Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    JNS.org – Nine months ago, Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine, were schmoozing about the “vibrancy of Tel Aviv and soul of Jerusalem,” as Lane put it. They dreamed about how they could bring young and innovative millennials to the so-called “start-up nation.” From April 3-7, Forbes turned that dream into a reality. Israel played host to the first-ever Forbes Under 30 EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) […]

    Read more →