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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Thomas Friedman erupts against Israel yet again

On Oct. 7, some of the most fervent believers in peace with the Palestinians were reduced to ashes. Does he think Israel will now force 100,000 Jews to leave their homes in Judea and Samaria to create Hamastan?

Yishai Fleisher (left), spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron, with Thomas L. Friedman of “The New York Times” at the Cave of the Patriarchs, Dec. 1, 2022. Credit: Courtesy.
Yishai Fleisher (left), spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron, with Thomas L. Friedman of “The New York Times” at the Cave of the Patriarchs, Dec. 1, 2022. Credit: Courtesy.
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

I had told myself not to waste time reacting to the weekly eruptions of Old Faithful Thomas L. Friedman, but the misinformation he spouts every week, amplified by The New York Times’ abandonment of journalistic ethics, makes him hard to ignore.

One recent column quoted Confucius about revenge. Note to Friedman: The Jews are not Chinese, and they are fighting a war of survival, not revenge.

Second reminder. Israel is a democracy, and its citizens don’t share your views. I know it’s a bummer for someone whose hatred for the elected prime minister oozes from the keyboard. Disrespect him all you like, but your idea that antisemitism and jihadism will disappear if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “booted” after the war is infantile.

Friedman began another column with: “The reason the Hamas-Israel war can be hard for outsiders to understand … .” Friedman is one of those outsiders who refuses to accept the conflict with the Palestinians is not over land and, therefore, cannot be solved by a two-state solution (which he neglects to mention the Palestinians rejected or sabotaged nine times and never sought during the 19 years of Jordanian and Egyptian occupation of “Palestine”).

He wrote that three wars are going on but fails to mention the real one—jihadist. Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are waging a religious war against Israel, Sunni Muslims and the West. The conflict does not concern a division of “Palestine; it is about denying Jews a presence in the Middle East except as subjugated people.

Like others who claim Palestinians want peace and don’t support their extremist leaders, Friedman ignores the polls that show they don’t want a state next to Israel; that they believe in violence; and overwhelmingly (75%) approve of the Oct. 7 massacre. He dismisses their genocidal views much the way his predecessors ignored the Austrian painter’s promise to exterminate the Jews.

After more than 100 years of Arab rejectionism, Friedman says the solution is simple: “a revamped Palestinian Authority,” which he says is the “keystone” for Israeli-Muslim normalization, and weakening Iran and its proxies. This is long-discredited Arabist logic. The Abraham Accords did not require the P.A., and if the Saudis get their wish list from the United States, they’ll drop the Palestinians like Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did to get the Sinai back. If anything, the war reaffirmed the Arab world’s lack of interest in the Palestinians. Not one is offering them a lifeline; Jordan and Egypt are determined to keep them out of their countries.

Friedman’s notion that a Palestinian state will weaken Iran is laughable. Iran’s only interest in the Palestinians is using them for cannon fodder. Friedman’s appeasement strategy has already been adopted by U.S. President Joe Biden, whose feeble response to repeated attacks on American bases has reinforced the Iranian belief that America is so war-averse it can use proxies against us with impunity. How mighty does the United States look when it can’t deter an Iranian-armed tribe from one of the poorest nations on Earth from shooting missiles at our once-proud Navy? How weak is Iran going to be if Biden continues providing them billions of dollars and allows the mullahs to go nuclear? And how is creating a Palestinian state going to deter a nuclear Iran from further destabilizing the region?

And who will rule Gaza? The “revamped Palestinian Authority,” according to Friedman. Does he mean the corrupt autocracy whose leader is in the 19th year of a four-year term and is so unpopular that 78% of the population wants him to resign?

Like most journalists, Friedman has trouble remembering history beyond yesterday’s headlines; otherwise, he would know that George W. Bush set out to reform the P.A., pressured Israel to accept the election won by Hamas and proposed a roadmap for two states that collapsed like every other U.S. peace initiative due to the Palestinian commitment to the destruction of Israel.

Who would lead this revamped P.A., and how would they be chosen? America must support an election which polls show would be won again by, wait for it … Hamas. And the only person more popular than Ismail Haniyeh is a man serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for being a terrorist involved in murdering Jews.

In a moment of lucidity, he acknowledges Israel must trust a new and improved P.A. In what universe does he imagine that happening?

Here’s how to revamp the P.A. First, find a Palestinian who does not interpret the Koran as calling for genocide or see the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem as a tool to provoke riots. Second, disarm all Palestinians who are not in the security forces. Third, stop paying salaries to murderers of Jews (and to their families). Fourth, end incitement in the media. Fifth, change the Palestinian curriculum to remove all antisemitic content. Sixth, publish maps showing Israel. Seventh, wait two generations to see if any Palestinian leaders emerge who can accept the permanence of a Jewish state.

Another Friedmanism: “In each community, though, you also have those who see this war as a chapter in a political struggle between two nation-states, each with a diverse citizenry that believes in theory that the war does not have to be winner take all.” This may be true for the echo chamber he lives in, but it does not reflect the views of most Palestinians or their leaders. It is the Jews who have made repeated offers to accept a partial loaf of their homeland while the Palestinians demand the whole bakery.

He also fails to understand why Netanyahu keeps getting elected, the rightward shift of the entire Israeli population and the disappearance of the peace camp after the land-for-peace idea Friedman is pushing blew up in their faces when Hamas started launching rockets after Israel evacuated Gaza. On Oct. 7, some of the most fervent believers in peace with the Palestinians were reduced to ashes. Does he think Israel will now force 100,000 Jews to leave their homes in Judea and Samaria to create Hamastan?

Like a good universalist, Friedman seeks to compare the incomparable. Both Jews and Palestinians are “indigenous.” No, Jews have lived on the land for more than 2,000 years and have had independent nations for hundreds of years. The Palestinians have never been sovereigns; the Arab Higher Committee traced their connection to the time of Mohammed, originally saw “Greater Syria” as their homeland, and then gave up thoughts of independence for 19 years until Israel captured the disputed territories.

He compares the genocidal goal of Hamas with the desire of Jews to settle in their historic homeland. He wants you to believe 500,000 Jews living peacefully (except for a handful of extremists who, unlike Hamas, are overwhelmingly opposed by their co-religionists) are no different than the people who butchered Israeli and non-Israeli men, women and children. You won’t find Israelis celebrating the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza the way West Bankers praised Hamas.

He also says there are “supremacist settlers” who don’t distinguish between “Palestinians who have embraced Oslo and those who embrace Hamas.” No, most Israelis don’t see a difference because Palestinians immediately violated the agreement; its supporters believe in destroying Israel in stages; terrorism increased; and more than 1,300 civilians have been murdered since 1993 (before Oct. 7).

Friedman concludes that Iran’s “stranglehold” on the region must be broken. Still, he supported the agreement that allowed the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear weapon and now opposes military action, the only means of stopping its hegemonic and jihadist objectives.

Like Old Faithful, Friedman ultimately is full of hot air.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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