Tom Friedman – Mistaken or Misleading?

August 10, 2012 1:36 pm 9 comments

Tom Friedman. Photo: www.thomasfriedman.com.

Tom Friedman, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist, is perceived to be a Middle East expert.  Is he?

In January and June, 2000, on the eve of Bashar Assad’s ascension to power, Tom Friedman (T.F.) was charmed by Bashar Assad’s background:  a British-trained ophthalmologist; married to a British citizen of Syrian origin; fluent in English and French; President of the Syrian Internet Association.  He compared the eventual Butcher from Damascus, potentially, to Deng Xiaoping, who led China’s economic reforms, modernization and rapprochement with the USA.  Swept by wishful-thinking, T.F. assumed that Bashar could liberalize Syria, attract international investors, normalize relations with Israel, end the Arab rejection of the Jewish State, thus demolishing the Iran-Syria axis and ending Iran’s involvement in Lebanon.  The prerequisite for such an enterprising scenario was an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.  However, as expected, Bashar chose to follow in the footsteps of his ruthless father, Hafiz Assad, slaughtering T.F.’s assumptions and Syria’s domestic opposition, irrespective of the Golan Heights, Israel’s policies or existence.

In August, 2006, T.F. told NPR Radio that Bashar Assad’s Syria was not a natural ally of Iran. He maintained that Syria could resume its traditional role as an ally of the pro-US Arab camp of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Thus, he rewrote Syria’s recent history, which has been consistently anti-US since 1946, as well as pro-Iran since 1979.

In June, 2009, T.F. stated that “for the first time, in a long time, [Middle East] forces for decency, democracy and pluralism have a little wind at their backs.”  He identified a tailwind to pro-American elements, and a setback to Iran’s fortunes, in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran itself.  According to T.F., “the diffusion of technology – the Internet, blogs, YouTube and text messaging via cellphones” – tilted the Middle East in favor of the US. He was determined not to allow the real Middle East to stand in the way of his vision of a Middle East consumed by globalization, modernity, democratization and the Internet. Unfortunately, the increasingly boiling seismic Arab Street from Morocco to the Persian Gulf has repudiated T.F.’s vision.

In February, 2011, T.F. determined that “the Muslim Brotherhood is not running the [anti-Mubarak] show…Any ideological group that tries to hijack these young people will lose…. This uprising feels post-ideological…. The emerging spokesman for this uprising is Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing executive.”

Enthralled by the Arab Spring delusion, T.F. concluded that the Egyptian Street “tried [radical] Nasserism, tried Islamism and is now trying democracy.”  He was convinced that “the democracy movement came out of Tahrir Square like a tiger…. Anyone who tries to put the tiger back in the cage will get his head bitten off…. Witness one of the great triumphs of the human spirit….. The first pan-Arab movement that is focused on universal values….”

T.F. underestimated the surge of the non-Facebook trans-national Muslim Brotherhood and its credo: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad [Holy War] is our way; and martyrdom for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”  To T.F.’s frustration, the Muslim Brotherhood aims to consolidate Islamic Sharia’ as the legal foundation in Muslim and “infidel” lands, as a prelude to the reestablishment of the Islamic Caliphate.

T.F.’s pro-PLO, pro-Palestinian stance dates back to his active involvement, while at Brandeis University, in the pro-Arafat radical-Left “Middle East Peace Group” and “Breirah” organizations.  It was intensified during his role as the Associated Press’ and New York Times’ reporter in Lebanon. There he played down Arafat’s and Mahmoud Abbas’ rape and plunder of Lebanon and their intense ties with international terrorism, while expressing his appreciation of the PLO’s protection of foreign media in Beirut.

In September 1993, T.F. welcomed Arafat as a peace-pursuing statesman.  He established moral equivalence between the role-model of terrorism, the PLO, and the role-model of counterterrorism, Israel, as well as between Arafat and Rabin: “Two hands that had written the battle orders for so many young men, two fists that had been raised in anger at one another so many times in the past, locked together for a fleeting moment of reconciliation.”  T.F. provided a robust tailwind to Arafat’s strategy of deception and bamboozling September 1993 statement at the White House: “Mr. President, I am taking this opportunity to assure you and to assure the great American people that we share your values for freedom, justice and human rights — values for which my people have been striving….”

In July, 2000, T.F. posed the question: “Who is Arafat? Is he Nelson Mandela or Willie Nelson?” However, Arafat’s track record is compatible with another metaphor: “Who is Arafat? Is he Jack the Ripper or the Boston Strangler?”

Has Tom Friedman been mistaken? Or, has he been, deliberately,  misleading?

This post first appeared in Israel Hayom.

9 Comments

  • We Jews like to belive peace and love and harmony is possible in this world. I remember all my fellow jews waxing rhapsodic over Stalin and communism. Many of them ran to Russia to help with the cause. The more things change, the more nothing changes. So it’s not just TF, it’s a whole bunch of our peace loving dreamy eyed Jews. They are true believers. It’s a very long list. I just tell them to keep their passports current and make sure they can get their hands on sufficient cash for their families. And plan an exit route.

  • Or is T.F. just a fricking idiot?

  • TF believes what he writes, he is delusional and is living in a fantasy world. Nothing to be done about.

  • Carrie Mataraza

    Tom Friedman has always been part of the left idealism that is always and thoroughly fooled with their ideas about “good intentions” of the “other side.” Time after time Friedman has been wrong. Wouldn’t you think that by now he would realize he is not seeing reality, instead writing about how he wishes it could be? HIs beliefs are truly delusional and therefore, harmful in their influence on his readers.

  • Tom Friedman is a lefty and mistaken because he is deluded by wishful thinking and doesn’t know evil when he sees it.

    At least he is well-meaning!

    He is a prime example of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  • Raymond Stock

    I have known Tom Friedman since 1985: our first contact came shortly after my master’s thesis, which compared the coverage of The New York Times and Le Monde of the 1982 war in Lebanon (in which I rated him the best and most objective correspondent of either paper in reporting the story) appeared in The Middle East Journal. I still stand by that assessment. Over the years we have remained fast friends, agreeing on some things, disagreeing on others (including on some of the issues cited in this article). During the nearly three decades of our friendship, I have had the chance to observe on a great many occasions his considerable passion for the truth–as he genuinely sees it–as well as his deeply-ingrained decency and sincerity. Whatever you think of his positions on anything, I am sure that he is not being deliberately misleading.

    • “I am sure that he is not being deliberately misleading.” If that’s truly the case, as someone who has read TF’s column for too many years now I have to conclude that i have been right all along, he’s a moron.

    • From the Book of Dave:

      If you believe passionately in a stupid thing, it doesn’t make you passionate… it makes you stupid.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.