With a short but very revealing comment in his New York Times editorial of December 14, 2011, author, commentator, journalist and widely accepted expert on Middle East affairs Thomas Friedman exposed himself, probably unintentionally, as a spokesperson for the standard Arab propaganda’s anti-Israel mendacious screed.
Commenting on the 29 standing ovations that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received from a joint meeting of the US Congress during his speech on May 24, 2011, Friedman wrote:
I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.
“….bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Huh?
ABC News did not think so, describing the speech as having “all the trappings of a State of the Union address by a president with sky-high approval ratings,” and the 29 spontaneous interruptions with wild applause as a “thunderous bi-partisan response…[to what was]…a clear challenge to… [Obama’s] idea of using the 1967 boundaries…as a basis for a peace deal.”
It is beyond risible that any lobby, Israeli or otherwise, could ever buy almost all of our congresspersons; or that such a lobby might be able to orchestrate such a thunderous, bi-partisan response, and make it look spontaneous; or that such a feat of theatrics could be repeated 29 times during one speech, with the avid participation of many congresspersons whose voting constituencies have few or no Jews. But that is what Friedman tells us, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, that we should believe.
There can be little doubt that many Arab leaders, political, intellectual, or terrorist, desperately wish to countervail the strong American popular support for Israel, as revealed in past Gallop Polls showing that American public support for the Jewish State is stronger now than at any time since the first Gulf War (see here and here), and in the recent poll commissioned by CAMERA showing deep support for Israel in broader American Jewish society.
The Congressional response to Netanyahu reflects similar sentiments, and this must surely be even more alarming to the proponents of Arab anti-Israel propaganda. But does Friedman share that alarm? If so, why? If not, why make such an outrageously insulting and transparently nonsensical accusation about our Congress?
Rep. Steven Rothman (D –NJ) demanded an apology, calling Friedman’s assertion
scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the US. Mr. Friedman is not only wrong, but he’s aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the US-Israel relationship and its American supporters. I gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a standing ovation, not because of any nefarious lobby, but because it is in America’s vital national security interests to support the Jewish State of Israel and it is right for Congress to give a warm welcome to the leader of such a dear and essential ally. Mr. Friedman owes us all an apology.
Rothman is not alone in his outrage. According to a Washington Post opinion piece, the outrage is bi-partisan. One senior GOP advisor stated:
Bibi’s standing ovation in Congress was bought and paid for by the American taxpayers who overwhelmingly support Israel. They vote, they pay our salaries and they stand with Israel.
And from the Democrat side:
Today, Tom Friedman did a cheap imitation of [Steven] Walt and [John] Mearsheimer as he charged that the ‘Israel lobby’ bought a congressional ovation for Bibi. If Friedman did actual reporting rather than opining from his anti-Israel perch at the Times, he would have learned that, in an otherwise polarized Congress, there is genuine, bipartisan support for Israel that reflects America’s heartland.
And speaking of the so-called “Israel lobby,” Friedman must know that his accusation echoes the widely discredited book by Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” (2007). Walt and Mearsheimer follow in the grand tradition of anti-Semitic accusations that the “Israel lobby” or the “Jewish lobby” or the “Zionist lobby” has somehow hijacked the American political system and bends the American government to its will.
But Friedman must also know that a long list of critics have exposed Walt and Mearsheimer as bigoted frauds. Their book is marred by innumerable errors and shoddy scholarship, unprovable generalizations, mis-quotes, half-quotes, and even falsified quotations, use of information from neo-nazi websites as though such sources were reliable, attributing credence to obvious conspiracy theories, accusations of dual loyalties, lending valence to age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes, and reliance upon Arab propaganda as though it were authentic historical analysis. Even internationally renowned scholars holding named chairs at major universities can make mistakes; but when their joint venture is one long exercise in errors and omissions, one must question the integrity of the authors.
The same is true of Thomas Friedman.
He could be wrong about his insistence that Israeli communities in the West Bank are a stumbling block to peace. Intelligent minds debate this issue.
He could be blinded, as are so many among our pundits and journalists, by his own hopeful idealism regarding the future of democracy in Arab countries now undergoing political upheaval and civil war in what has been misleadingly dubbed the “Arab Spring.”
But he cannot not know that the accusations of a predatory and all-powerful “Jewish lobby” in the 21st century are largely a product of Arab anti-Israel political and propaganda warfare, as Arab leaders stigmatize Israel and American Jewry in order to hide the perilous and stark reality of enormous Saudi influence on the highest levels of American government, and especially the office of the president: influence succinctly described in 2002 by Mohammed al-Khilewi, a former Saudi diplomat, as follows:
When it comes to the Saudi-American relationship, the White House should be called the “white tent.”
With his sudden and unexpected descent into the parroting of ugly and bigoted anti-Israel, and essentially anti-Jewish, screed, Friedman discloses a frightening reality, hidden hitherto behind a veneer of professional expertise and journalistic objectivity: he is willing to regurgitate Arab lies even when they stand in obvious contradiction to reality.
This willingness calls into question his integrity.
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