of a “map delineating how, for peace, they would accept getting back 95 percent of the West Bank and all Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and would swap the other 5 percent for land inside pre-1967 Israel.” What he fails to note, or neglects to mention, is that the Palestinian leadership from Arafat to Abbas to Hamas have already done that. As Arafat so quaintly put it decades ago:
Since we cannot defeat Israel in war we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.
And it is not just Arafat. Numerous Hamas and PA leaders have said the same thing.
- “Palestine is a Muslim land ...we do not recognise the sovereignty of Jews on a hand-span of our country.”
- “Our fate from Allah is to be the vanguard in the war against the Jews until the resurrection of the dead.”
- “The Jews are the Jews…therefore it is necessary to slaughter them and murder them…..kill them….have no mercy on the Jews, murder them everywhere”
- “The day of resurrection will not come until the victory of the believers over the descendents of monkeys and pigs, with their annihilation.”
But enough about the Jews. What about plans for the future of peace with Israel?
- "The Zionist entity will be destroyed within the first quarter of this century.”
- “[T]here is no place for the state of Israel on this land."
- “When we speak of Jerusalem it does not mean that we have forgotten about … Jaffa or Acre (Israeli cities)….from a religious point of view Palestine from the sea to the river is Islamic.” Any room for Israel in that vision?
- “Even if agreements were signed regarding Gaza and the West Bank, we will not forget (the Israeli cities and regions of) Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, the Galilee Triangle, and the Negev. It is only a question of time.” Time for what; congenial cooperation?
- “All of the agreements….are temporary.” Good to know this in advance.
- “We exaggerate when we say ‘peace’…what we are speaking about is ‘hudna,’ a temporary ceasefire.” Temporary till when?
Such rhetoric of annihilation accompanies hate-teach from kindergarten up in PA schools. And their deeds match their words.
Can Friedman sincerely suggest that a Palestinian plan promising peace, waved in Israel’s direction after 65 years of Arab terrorism, wars, rejectionism, hate speech, hate teach, and hate preach would give Israelis any sense of strategic security?
Then he suggests that if the Palestinians could capture the “moral high ground” with a peace plan that accompanies their “non-violent resistance,” Israel would suffer “moral insecurity” and be more amenable to cooperation with the PA leadership.
But just how far up must Palestinian leaders climb to reach a “moral high ground” from their current moral depths of hundreds of suicide bombings; 12,000 qasam rockets; mass murder and attempted mass murder of thousands of civilians; inculcation of Jew-hatred and suicidal fervor in innocent Arab children; and incitement to genocide? And how does waving a map facilitate this climb? And why would such a map, proffered at this point in the history of the conflict, create any “moral insecurity” among Israelis?
Barghouti’s mass-murder terror attacks took place in the immediate aftermath of an Israeli peace offer that was not much different from the new “map” that Friedman thinks the Palestinians should be offering. Arab and PA leaders have rejected 31 peace offers since 1937, answering many with war and terrorism, and all with rejectionism and threats of annihilation. Are the odds any better now that Hamas, whose unabashedly ballyhooed purpose is the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its Jews, is working to form a coalition with the PA? It seems crystal clear that Israel loses no moral high ground, experiences no moral insecurity, by being suspicious.
Coming from an internationally recognized expert on the Middle East, these errors and omissions raise obvious, but painful, questions. Can he not know the Hamas-PA genocidal end game? Is he so ignorant of this conflict’s history that he does not realize that Israel has traded, or offered to trade, land for peace seven times in the past 65 years[i] only to discover belatedly that five of those seven were actually “land for more terrorism” deals, and the other two trades may now be headed down the same path?
He cannot not know. Yet he chooses not to include these disturbing facts in his analysis. Why? Perhaps because of what the second of his “twofers” reveals:
One reason the Arab world has stagnated while Asia has thrived is that the Arabs had no good local models to follow — the way Taiwan followed Japan or Hong Kong.
Why do Arabs need local models? Cannot the Arab world follow the models of Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Thailand? Moreover, there are local models: Turkey and Israel!
By pretending that Arab countries would be peaceful, flourishing economies if only they had local models, Friedman has fabricated a palpably transparent excuse for the deeply evil commitment of many Arab leaders to the subordination of their nations’ economic priorities (much to the detriment of their own people) to an endless war against Israel until “victory or martyrdom.”
Making excuses for evil is complicity.
Complicity with evil is evil.
[i] 1. Territories conquered in the 1947-9 war, offered in exchange for peace at the 1949 Rhodes Armistice conference. Arab leaders rejected the offer, choosing instead to continue hostilities in the form of terrorism.
2. Territories conquered in the 1967 war, offered in exchange for peace at the UN in December 1967. Arab leaders rejected the offer, declaring instead “No recognition, no negotiations, no peace.”
3. All of the Sinai to Egypt in 1982, in a peace agreement now on the verge of being abrogated by the new Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government in Cairo.
4. The Oslo Accords, 1993, in a “land for peace” deal that was really a “land for Arafat’s launching what he hoped would be the last great final jihad” deal.
5. Land east of the Jordan River to King Hussein of Jordan, 1994, in a peace agreement now in question due to the instability of Hashemite rule thanks to Muslim Brotherhood agitation in Jordan.
6. The withdrawal from Lebanon, 2000, which was supposed to be Israel’s acquiescence to Hezbollah’s demand for Lebanese liberation; but which instead empowered Hezbollah to take over Lebanon and use it as a launching pad for terror attacks against Israel.
7. The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, 2005, which was supposed to jump-start the peace process, but instead gave Hamas free rein for its reign of terror against southern Israel.