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A salute to Thomas Friedman

Last Tuesday the 13th Thomas Friedman did a very brave thing, he published the following:

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused. Thomas Friedman – New York Times

This is a sample of the response he got:

The notion that the only reason politicians support Israel is because of Jewish money is a central myth of a new form of anti-Semitism which masquerades as a defense of American foreign policy against the depredations of a venal Israel lobby. This canard not only feeds off of the traditional themes of Jew-hatred, it also requires Friedman to ignore the deep roots of American backing for Zionism in our history and culture. Jonathan S. Tobin – Commentary

Anybody that reads my stuff will know that I am no fan of Thomas Friedman, but I have to admit that he has taken a very brave stand by writing the column he published last Tuesday in the New York Times. It is brave because you can be sure that Friedman, who is an observant Jew and an active participant in his community’s life, is going to come under very heavy pressure from that community for what he wrote.  This is what Judge Richard Goldstone went through before he recanted from the UN report that bears his name:

When Richard Goldstone returned home to South Africa last May for his grandson’s bar mitzvah — an event that he was almost unable to paticipate in because of protests planned against him — he also attended a separate meeting whose details were kept secret until now. In the wake of Goldstone’s bombshell retraction of a key finding in the famous report that bears his name, those aware of what occurred at that meeting, individuals who have known him through the years, felt moved to disclose what happened. They joined many others in puzzling over what had prompted the famous jurist to change his mind — and, they hoped, Israel’s fate. The meeting, an official parlay between Goldstone and a cross-section of 10 of the South African Jewish community’s top leaders, had a profound impact on Goldstone, said one participant and another senior official briefed on it afterward.(…) The meeting in South Africa came on the heels of Goldstone’s 11th hour decision to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah — a decision he took only after threats were withdrawn by prominent community members to protest outside the synagogue. Did all this add up to an emotional punch that would cause Goldstone’s turnaround? It may be too simplistic to reduce the process to that. But several friends cited what they viewed as the cumulative toll of a stream of calumny hurled at the famously unemotional jurist.“It has been like watching an innocent man whipped at the stake,” said Goldstone’s friend Letty Cottin Pogrebin, founder of Ms. magazine. Forward

This is all par for the course, the default reaction of the Israel lobby is and always has been, “the whole world are hypocrites, Israel is terribly misunderstood, your eye punched my fist”, when the problem for Israel is that, with every passing day, Israel is getting better and better understood than ever before and the mechanisms that give Israel impunity are getting clearer every day too. As even the head of Mossad says, Israel is getting to be a burden and not an asset for the USA. The question is how long can you keep a lead balloon airborne?

What Israel and friends of Israel should be concerned about is that the number of people in the “west” who are thoroughly sick of Israel is growing exponentially. The problem is that the people now in power in Israel believe that everyone who isn’t Jewish, if you only scratch the surface, is a default antisemite anyway and it is naive to try to conform to their hypocritical rules of conduct.

Of course, in the end, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can lower the bar on judging what is antisemitism to the point where anyone that wont give a moral blank check to Israel is an antisemite. Then you are putting decent people in the same bag with David Duke and decent people resent that sort of thing.

Finally, people will have had enough and no matter how much military might or political leverage is employed, universally adverse opinion reaches a tipping point. People will simply refuse to swallow any more. At that point things begin to move very quickly and no amount of hasbara will hide the simple reality of an apartheid rogue state, armed with atomic weapons, that has managed to unman the American political class.

So today, it is hats off to Thomas Friedman, who has done something braver than many of us will ever have the chance to do.

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David Seaton

David Seaton