Fans of Friedman

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman may shrug off the criticism of his recent article coming from conservative quarters, but the new fans he has won definitely support the conclusion that he is on a “slippery slope from legitimate criticism of Israeli policies […] to a position indistinguishable from the anti-Semitic smears of Israel Lobby authors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.”

So Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss is ecstatically celebrating that after six years, we can finally (!!!) have a proper “debate” about the “Israel lobby”. After quoting Friedman’s astonishing claim that “the standing ovation he [Netanyahu] got in Congress this year […] was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby,” Weiss notes with apparent satisfaction:

By echoing Walt and Mearsheimer’s title, he [Friedman] upped the ante on his statement of a few weeks back that a ‘powerful pro-Israel lobby’ holds Obama ‘hostage’ on settlements.

Weiss goes on and on at considerable length, eventually anticipating that soon enough, it will be possible to address the really important issues:

As the two-state paradigm dies, the battle between liberal Zionists and hardcore Zionists, in essence another scene in the Israel lobby rondelet, is going to fade away into larger and deeper questions: Why is there a need for a Jewish state when western Jews are faring so well in liberal democracies? Why should western Jews devote so much political energy to a militant discriminatory country that they would hate to live in themselves, as a majority let alone a minority?

In a second post published yesterday, Weiss heaps praise on Friedman:

The last time Tom Friedman shocked the American Jewish community was in 1982 when he said that Israel’s bombardment of Beirut was “indiscriminate.” The word was disputed by his copy editors, but Friedman prevailed, and it made his career. The ponderous pontiff has now outdone himself with his laser shot at the Israel lobby in yesterday’s column, writing the “standing ovation [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.

The line is a shot heard round the world.

And, while we’re talking about “shots”, it’s worthwhile noting that already back in September, Philip Weiss published a jubilant post entitled: “It’s open season! Tom Friedman says Obama is ‘hostage’ to ‘powerful pro-Israel lobby’.”

If Tom Friedman continues to promote “open season” on the “powerful pro-Israel lobby”, Philip Weiss may be willing to forgive him for “cheerleading the Iraq war in 2003.”

Indeed, Weiss has already co-opted Friedman as a useful voice to support his view that “Israel isn’t good for the Jews anymore.” So maybe when Weiss announces “open season”, he really means “open season” on Israel?

For anyone lucky enough to have never heard of Philip Weiss and his blog Mondoweiss, I’m tempted to just refer to Ron Kampeas’ characterization of Weiss “as a provocateur of little intellectual consequence” who “throws bombs at Israel, at its defenders and at Jews in general.”

But here’s a bit of additional background: Weiss is convinced that liberals “like to deceive themselves about Jewish power” and therefore he likes to keep track “of the Jewish presence in the Establishment.” He has criticized Israel’s “Warsaw-treatment of Gaza” and since he also likes to use “the words apartheid and Jim Crow […] all the time,” I suppose it’s fair to conclude that he considers Israel a Nazi-Apartheid state.

Philip Weiss also talked to Gilad Atzmon about “Jewish identity;” among other pearls of Weiss-dom, the interview includes this statement:

I believe all people act out of self-interest. And Jews who define themselves at some level as Jews — like myself for instance — are concerned with a Jewish self-interest. Which in my case is: an end to Zionism.  A theory of political life based on altruism or concern for victims purely is doomed to fail.

When Gilad Atzmon interviewed Weiss, he was presumably just finishing his recently published ramblings on Jewish identity – that have been warmly recommended by none other than Israel lobby author John Mearsheimer, whom Weiss so ardently admires.

Mearsheimer obviously thinks that somebody like Atzmon – who rejects comparisons between Nazi Germany and Israel by hysterically claiming that such a comparison is really unfair to Nazi Germany because “Israel is nothing but evilness for the sake of evilness” – is just the right man to provide stimulating thoughts on Jewish identity.

Finally, one more example of Friedman’s new fan club outside the Mondoweiss universe: in an Al Jazeera op-ed published in September, MJ Rosenberg encouraged his readers “If Tom Friedman can say it, you can too.” Perhaps it’s time for another installment of the “repeat-after-Tom-Friedman”-exercise?

7 responses to “Fans of Friedman

  1. Of these various characters, the only one with any real significance is Tom Friedman. And, that is only because he works for the New York Times and, as such, is part of an institution which has substantial influence in the US to the extent of getting him an audience with a Saudi King, not to mention the ear of President Obama – or, perhaps, he is Obama’s mouthpiece.

    Notwithstanding Mr. Friedman’s influence, anyone remotely familiar with the New York Times knows that it has never been particularly friendly towards Israel, and that goes back to the time of the country’s founding. And, since the paper is considered part of the establishment – and most Americans are suspicious of establishments -, the influence of the paper is likely different than, say, the influence of major papers in other Western countries; which is to say, it is far, far less an indicator of public opinion and even less able to influence public opinion of average people than one might expect. Hence, the need for people like Mr. Friedman to make believe there is a real divide among American Jews about Israel and to exaggerate your country’s sins, all in the hope of gaining some support for his views. The truth about American opinion – and, particularly, Jewish American opinion – is rather more complicated, with most opinion, as was always the case, being a lot less chic radical than Mr. Friedman.

    An exception on the paper was, of course, A.M. Rosenthal, but he is long since gone. Of course, the New York Times, like nearly all major papers, did not see fit to cover unrest that had been on the rise for years in the Arab regions, falling instead for the bizarre view that it made more sense to focus on your country – exaggerating its foibles into major news – than to find out what actually was driving Arab societies.

    So having been essentially AWOL from actually covering the region, the paper, rather than first trying to find its mistakes and correct them, has double downed. Mr. Friedman, who claims to know something about your part of the world, is particularly guilty but, evidently, is not ready to do the sort of soul searching that his ilk think your country should be doing.

    • I guess you’re probably spot on with your observations about the gap between US mainstream views and the views of Friedman (i.e. the other Friedman!!!) and the NYT. But of course for the folks at Mondoweiss (and many similar blogs that provide the oxygen for Israel-haters), the NYT and Tom Friedman, whenever they are critical of Israel, represent the “better” America; and e.g. Stephen Walt has already opined on his FP blog that Friedman has shown himself to be a real true friend of Israel.

      However, my main point here was actually to highlight the growing acceptance of tropes that are helping to mainstream views that reflect antisemitic notions. Back when M&W published their “Israel Lobby”, many reviewers noted that they had written a book that would appeal to antisemites; by now, we have Mearsheimer openly praising an antisemite like Atzmon, and Walt nodding along; and it seems that now Tom Friedman is also on this slippery slope. That’s why the Mondoweiss crowd is so jubilant.

  2. Hi Petra,

    You are no doubt correct; loonies are jubilant. My suspicion is that there are rather strong limits that will keep my namesake from stepping too far over the line. In particular, the views of people he no doubts think important were decidedly negative on his article. For another, he has to live in a Jewish community, I think in the D.C. area, which surely has not reacted positively towards him.

    Which is to say, this is not Europe, where there is public moral support for those who take up “brave” views. Instead, he is surrounded mostly by indifference and, among people he has to socialize, pretty strong disagreement. At least, I suspect that is the case.

    When nasty articles started showing up in The Guardian (i.e. the British rag), they were not met with all that much hostility among the readership. One cannot say that for the N.Y. Times. It has to live in its environment, which is not a university campus.

    • Mhm, I’m not at all sure that the other Friedman is at all impressed by what others think of him. My feeling is that he thinks so highly of himself that it won’t matter what lesser minds think…
      But re. the rather friendly reception of the plentiful anti-Israel coverage in the Guardian, the writings of Anthony Julius provide a pretty good explanation.

  3. I’ve heard about, read an abstract from, but not Mr. Julius’s entire book, which I have heard is quite interesting. However, my reading list is rather long, so it may take a while for his book to reach the top. 🙂

  4. It’s time for all the Israel Firsters and Wall St. jews to skedaddle back to Israel [etc.etc.etc. del.PMB]

    • Caren, you’ve come to the wrong place, but don’t worry, there are lots of places on the www where you will be welcomed and where you can share your Jew hatred and admiration for the Nazis with like-mindless people. Bye bye Caren!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s