Published December 19, 2011
A Jewish friend who leans right offers a shorthand way to understand how Americans see Israel. Liberals, he says, love Jews and hate Israel, while conservatives reverse the pattern.
It’s a crude calculation, but The New York Times is proving his point about liberals. The non-stop screeds against the Jewish state on its opinion pages have left the field of politics and entered the realm of prejudice, so much so that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is citing its bias in refusing to write an article for the paper.
Times columnists “constantly distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace,” a top Netanyahu aide writes in rejecting an offer from the paper. “They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and virtually every Israeli official, somehow reflect government policy or Israeli society as a whole.”
In the rejection letter, first obtained by the Jerusalem Post, the aide says that of the last 20 opinion pieces published by The Times about Israel, 19 were negative.
The latest example it cites was a column last week by Thomas Friedman. The piece was so scurrilous that it alone justifies the boycott.
In the column, Friedman describes himself as a secular American Jew who cares about Israel. But his disdain makes it clear he doesn’t like the country. Worse, he crosses the line that separates opinion from bigotry.
To dismiss the standing ovations members of Congress from both parties gave Netanyahu last May, Friedman resorts to a slur that recalls a staple of anti-Semites.
“That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israeli lobby,” The Times’ columnist declared.
He offers no support or example, as though the Jews-equal-money connection is so obvious it doesn’t require evidence. Such paranoid assertions are routine in crackpot circles, but the appearance in The Times under Friedman’s byline is shocking and will offer aid and comfort to enemies of Israel.
It is also an attack on America, as if our foreign policy is for sale to the highest bidder. Implicit is the charge that no smart and honest American, Jewish or otherwise, could possibly support the conservative policies of Netanyahu or recognize Israel as a vital ally in the war against terror.
Friedman’s list of everything he detests includes the Republican presidential candidates who support Netanyahu, Israel’s domestic politics and its relations with Palestinians.
He sprinkles in the baiting language of “apartheid” and “ethnic-cleansing” that is standard fare in anti-Israel circles from Turtle Bay to Tehran.
The result is a column that inadvertently showcases how liberals think about Israel and virtually every other aspect of modern life: Anybody who doesn’t agree with them is either stupid or corrupt. Only they have legitimate motives and views.
Not surprisingly, Friedman’s prejudices echo those of President Obama, an occasional golfing partner. Perhaps the golf course is where they share their cockamamie views that Israel, rather than Arab violence and deep hatred of Jews, is the impediment to Middle East peace.
Friedman, naturally, leaves out the facts that don’t fit this view. He never mentions Hamas, a terror group that continues to fire rockets into Israeli towns and vows to eliminate the Jewish state.
Nor does he mention that many Democrats who also stood for Netanyahu last May are at odds with Obama’s policies, including on Iran. They see the president’s one-sided demand for concessions from Israel as putting a bull’s-eye on the country.
Friedman also could have noted the recent special election in New York to replace the disgraced Anthony Weiner.
Thanks to former Mayor Ed Koch, the race became a referendum on Obama’s treatment of Israel, with the result that many Jews and Catholics who usually vote Democratic switched to elect Republican Bob Turner.
I e-mailed Friedman to see if he had second thoughts about his column. I got no response, which I take to mean he has no defense.