Now that the dust has settled on Gadhafi’s regime and Sharia was chosen over any other form of law in Libya, Islamic forces have prevailed in the relatively advanced country of Tunisia, and Egypt is currently ruled by a military regime, it may be worthwhile to study the views of the journalist dubbed in Israeli media as “the most important journalist in the world,” Thomas Friedman. The truth is that the subject of study should not be Friedman himself, but rather the intelligence of his cohorts, who take pride in his intellect and worship his analyses.
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2 – As riots raged across the Arab world, I called the great Middle Eastern studies master, Bernard Lewis, and asked him what he thinks Israel should do. “Nothing,” he said. “Anything Israel does will be considered by others as favoring one side.” But Friedman chided Israel for not favoring the side of the protesters, and “siding with Pharaoh,” who at that time was Hosni Mubarak. In his view, “At a time of great change in this region, Israel has the most out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliche-driven cabinet it has ever had.” Actually, this sounds to me like a feasible description of Friedman’s writings.
Last June, Friedman proposed that China learn a lesson from the revolution in Tunisia. “If you want to know what brings about revolutions, it is not G.D.P., it is the quest for dignity. ‘Dignity before bread’ was the slogan of the Tunisian revolution.” Yes, and with that slogan on their lips, Tunisians went to the ballot boxes and voted for an Islamic party to run their government.
3 – Last February, Friedman visited Tahrir Square, and, drunk with happiness, sang out, “What we have witnessed in Egypt today is the real de-colonization of this country. That is, after the British left Egypt, the country was ruled by an incompetent king and then, since 1952, by a stifling, top-down military dictatorship. For the first time in modern history, ‘Egypt is truly in the hands of its own people.'” Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t Egypt ruled at the moment by a military regime?
With excitement in his heart, Friedman spoke about two emotional focal points that will exist from now on in the Arab world: There will always be Mecca in Saudi Arabia, to which Muslims will make the pilgrimage to be closer to God, and there will be Tahrir Square, to which people will “come to touch freedom.” It’s important to note Friedman’s deliberate dichotomy between religion and civilian revolution. In his view, the Egyptian revolution had nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. “What makes the uprising here so impressive – and in that sense so dangerous to other autocracies in the region – is precisely the fact that it is not owned by, and was not inspired by, the Muslim Brotherhood.” That is what the most prominent journalist in the world has determined on the basis of his personal visits to Tahrir Square and discussions with two and a half people there.
A week after Friedman published his thoughts, at the same square, in front of more than one million people, the exiled preacher behind the inspiration of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheik Yusuf Al Kardawi, delivered a speech. Kardawi has often supported suicide attacks against Israel and against American soldiers in Iraq. At the same time, Iraqi columnist Jabar Habib Jabar wrote a piece that was based on a bit more knowledge: “In the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, I believe that their back-seat approach was a choice based on an in-depth study, rather than the result of the movement’s weakness or hesitation. The brotherhood used a form of sophisticated “Takia” (deception) to refute claims that the regime tried to play up their influence so that it could secure Western support against the revolution. The regime declared that the Islamists are pressuring them, and that it would eventually turn into a movement similar to that of the Iranian revolution.”
Half a year later, the “million-man demonstration” took place in Tahrir Square, during which the crowds, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, called for the “annulment of the peace treaty with Israel, military action against Israel, and preparation of the armed forces for the liberation of Palestine.” Incidentally, the “Takia” that Jabar spoke of refers to the “obligation of caution,” which permits a Muslim to disguise his identity to survive in a hostile regime. That’s how, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood obtained religious permission to shave their beards so that they would not be identified by Mubarak’s henchmen. Perhaps that is why Friedman was not aware of them even though they were all around him in the square …
4 – After he compared Mubarak to Pharaoh, Friedman conjured up another amazingly brazen comparison: “As for Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], his Tahrir lesson is obvious: Sir, you are well on your way to becoming the Hosni Mubarak of the peace process.” He wondered: “Does Bibi have any surprise in him or do the Palestinians have him right: a big faker, hiding a nationalist-religious agenda under a cloak of security?”
In literary studies they call it an “implied author,” meaning that a writer places his world-view in the mouth of one of his fictional characters. That’s what Friedman thinks about Israel’s prime minister. Gideon Levy wouldn’t have put it any other way. Apparently, the pathological hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu did not end at the border of the Israeli Left. It seems to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached the offices of The New York Times. But what Friedman calls the “national-religious agenda,” is actually an alternative phrase for a “discourse of the rights” of the Jewish people to their land, a principle that is no less important than a dialogue on matters of security. Netanyahu never ignored that point; that is the foundation of Zionism and Israel’s right to exist.
5 – Two basic assumptions – which, not surprisingly, are often identified with the more extreme views of the Israeli Left – are repeated throughout most of Friedman’s articles:
a) That the Arab world is heading toward democracy, which will eventually render Israel’s democracy less unique in the region and
b) An Israeli Jewish minority is destined to rule over an Israeli Arab majority, which will force Israel into a situation similar to that of the South African apartheid in the past.
In that case,
a) It would be worthwhile to resend Friedman to the Middle East for an update and
b) The case of Israeli apartheid and minority rule for the most part ignores the many demographic and social surveys that negate that claim, and paint a different picture of Israel in the future than the one Friedman is waving before us.
There is no apartheid here, except the one imagined by professional leftists. We should note that, as of today, Israel does not govern an absolute majority of Palestinians. They are responsible for their own economy, foreign policy, education, industry, transportation, police, and more. They run everything except for security-related matters, which not only Israel demands, but the Palestinians demand as well behind closed doors (as documents released by Al-Jazeera revealed), to prevent hostile Hamas cells from taking over the Palestinian Authority.
6 – Another basic assumption is that in order to be perceived as serious-minded (but by whom?), Netanyahu must disclose his map of withdrawals now, so the world can see what “painful territorial compromises” he is talking about. As Friedman puts it, “Put a map on the table. Let’s see what you’re talking about. Or how about removing the illegal West Bank settlements built by renegade settler groups against the will of Israel’s government. Either move would force Israel’s adversaries to take Bibi seriously and would pressure the Palestinians to be equally serious.”
It is hard to imagine how Friedman can peddle this nonsense after 17 years of Israeli withdrawals, without a single positive response from the Palestinian side, except for blood, fire, and brimstone. And we have not even mentioned the greatest experiment of all – one that Friedman and his cohorts categorically supported in the Israeli media – the disengagement from Gush Katif. Ten thousand productive settlers who made sand dunes bloom in the south, were uprooted from their homes together with the graves of their loved ones. The government risked alienating part of Israeli society, without heeding the warnings of those who opposed the move. And, wonder of wonders, Friedman’s formula failed! It is hard to understand how the minister of history and the gods of Middle East politics do not heed Friedman’s insights, which delve as deep as oceans. But it’s a fact that where Israeli agriculture once blossomed and magnificent educational institutions once stood, there are now only ruins and rubble in those areas, which are used by terrorists to launch thousands of rockets against Israeli cities.
The Palestinian Authority was banished from those areas by radical Islamists, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. (How much more radical can you get than Fatah itself? Hamas is proof of how far one can stretch the absurd definitions of the Middle East.) Gaza became “Hamastan,” an Iranian outpost on Israel’s border. Israel went to war twice due to that disengagement. But Friedman sticks to his guns, in honor of American journalism, and the disdain of reality.
7 – This is how Friedman describes the second Intifada that was responsible for hundreds of Israeli deaths and thousands of wounded: “Yasser Arafat’s foolhardy decision, rather than embrace President Bill Clinton’s two-state peace plan.” So, it was a “foolhardy decision.” That is how Friedman understands history. The politicians and leaders are suspected of being foolish as opposed to the wise journalist, who is the only one who can unveil the truth for them.
But the clear evidence teaches us that the war that Arafat started in October 2000 was pre-planned. Arafat did not want to end the conflict on the Camp David lawn, because the faction that belonged to the collective group that Arafat headed – and whose heritage continues to guide current Palestinian leaders – was never dependent on the realization of Palestinian independence, as Friedman imagines. If that was the case, then the Arabs would have accepted one of the many partition plans that were proposed since the Peel Commission in 1936. The positive faction among the Palestinians of today, however, works to destroy the Jewish state. This is not paranoia, but an enlightened call by their leaders, in their school text books, in their media, and in their surveys.
8 – In many articles, Friedman makes it a point to paint Israel and the Palestinians as two equally rejectionist sides. This is so naive that it is funny. Israel has retreated and retreated for 17 years. The government – yes, this one – spoke about two states for two peoples, froze construction in Judea and Samaria, offered to negotiate with the Palestinians, and absolutely nothing happened. The most basic condition, which until now has been rejected by irresponsible politicians, was the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish people’s national homeland. Nothing is of value without that, since only recognition of Israel as a Jewish state will indicate that our neighbors truly want peace, without any further demands. Recognition of such will confirm that there are Muslims in the region who accept the Jewish people’s right to their land. It will ensure that no Arab party will come along later and claim that the Jews stole their land (even though we should tell Friedman that, historically speaking, the opposite occurred). It will eliminate the Palestinian “right of return,” which would inevitably bring about the destruction of Israel.
Up until now, every Arab leader, anywhere in the world, has declared that he would never accept Israel as a Jewish state. This can only mean one thing: Any Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be irresponsible and would endanger Israel’s existence, because it would perpetuate the conflict. In short, in the absence of a recognition of Jewish rights to any part of the land, any retreat that is not anchored in a final agreement would lead to an imbecilic return to the mistakes made at Oslo and the uprooting of Gush Katif, within this foolish historical framework.
9 – Another of Friedman’s basic assumptions, which he drew from the never-ending fantasy wellsprings of the Israeli Left (and I would like to recommend to Friedman to stop reading Ha’aretz, and to try other, more sober newspapers instead), is that there is a silent majority in Israel that is prepared to make far-reaching concessions. Really? What a deep observation. The concessions were already made, and the current Israeli government has already announced that it would be willing to make such concessions. So what is so unique in Friedman’s proposal? Oh, I see! According to Friedman, a majority of Israelis would be willing to commit suicide – excuse me, I mean give up their few remaining assets, and place their security in the hands of Mohammed Dahlan’s law-abiding, Zionist-loving thugs.
From his high perch and the abyss of his conceit, Friedman proposes that the Palestinians “announce that every Friday from today forward will be ‘Peace Day,’ and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things – an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: ‘Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders – with mutually agreed adjustments – including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.'”
There has never been a more naive and fabricated text since John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine.” The disengagement did not end in 2005; it is alive and well in Friedman’s writings, which do not reflect actual events in the region. Come to think of it, I read some similar views last year in Ha’aretz …
In any case, Friedman does not write even a single word about the most crucial indication of a change on the road to peace: the educational system.
Placing Israel on their maps, recognizing the Jewish people’s religious and historical rights to their land, or at least part of it, and ending their incitement against Israel in the media and in their leaders’ never-ending campaigns to de-legitimize Israel, are issues that have simply been ignored. So what “march for peace” is Friedman talking about?
10 – Friedman’s final basic assumption is repetitive to the point of an obsessive compulsion: It is Netanyahu who is mainly responsible for the absence of a peace process. “He wasted time in his attempt to avoid an agreement with the Palestinians. Everyone knows that. No one is dumb.”
“Everyone knows that” is a claim reserved for those who do not have a winning ticket, other than their own word.
The truth is that Thomas Friedman has no idea about the political, security, religious, historical, and cultural affairs of this region, despite the fact that The New York Times allows him to pull the wool over the eyes of his readers. Everyone knows that. No one is dumb …