New York Times’ Tom Friedman Projects His Own Sins Onto Netanyahu
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman likens Prime Minister Netanyahu to a “dog” and a “drunk” — and then, with a remarkable lack of self-awareness, faults President-elect Trump’s choice to be ambassador to Israel for insulting other Jews.
Sure enough, in his latest column Friedman writes that “Netanyahu is a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it.”
That isn’t even good writing. If Friedman wanted to convey the idea that Netanyahu is indecisive, or stuck, he would have done better to have written that Netanyahu is a leader who is forever treading water in the middle of the Rubicon, or forever backfloating in the middle of the Rubicon. That, however, would have avoided the opportunity to describe the elected leader of the Jewish state as a dog, and thus repeat a classic antisemitic trope last seen in the infamous New Yorker article by Lena Dunham, “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz.” As the Anti-Defamation League helpfully pointed out back when that New Yorker screed was published, “The piece is particularly troubling because it evokes memories of the ‘No Jews or Dogs Allowed’ signs from our own early history in this country, and also because, in a much more sinister way, many in the Muslim world today hatefully refer to Jews as ‘dogs.’”
Friedman also likens Netanyahu and Israel to an alcoholic. The Times columnist writes, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk.”
Having likened Netanyahu to both a swimming dog and a drunk driver — maybe what he meant was that Netanyahu is a drunk dog trying to drive a car across the river? — Friedman promptly, and hypocritically proceeds to mount his own high horse about someone else’s rhetoric. Friedman writes, “His [Trump’s] ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, has compared Jews who favor a two-state solution to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. I’ve never heard such a vile slur from one Jew to another.” If there’s any Jew issuing vile slurs here, it’s not David Friedman, but Thomas Friedman.
“Never heard”? Where was delicate Thomas Friedman during the vilification of Yitzhak Rabin after the Oslo accords? Here is the Left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz on the unfortunately long history of this sort of rhetoric in the Israeli context:
Israel’s first prime minister was in the habit of using such terminology when referring to his chief ideological rival, leader of the Revisionist Movement Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky – long before the foundation of the state and even before the Holocaust. In 1933, with conflict between the two wings of the Zionist movement at its height, Ben-Gurion repeatedly compared Jabotinsky to Hitler in print and in speeches, including one where he called him “Vladimir Hitler.”
Ben-Gurion reserved the comparison also for Jabotinsky’s successor, Menachem Begin. In 1963, in a letter to author Chaim Guri, Ben Gurion wrote that “Begin is a distinct Hitlerist type” and predicted that if he would ever come to power “he will replace the army and police headquarters with his goons, and rule as Hitler did in Germany.” … The last leading voice on the left to prominently use that sort of language was philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz who in the 1980s described Israeli military actions in Lebanon and the territories as “Judeo-Nazi.”
Perhaps the biggest whopper in Thomas Friedman’s Times column, though, is the reference to a “10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel — the largest for any US ally ever.” Friedman writes, “What a true friend of Israel and foe of Iran would do today is just what Obama and Kerry tried — assure Israel long-term military superiority to the tune of $38 billion.”
Now that is interesting. The New York Times editorialized against the $38 billion aid package, calling it “too big.” Is Thomas Friedman tacitly acknowledging that the New York Times editorialists are not true friends of Israel? Also, as I pointed out here in The Algemeiner, by the end of the ten-year period, because of inflation, the $38 billion actually amounts to a cut in American military aid to Israel, in real terms. And Friedman doesn’t mention that the $38 billion to Israel comes during a period that Kerry and Obama, for no good reason, have granted Iran at least $150 billion in sanctions relief.
To use Thomas Friedman’s own mixed metaphors, it’s as if Obama and Kerry are giving their Israeli dog Netanyahu a scrap from the table while they are busy feasting on champagne and caviar with Ayatollah Khamenei. And Thomas Friedman, Obama and Kerry are kicking the dog for its failure to be sufficiently appreciative. If there’s any real dog in this story, it’s Thomas Friedman’s column, which deserves to drown in the bottom of the Rubicon without being rescued.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.