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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Israel: Bits, Bytes and Bombs": An Interminable Tide of Drivel

Would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman is back with yet another fatuous opinion piece demeaning Israel.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Israel: Bits, Bytes and Bombs" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/friedman-israel-bits-bytes-and-bombs.html?_r=0), Friedman writes:

"Indeed, the crazy dream Israel is keeping alive is that it can permanently occupy the West Bank, with its 2.5 million Palestinians, to satisfy biblically inspired settlers, who now hold major cabinet positions, like the housing portfolio, in Israel’s new government."

But as well known to Friedman, Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert offered Arafat and Abbas independence along the 1967 lines. Olmert even offered to share Jerusalem, but Arafat and Abbas rejected these offers.

Moreover, a recent Smith Institute poll determined that 62% of Israeli's favor a two-state solution (see: http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Poll-Majority-of-Israelis-support-two-state-solution), but it's difficult to achieve peace when the other side refuses to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state:



Not surprisingly, as determined by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University: "Some 67% [of Israelis] agree with the assertion that no matter which parties prevail in the elections, the peace process with the Palestinians will remain at a standstill for reasons not connected to Israel, and there is no chance of progress in the foreseeable future" (http://en.idi.org.il/media/2050461/Peace%20Index-December%202012.pdf).

Also conveniently forgotten by Friedman is that fact that Yair Lapid, Minister of Finance and chairman of the Yesh Atid Party, which garnered the second highest tally of votes after Netanyahu's Likud Yisrael Beiteinu Party in Israel's most recent election, favors a two-state solution (see: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4224132,00.html).

Friedman states, "Amazingly, polls still show a majority on both sides for a two-state deal," but this is not the case. As reported by The Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=229493) in 2011, "Only one in three Palestinians (34 percent) accepts two states for two peoples as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an intensive, face-to-face survey in Arabic of 1,010 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip completed this week by American pollster Stanley Greenberg."

Failing to mention that Israeli built-up settlement area comprises less than two percent of the West Bank, Friedman concludes:

"The best way for Israel to deal with the chaos around it is not to put its head in the sand but to collaborate with Palestinians to build a West Bank state that is modern, secular and Westernizing; one where Muslims, Christians and Jews can work together and that stands in daily refutation of the failing Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood models elsewhere. If Israelis and Palestinians do not try everything — now — to make that happen, this will be remembered not as a lost opportunity but the lost opportunity, and no island will escape the storm that will follow."

Ah, yes, "a West Bank state that is modern, secular and Westernizing." But consider a December 2012 article entitled "Abbas aide: No plans to outlaw 'honor killing'" published by the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency (http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=550792), in which it is written:

"President Mahmoud Abbas has no plans to amend laws that reduce sentences for suspects who claim an 'honor' defense for murdering women, his legal adviser says.

'Why change it? This would cause serious problems,' Hassan al-Ouri told Ma'an, adding that such a reform would 'not benefit women.'

In May 2011, the president pledged to amend the law to guarantee maximum penalties for 'honor killing' in response to protests over the killing of university student Aya Baradiya in Hebron.

The decision was announced in a phone call to a primetime show on state TV, drawing tears among crowds of mourners shown in a live link-up from the Ramallah studio to Baradiya’s hometown.

Abbas suspended Article 340, which offers a pardon for murder if the perpetrator committed the crime on finding his wife in bed with another man.

The reform was cosmetic: Article 340 had never been used in Palestinian courts since it was legislated in 1960.

'So why did we change the law? To garner public opinion,' al-Ouri said in an interview in the presidential compound in Ramallah.

'I, personally, was against the amendment because the crimes that happen in the street have no relevance to Article 340,' the legal adviser added.

Al-Ouri says the president will not change the go-to clauses for lawyers seeking leniency for clients who claim they committed murder to defend family 'honor.'

Articles 97 to 100 of the Jordanian Penal Code, in force in the West Bank, still offer reduced sentences for any act of battery or murder committed in a 'state of rage.'"

A modern secular West Bank state in which women can be murdered upon a whim? Friedman is entirely detached from Muslim Middle East reality.


3 comments:

  1. Sounds like Friedman has seized, if not plagiarized, Jordan's King Abdullah's 'vision' as described in Jeffrey Goldberg's interview in the April issue of The Atlantic, coincidentally timed for The Trip.

    Now that Kerry has returned to disrupt Pesach in Israel by restarting The Process, I now think the whole trip was as much about supporting Abdullah than any other issue.

    Netanyahu has to make lemonade from American locusts.

    K2K

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  2. I propose that we create anew separate state, tailored to fit the fantasy world of Tom Friedman. Let's call it Friedistan. It will have one ruler, Tom Friedman, one citizen, Tom Friedman and only one opinion: Tom Friedman's presently held opinion which will always, by statute supplant all previously held opinions, expatiated by the august ruler/citizen, even if those opinions counter those previously aired by TF in former Friedmanspeak. The press will consist of one column. And Friedistan will not tolerate 2nd, 3rd, 4th, let alone 5th columnists. This new state need not worry about relations with its neighbours because it is so disconnected from planet earth that it is not geographically contiguous with any other entity. It might be considered to be metaphysically contiguous with Fantasy, Whim, If-I-Say-It-Then-It-Must-Be-So, in accord with other flat-earth flatulent theories. All we need demand is that it possess a good weather vane so that we might receive advance warning concerning the direction his wind is blowing.

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  3. Friedman writes:
    “It’s necessary because Israel is the only country in the world today that has nonstate actors, armed with missiles, nested among civilians on four out of five of its borders… Beyond them lies a hinterland of states consumed by internal turmoil, and Iran.”

    Friedman advises Israel to act wisely, but does so on the basis of a broad fear of other peoples rather than reconciliation and care for others.

    It's true that the neighbors are armed, but if one actually values ancient Israelite culture, why not look to similarities- Hebrew U. DNA studies show Palestinians are descended from Jewish people. In the Bible, Yes, Israel fought with neighbors, but other times it had wise alliances with them too. Joseph and Moses were Egyptian leaders, and their alphabet came from Assyria.

    My point is that yes, Friedman has a longterm practical concern in encouraging Israel to take peace seriously, by focusing on other people's dangers. But an even greater, higher, and wiser approach may focus on concern for people and commonalities between them.

    What do you think?

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