Friedman’s latest screed is entitled “A Middle East Twofer” but I much prefer my own headline. It’s so much more suitable for this pompous idiot who spouts sanctimonious patronising claptrap at Israel while absolving the Palestinians of almost any responsibility for their own actions.
Let’s fisk his article together. (I have put quotes from the NYT in black, and quotes from other sources in blue in order to differentiate and avoid confusion.)
There is so much going on in the Middle East today, it’s impossible to capture it all with one opinion. So here are two for the price of one.
Opinion One: Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, reported last week that the imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti “released an unusual statement from his cell. He called on his people to start a popular uprising against Israel, to stop negotiations and security coordination and to boycott [Israel]. Barghouti recommended that his people choose nonviolent opposition.”
Where did Friedman get this absurd idea from? Is he incapable of facing the truth without wearing rose-coloured spectacles and seeing what he wants to see? According to the very Haaretz article on which Friedman bases his thesis, Barghouti said quite the opposite:
Former Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is jailed in Israel, published an unusual message on Monday in which he called on the Palestinian public to launch a widespread resistance against Israel.
The Jerusalem Post too quoted Barghouti calling for another intifada:
In the letter, he called on Palestinians to launch a new popular intifada against Israel, saying that “experience has proven that the Palestinians do not have a peace partner in Israel.” He pointed out that the “intifada and resistance” had forced Israel to unconditionally destroy settlements and withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
When Palestinians use the word “resistance” it means intifada and violence. Of the non-non-violent kind, in case you were wondering.
Returning to Friedman’s article:
Barghouti, as Haaretz noted, “is the most authentic leader Fatah has produced, and he can lead his people to an agreement. … If Israel had wanted an agreement with the Palestinians it would have released him from prison by now.”
I’m not sure where that quote came from, but I didn’t find it in either of the two Haaretz articles I found relating to Barghouti. However I did find this revealing item in the 2nd article about Friedman’s “peace-loving” hero whom Israel really ought to release – for its own good, you understand:
Barghouti is considered a senior Tanzim member (Fatah’s armed wing) and was convicted by the Israeli justice system of five counts of murder – four Israelis and a Greek monk – during the second intifada.
Of course, just the type of fellow you want released back into your own neighbourhood. And if he is the “most authentic leader” to be found amongst the Palestinians, then woe unto them – and to us.
Back to Friedman:
I had gotten to know Barghouti before his five life sentences for involvement in killing Israelis. His call for nonviolent resistance is noteworthy and the latest in a series of appeals to and by Palestinians — coming from all over — to summon their own “Arab Awakening,” but do it nonviolently, with civil disobedience or boycotts of Israel, Israeli settlements or Israeli products.
Again, where is Friedman reading these calls for nonviolent resistance? There are certainly calls from Palestinian leaders for nonviolent resistance together with “resistance” aka terrorism, but I have yet to see one terrorist leader publicly call on his followers to renounce violence.
I can certainly see the efficacy of nonviolent resistance by Palestinians to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank — on one condition: They accompany any boycotts, sit-ins or hunger strikes with a detailed map of the final two-state settlement they are seeking. Just calling for “an end to occupation” won’t cut it.
Palestinians need to accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock they throw at Israel with a map delineating how, for peace, they would accept getting back 95 percent of the West Bank and all Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and would swap the other 5 percent for land inside pre-1967 Israel.
Yeah, rock-throwing is sooo non-violent and peaceful. It doesn’t harm anyone. It only kills the odd Jew and his baby.
By Palestinians engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience in the West Bank with one hand and carrying a map of a reasonable two-state settlement in the other, they will be adopting the only strategy that will end the Israeli occupation: Making Israelis feel morally insecure but strategically secure. The Iron Law of the peace process is that whoever makes the Israeli silent majority feel morally insecure about occupation but strategically secure in Israel wins.
What patronising bumf! From his self-righteous heights of morality Friedman dares to imply that Israel’s stance is immoral! He is beyond chutzpah.
After Anwar Sadat flew to Jerusalem, Israelis knew there was no way morally that they could hold onto the Sinai and strategically they did not feel the need to any longer.
Again Friedman’s obsession with Israel’s morality. There was nothing about morals in the peace treaty with Egypt. It was all about self-interest for both sides, and in fact the peace deal itself was immoral towards the Israelis who had to evacuate their homes and settlements. After all, if there was true peace, why should citizens have to move? There are Central Europeans whose countries of residence have moved countless times without them ever leaving their house. Think of former Czechoslovakia, Alsace-Lorraine, etc.
The first intifada, which focused on stone-throwing, got Palestinians Oslo. The second intifada, which was focused on suicide bombing of restaurants in Tel Aviv, got them the wall around the West Bank; Israelis felt sufficiently strategically insecure and morally secure to lock all Palestinians in a big jail. Today, nothing makes Israelis feel more strategically insecure and morally secure than Hamas’s demented shelling of Israel from Gaza, even after Israel unilaterally withdrew.
Sure. Israel loves to be bombed and rocketed and stoned. It makes them feel self-righteous and moral. Just like Thomas Friedman in fact. (Do I have to note that I’m being supremely sarcastic here?)
Unabated, disruptive Palestinian civil disobedience in the West Bank, coupled with a map delineating a deal most Israelis would buy, is precisely what would make Israelis feel morally insecure but strategically secure and revive the Israeli peace camp. It is the only Palestinian strategy Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu fears, but it is one that he is sure Palestinians would never adopt. He thinks it’s not in their culture. Will they surprise him?
With leaders like Marwan Barghouti and fellow-travelling useful idiots like Thomas Friedman, I would say it’s highly unlikely.
Opinion Two: One of the most hackneyed clichés about the Middle East today is that the Arab Awakening, because it was not focused on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, only proves that this conflict was not that important. Rather, it is argued, the focus should be on Iran 24/7. The fact is, the Arab Awakening has made an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement more urgent than ever for two reasons. First, it is now clear that Arab autocracies are being replaced with Islamist/populist parties. And, in Egypt, in particular, it is already clear that a key issue in the election will be the peace treaty with Israel. In this context, if Palestinian-Israeli violence erupts in the West Bank, there will be no firewall — the role played by former President Hosni Mubarak — to stop the flames from spreading directly to the Egyptian street.
Does Friedman honestly think that if Israel and the Palestinians signed a peace treaty, peace would suddenly break out all over the Arab world? Does he think the Islamists who are now coming to power in the countries undergoing revolution will allow the Palestinians to make peace with Israel? Does he also think that the Palestinians have more incentive to make peace with Israel now? Hasn’t he considered that they might be less inclined to deal with Israel, and might be considering a little Arab spring of their own.
Friedman also doesn’t consider that Israel itself might be rather more wary of making concessions and giving away land – which is what “making peace” is all about in Friedman’s world – with the threat of extreme Islamists rising to power all around its borders.
Moreover, with the rise of Islamists in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria, Israelis and Palestinians have a greater incentive than ever to create an alternative model in the West Bank — a Singapore — to show that they, together, can give birth to a Palestinian state where Arab Muslims and Christians, men and women, can thrive in a secular, but religiously respectful, free-market, democratic context, next to a Jewish state. This is the best Palestinian leadership with which Israel could hope to partner.
I can’t fault Friedman for his utopian vision, but why is such a happy event more likely to occur now than at any other time? Since the Palestinians rejected every one of Israel’s peace offers in the past, why would the Arab spring provoke them to try harder this time? This statement is pure wishful thinking.
One reason the Arab world has stagnated while Asia has thrived is that the Arabs had no good local models to follow — the way Taiwan followed Japan or Hong Kong. Fostering such a model — that would stand in daily contrast to struggling Islamist models in Gaza and elsewhere — would be a huge, long-term asset for Israel and help to shape the world around it.
Again, wonderful utopian dreams, but Friedman does not explain how this will come to pass. It’s certainly not going to happen unless and until the Palestinians learn to accept that Israel exists as a Jewish state, stress on “Jewish”, and will continue to exist in its current incarnation as the realisation of the dream of the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel.
Thomas Friedman needs to buy new glasses, untinted, read other newspapers besides Haaretz, and talk to other Israelis outside of his leftist circles. Until then, he will remain a patronising buffoon with an overdose of chutzpah.