The Chutzpah of Thomas Friedman

This is cross posted from the blog, Anne’s Opinions

Two articles that I have read in the last 24 hours have been enough to bring my blood pressure to boiling point.   I will address the first one here. The other will be addressed in my next post.

Both articles have several similarities. Both are written by Jews, both authors have a – shall we say – problematic attitude towards Israel, and both authors feel that they have a right, nay a duty, to berate and chide Israel as if she was a child, and in the more public a forum the better.

The first article in question, Postcard from Cairo, by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, was brought to my attention by my dad although I had caught a mention of it in today’s Ynet. (Just judging by the huge number of comments it generated in Ynet one can see how much outrage it caused).

Thomas Friedman starts his article with one true sentence, and then ruins it right away.

For anyone who spent time in Tahrir Square these last three weeks, one thing was very obvious: Israel was not part of this story at all.


And then…

the two big countries they knew were against them were Israel and Saudi Arabia. Sad. The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment

and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh – right to the very end.

Bzzzt! Wrong wrong wrong!  His chutzpah and outright lies are breathtaking, even for a journalist known for his tangential relationship to the truth. He insidiously uses Biblical language to promote the idea that the Jews have switched sides, from Moses to Pharaoh.

But on what basis has he decided that Israel is on the side of Pharaoh? Where is his evidence?   He brings none; he just skips over this staggering pronouncement and moves on to his next bugbear:

Israel today has the most out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliche-driven cabinet it has ever had.

I might even admit “out of touch”. But in-bred?? Unimaginative? Cliché driven?  From where does this malice spring?  Does he use this same spiteful language when talking about the Saudis?  In fact you will see that the Saudis, having been mentioned once in the first paragraph of the article, merit not one more word in the entire screed. Israel was lumped in with the Saudis purely to make a nasty – and untrue – point.

Friedman continues:

Frantically calling the White House and telling the president he must not abandon Pharaoh – to the point where the White House was thoroughly disgusted with its Israeli interlocutors

Once more he cannot resist bringing in Biblical allusions to entice the reader to relate the Jewishness of the State of Israel to the diplomatic events on its doorstep – no matter that once again he brings no proof, no quotes from the White House; in fact he brings no proof at all that anyone in Israel ever said those words or implied that intention.

Friedman graciously allows that Israel is entitled to feel nervous because of the possible abrogation of the 30-year old peace treaty between itself and Egypt, but immediately demands that Israel should dive in and

“need to get to work immediately on building a relationship with the dynamic new popular trend here”

Never mind that the Muslim Brotherhood is waiting in the wings, despite Friedman’s frantic denials. Never mind that this “Facebook-driven, youth-led democracy uprising” had no organisation behind it, and as of Friday the army is back in control.

He may have a point that:

Most of all, it is not about some populist upsurge that craves restarting the war with Israel. It is all about a people who crave the chance to restart their own future, their own lives.

but the point is lost amongst the distortions and outright fiction that he provides. He certainly does not take into account the realities of the region; the fact that the revolution has no leader, no organization, and the fact that nature and politics abhor a vacuum. Where there is no leader, a ready-made one will step in. The only opposition leaders with any organizational ability are those of the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Egyptian Army.  In this respect we in Israel need to breathe a (non-politically correct) sigh of relief that it was the army and not the Brotherhood who took control.

The story is anyway not over yet and we still need to be on our guard.  Will the army be able to address the Egyptian common man’s grievances? Unemployment, corruption, lack of personal freedom are rampant.  Will anything change or will the revolution re-ignite?

The Egyptian uprising indeed is not directly connected to Israel although its results have a huge potential for either good or terribly bad for the whole region.  Despite Israel’s justified concern regarding the eventual outcome of this revolt, Friedman is completely wrong in accusing Israel of demanding that the white House “rescue Pharaoh”. He misreads reality, makes up stories where facts are missing, and is willing to sacrifice Israeli lives for the sake of a nebulous possibility that lions and lambs will indeed lie down together in Egypt.

Never mind reality; don’t confuse him with facts. You’re ruining Friedman’s nice pink daydream of peace in our time. And if Israel has to be sacrificed and make sacrifices to achieve his dream – well, they must go ahead.  If not Friedman will think we are in-bred.

Did I say chutzpah?

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