Questioning Thomas Friedman about Israel

Every so often a leading Jewish organization holds an event that is a cut above the others. Later this week, the UJA Federation of New York will feature Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to be the featured speaker at its June 4th event. Friedman will be in “conversation” with the editor in chief of the New York Jewish Week, Andrew Silow-Carroll.

I have appeared in several of these “conversations” which can be quite informative and fun at the same time.  As with the programs I have participated in, the program announcement informs attendees, “We’ll take your questions on the global ramifications of this age of uncertainty.”

Well, I have some questions which concern the credibility of the speaker who has been chosen by the UJA Federation as an authority on global events.  Perhaps Mr. Silow-Carroll can ask them.

1. Mr. Friedman, in your column in the New York Times on April 4, 2012, you endorsed what you called “non-violent resistance by Palestinians” against Israel. The examples of such resistance that you gave were boycotts, hunger strikes, and throwing rocks. Last week, a young Israeli soldier, Amit Ben-Yigal, was murdered by an Arab who threw a heavy rock at his head. He was at least the 17th Israeli murdered by Arab rock-throwers since the 1980s. So, Mr. Friedman, do you still consider rock-throwing to be “non-violent”…?

2. In your column in the New York Times on February 4, 2020, you claimed that the real obstacle to peace is the impact of climate change in the Mideast. One of your main pieces of evidence that Mother Nature is the real issue is the fact that “in the summer of 2018, the Sea of Galilee [the Kinneret] was so low from droughts and water withdrawals for rising populations that it was threatening to become another saline lake, like the Dead Sea.”

Yet the Jerusalem Post reported on April 24, 2020, that the water level in the Kinneret is now at a 16 year-high. In fact, it is so high that it has almost reached what the Israelis call “the upper red line,” meaning it could lead to flooding of the nearby city of Tiberias if water is not drained. So, Mr. Friedman, will you now acknowledge that your fears were exaggerated?

3. In your column in the New York Times on December 29, 2016, you claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Obama “an enemy.” The Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) did a thorough search and found no evidence that the prime minister ever used that term. What’s your evidence for claiming that Netanyahu said that?

4. In your column in the New York Times on February 4, 2015, you argued that if Israel’s prime minister addressed Congress against the Iran deal, “anti-Semites, who claim Israel controls Washington, will have a field day.”

Can you see why many Jews would regard it as disingenuous for you to repeatedly claim that Israel controls Washington, and then urge Israel to change its policies because otherwise, antisemites will claim Israel controls Washington?

5. In your column in the New York Times on November 19, 2013, you wrote that “many American lawmakers [will] do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.” Can you understand why many Jews regard the charge that Jewish lobbyists are controlling American lawmakers like puppets on a string as a dangerous antisemitic accusation?

6. In your column in the New York Times on December 13, 2011, you wrote that the standing ovations which Israel’s prime minister received in Congress were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Can you understand why many Jews regard the charge that Jewish lobbyists are paying off members of Congress as a classic antisemitic libel?

7. In your column in the New York Times on February 5, 2004, Mr. Friedman, you wrote that Israel “had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.”  Can you understand why many Jews regard the charge that Israel controls America’s president as an antisemitic trope?

8. In your column in the New York Times on October 19, 1987, you predicted that in 12 years, “Israel and the occupied territories will be in, demographic terms, a binational state.” Well, here we are, 33 years later, and Israel is obviously not a binational state. Are you willing to acknowledge that you were mistaken?

9. You have been arguing since the 1970s that Yasir Arafat had become moderate and Israel should negotiate with him and make concessions to him. But in January 2002—more than eight years after he supposedly made peace with Israel, in the Oslo accords— Arafat was caught trying to smuggle 50 tons of weapons into Gaza on board the SS Karine A. Do you still consider Palestinian leadership to be “moderate?”

10. Two of the largest Palestinian Authority-ruled cities, Tulkarm and Kalkilya, are located about 9 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. That means that if a Palestinian state were established, Israel would be just 9 miles wide. That’s less than the distance from your home in Potomac, Maryland to nearby Washington, DC. Can you understand why Israelis are reluctant to put themselves in such a vulnerable position?

And one question for the UJA Federation: How much are you paying Thomas Friedman for his participation? Ordinarily, speaker’s fee might be regarded a private affair. But considering Friedman’s long history of making troubling and controversial statements, it seems only fair that donors to the UJA Federation be informed how much of their donations are being used to pay him.

About the Author
Stephen M. Flatow is the father of Alisa Flatow who was murdered by Iranian sponsored Palestinian terrorists in April 1995 and the author of "A Father's Story: My Fight For Justice Against Iranian Terror" available from Devon Square Press and on Kindle. He is an oleh chadash.
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