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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Something for Barack and Bibi to Talk About": A Total Absence of Objectivity

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Something for Barack and Bibi to Talk About" (, would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman provides the basis for his understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Friedman writes:

"I can think of no better time for a good book about Israel — the real Israel, not the fantasy, do-no-wrong Israel peddled by its most besotted supporters or the do-no-right colonial monster portrayed by its most savage critics. Ari Shavit, the popular Haaretz columnist, has come out with just such a book this week, entitled 'My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.'

Shavit is one of a handful of experts whom I’ve relied upon to understand Israel ever since I reported there in the 1980s. What do all my Israeli analytical sources have in common? They all share a way of thinking about Israel — which is expressed with deep insight, compassion and originality in Shavit’s must-read book — that to understand Israel today requires keeping several truths in tension in your head at the same time.

. . . .

In a brutally honest chapter entitled 'Lydda, 1948,' Shavit reconstructs the story of how the population of this Palestinian Arab town, in the center of what was to become Israel, was expelled on July 13th in the 1948 war.

'By noon, a mass evacuation is under way,' writes Shavit. 'By evening, tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs leave Lydda in a long column, marching south past the Ben Shemen youth village and disappearing into the East. Zionism obliterates the city of Lydda. Lydda is our black box. In it lies the dark secret of Zionism. ... If Zionism was to be, Lydda could not be.'"

Of course, Friedman doesn't bother to mention how, during the 1948 war, the Jews were expelled from the Old City of Jerusalem and all but one of its synagogues were destroyed.

More to the point, Friedman doesn't bother telling his readers about the battle of Lydda in 1948 and ignores a shockingly different account of what happened there, written by Alex Safian ( Contradicting Shavit's account, Safian observes that pursuant to the initial surrender agreement, the inhabitants of Lydda were told by the Israeli army that they could remain in their town; however, when a Jordanian patrol entered the city, they again attacked the Israeli troops. Safian writes:

"Despite the surrender agreement, and the promise to turn over arms, the Israelis, now numbering only 500 men, had to once again take the town in another desperate battle.

Fighting house-to-house to root out snipers, and this time giving no quarter, within an hour much of the town was once again under control, and an estimated 200 Arabs were dead.

But the Dahmash Mosque, was still fighting, held by an estimated 70 fighters, and with an unknown number of others inside. Rather than launch a costly frontal assault, Lt. Col. Kelman decided to breach the mosque's walls with an anti-tank weapon, known as a PIAT, and then have a platoon rush the building.

After the PIAT was fired, the men that stormed the building found that the defenders were dead, killed by the effects of the armor piercing projectile in the confined space of the mosque. (Kurzman, p. 515-516)

The second battle to take Lydda was over, but now facing the Israelis was the difficult question of what to do with the inhabitants. The town leaders, knowing that they had broken their word to surrender and disarm, and knowing in particular that the five Israeli soldiers outside the mosque had been massacred and their bodies mutilated, feared that the Israelis would now return the favor.

It's hardly surprising that the Israelis were in no mood to give the residents another chance to break their promise to live in peace. But, of course, the Israelis also didn't execute or 'massacre' them. Instead, the residents were ordered to evacuate the city and move towards the Jordanian lines and Ramallah."

. . . .

[I]f you know the facts – that the town surrendered, went back on its word, massacred and mutilated Israeli soldiers, and then despite all this the residents were allowed to leave unharmed – the picture looks very different.

You want to learn more about Israel and the Middle East? Start by ignoring Friedman.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo, bravo, Brav-frickin' - O, Frickin' brav-frickin-O, Frickin-bravo.

    It's absolutely amazing what a small sprinkle of *historical* reality (or "truth" if you will) will do to one's understanding, or perspective of an event, or "trope."

    Thank you JG!

    It never fails to impress me the utter care and humanity exhibited by the early Zionists. Indeed, I think it's such a compelling tale, that whenever a modern-day Israel-hater comes across such a story, he must go into a type of "historical shock" at the -- w/o precedent -- *humanity* exhibited the those mid-Century Jews!

    A decency and humanity which makes those who are aware of how every society around them acted at the time, recoil in disbelief. It must gall them to no end that there aren't *overt* and *easily provable* stories of massacre which equal those of the Arabs.

    Indeed, they've, for the most part, had to invent or highly exaggerate such stories.