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April 10, 2012 11:31 am

Tom Friedman’s Skewed Vision of Non-Violence

avatar by Ed Koch

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Carnage from a previous Gaza rocket attack on Israeli civilians. Photo: Noam Bedein.

Carnage from a previous Gaza rocket attack on Israeli civilians. Photo: Noam Bedein.

In an April 4th New York Times op ed article, Tom Friedman endorsed what he designated to be “non-violent resistance by Palestinians” against Israel.  He added that Palestinians need to “accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock they throw at Israel with a detailed map” delineating their territorial demands.

Friedman, I’m sorry to say, is allowing himself to be used by radicals whose goal is not peace but the destruction of Israel. Two prior prime ministers of Israel, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, offered the Palestinian Authority a return of all but between 7 and 9 percent of the West Bank.  That area would bring into the State of Israel most of the 300,000 Israeli Jews living on the West Bank, referred to by Israelis by the biblical names of Judean and  Sumaria.  The 7 to 9 percent would then be replaced by land swaps.  Those offers from Israel were turned down by the Palestinian Authority.  In “Foreign Affairs,” of August 2011, Eliot Abrams wrote, “At Camp David in 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat 94 percent of the West Bank; ten years later, Ehud Olmert offered Abbas 93.6 percent with a one-to-one land swap.”  The Palestinian Authority has refused to return to high-level peace negotiations for the last year and a half unless Israel agrees to its preconditions which include a settlement freeze on all construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem and a stipulation that negotiations proceed from what Israel believes are indefensible pre-1967 borders.

The Palestinian state called for under the two-state solution — which has been accepted by the current prime minister Bibi Netanyahu and his immediate predecessors — also includes Gaza.  Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the latter territory was totally evacuated by the Israelis.  Since that evacuation in 2005 and after an election won by Hamas, the Palestinians in Gaza under Hamas have continued their war against the Jews.  Recently, in one day, Hamas sent 150 rockets into southern Israel, disrupting the economy of the area and endangering its population.  The rockets are simply sent in the general direction of cities and towns  with their civilian populations as the targets.

The supporters of the Palestinian Authority and its two components, Hamas and Fatah, hold Israel to blame for the lack of progress in peace talks.  They are furious that Israel refuses to cede more territory under these conditions and thereby commit suicide in pursuit of an illusory peace.  Supporters of the Palestinian Authority include Jews in Israel itself and here in the U.S.  However, it is rare that any Jewish supporters of the Palestinian Authority would urge the Palestinians to resume violence against the Jews of Israel.  It therefore came as a shock to read in Tom Friedman’s op ed that he endorses the resumption of rock throwing against Israelis.

Friedman’s article was itself, in effect, a rock thrown directly at Israel and the peace process.  I caution Friedman not to recommend violence lightly.  Having been a victim in 1991 of rocks thrown by Palestinians in the first Intifada – an injury requiring 9 stitches to suture my scalp where it was struck by a stone — I couldn’t help but wonder:  how would Tom Friedman feel if a child in Israel were to be struck by a stone, perhaps losing an eye or worse?  Would Friedman blame himself for having encouraged the Arabs on the West Bank to hurl stones in what he describes as a “non-violent” measure?

I thank the Times for publishing my letter to the editor denouncing Friedman for including stone throwing as a “non-violent” tactic.  I also wonder why the Times editorially has not denounced or chastised his behavior, so as to reassure its readers it does not agree with their premier pundit on the Middle East.  Friedman welcomed the Arab Spring which in Egypt and elsewhere has produced governments that are now dominated by Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that support the use of terrorism.  Friedman is fast becoming the darling of Islamist terrorists everywhere.  Friedman did not provide his opinion on whether Israeli soldiers or police officers might defend themselves from a rock assault by shooting the person engaged in throwing rocks at him to deter injury to himself or others.  My letter published by the Times follows:

April 6, 2012

Rock Throwing by Arabs

To the Editor:

Thomas L. Friedman (“A Middle East Twofer,” column, April 4) endorses what he calls “nonviolent resistance by Palestinians” against Israel. He adds that Palestinians need to “accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock they throw at Israel with a detailed map” delineating their territorial demands.  I was attacked by “nonviolent” Arab rock throwers while touring the old Jewish quarter of Jerusalem in 1991. I needed nine stitches but was fortunate to have suffered only relatively minor injuries. If my attackers’ aim had been a little sharper, I could have lost an eye, or worse.  Many Israelis as well as foreign tourists have been badly injured, sometimes permanently maimed, in such “nonviolent” assaults. Israelis have even been murdered by rock throwing. Last September, Asher Palmer, 25, and his infant son, Yonatan, were killed when “nonviolent” rocks were thrown at their car, causing a fatal crash.  We may disagree on borders, settlements, refugees or other contentious Arab-Israeli issues. But can’t we all agree that in the English language, the terms “nonviolent” and “rock throwing” are mutually exclusive?

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  • Jeffrey Reiss

    Thomas Friedman is smart, but is he well read, well meaning or well versed in the 20th century history of the creation of the reconstituted Jewish homeland within its historic borders according to International Law.

    Mr. Friedman and dear readers: go to and also read Howard Grief’s book The Legal Foundations and Borders of Israel under International Law. After doing that I invite Mr. Friedman to honestly defend his embarrassingly irresponsible, unprofessional ignorance and bias towards Israel and his fellow Jews, assuming he still self identifies as being Jewish.

    As for us readers, we need to wake up to how badly misinformed we have been by our lack of knowledge and the lack of chutzpah of the establishment Jewish leadership, to declare in plain language, the West Bank and Gaza legally belong to the Jewish people and the State of Israel for over 90 years. Read it and weep for Jerusalem and Zion. I too was duped by the NY Times until 1984 when I realized I had been duped by their sensationalism using their front page coverage of Israel’s so-called complicity in the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps. I was fortunate to recognize my ignorance of the larger context of the Arab/Muslim/Jewish/Israeli conflict and I should add British duplicity and hypocrisy during the first half of the 20th century.

  • Fredric M. London

    I wish the moral relativist terrorist worshipers would stop and realize that they, as much as anyone, are responsible for the rise of the hard, un-American, unyielding, vicious right wing. By linking alleged reason with the support of murderers and would be genocide perpetrators, these apologists drive reasonable people into the right-wing camp, even though most of them do not identify with the odious agenda of these troglodytes.

    We need a new political party!

  • drdon

    Hooray for Ed Koch! He totally takes Friedman to task, and so it should be. Friedman is so far to the left and is the darling of Islamists everywhere. What a disgrace that the NY Times gives him a soapbox to spout his garbage.

    Ed, you bring joy to everyone’s heart. Stay the course, my friend.