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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir": Israel Doesn't Need Your Love

What a surprise: Israel is again under assault on the op-ed page of the New York Times. I had naively hoped that one of this newspaper's pundits might consider writing about the Nobel Prize just awarded to Professor Dan Shechtman of Haifa's Technion for his work in the field of crystallography, or about the total of ten such prizes awarded to citizens of Israel over the course of the country's 63 years of existence, but this was not meant to be.

Instead, in his latest opinion piece entitled "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/opinion/friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and-vladimir.html?_r=1&hp), Thomas Friedman declares that he loves "both Israelis and Palestinians," but then goes to great lengths to malign only Israel. Claiming that he is "deeply worried about where Israel is going today," Friedman says of Netanyahu's speech before the US Congress:

"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."

The Israel lobby is paying off the US Congress? It sounds a bit like the bogus anti-Semitic allegations to be found in "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." It obviously never occurred to Friedman that the ovation received by Netanyahu could possibly have had anything to do with the fact that Israel is among Americans’ most favored countries (see: http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/news/9084/popularity_of_israel_in_america_at_all_time_high), or that Israel consistently votes with the US in the UN more than almost all other countries (see: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/162416.pdf).

Friedman's alleges that Israel is headed in the wrong direction and cites the following evidence:

• The support of the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, for Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, following Russia's recent elections.
• Fisticuffs between right-wing Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers on an Israeli army base.
• Segregation of men and women on Israeli buses serving the ultra-orthodox community.

Let's get this straight: I am no fan of Avigdor Lieberman, and I believe that he should not be serving as Israel's foreign minister. On the other hand, Israel must still contend with life-threatening armaments being sent by Russia to, for example, Syria (see: http://news.yahoo.com/russia-delivers-missiles-syria-170047738.html), and unseemly bargains must sometimes be struck with the devil in order to survive.

Regarding the attack against the Israeli army base by the extremists, Netanyahu ordered Israeli security forces to take immediate action against the perpetrators, and Netanyahu's outrage was felt throughout Israel across the entire political spectrum (see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/netanyahu-right-wing-leaders-condemn-attack-on-idf-base-in-west-bank-1.401167).

With respect to segregation between the sexes by the ultra-Orthodox minority, I suggest Friedman also seek to sanction the ultra-Orthodox community in the US for the same behavior. Personally, I recall one instance where an American ultra-Orthodox woman seated next to me on an El Al flight asked me to change my seat, but I refused. End of story.

On the basis of these three examples, Friedman would have the readership of The New York Times believe that Israelis are questioning, "Who are we?" The reality is that most Israelis whom I know are constantly questioning who they are, where they are going, and how they can make things better. They live in a vibrant society under constant existential threat from their neighbors, yet are still able to produce Nobel Prize winners, medical breakthoughs, software and algorithmic wizardry, and achievements in the arts.

Let's turn the tables: Would Tom dare seek to calumniate America for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting; for violent assaults upon abortion clinics; for Senator John Kerry's cordial meetings with Syrian president Assad; or for Obama's bow to Abdullah, king of Saudi Arabia, where persons are routinely convicted of witchcraft and beheaded (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/witchcraft-no-defense-for-it-in-saudi.html)? I think not. Moreover, such aberrant instances of evil are in no way indicative of basic American tolerance and virtue.

Sorry, Tom, but Israel doesn't need your love. I suggest you continue saving it for yourself.

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