Thursday, October 6th | 12 Tishri 5783

May 26, 2021 5:21 pm

Thomas Friedman’s Fantasy

avatar by Jerold Auerbach


New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Photo: Charles Haynes via Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Friedman, the self-appointed unrelenting critic of Israel for The New York Times, has seized another opportunity to bolster his credentials. As it also did for future Senator Bernie Sanders, the Jewish state transformed him from a teenager whose embrace of Israel prompted him to spend three summers working on a kibbutz into a disillusioned, eventually sharp denigrator. 

Friedman’s embrace of Israel ended during his undergraduate years at Brandeis, when his passion morphed into membership in a “peace” group that endorsed Palestinian aspirations for statehood at Israel’s territorial expense. Hired by the Times in 1981, he was posted in Lebanon in time to castigate Israel for the massacre of Palestinians by Christian Philangists. As he would reveal, he “buried every illusion I ever held about the Jewish state.” Free to provide unrelenting criticism of Israel at his choosing, he has done so ever since, first as Jerusalem Bureau Chief and then as Opinion page columnist.

Friedman’s recent column (May 26) is a dismal — but hardly new — example. He quickly disclosed his (enduring) passion for a “two-state” — Israeli and Palestinian — solution to the recent wave of Palestinian violence in Israel that accompanied a cascade of Hamas missiles. Otherwise, he predicts, an even worse catastrophe is on its way. The obvious (for Friedman) solution is the separation of Israelis and Palestinians “into two states for two peoples.” Otherwise, in his doomsday scenario, “the charge that Israel has become an apartheid-like entity will resonate and gain traction far and wide.” It certainly will for Friedman, who believes that the only alternative would be “a one-state Israel that is not even pretending to be a democracy anymore.” 

Friedman fervently hopes that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his forthcoming visit to Israel, will express the Biden administration’s intention to treat the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank “as a Palestinian state in the making.” Efforts should focus on “a series of diplomatic steps to concretize Palestinian statehood in order to preserve the viability of a two-state solution.” 

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As the self-appointed advisor to President Biden, Friedman’s first step would be a “diplomatic mission” to the Palestinian Authority “as the nascent Palestinian state government.” Biden should also invite the Palestinian Authority to dispatch a representative to Washington as “the would-be ambassador of a future Palestinian state,” Friedman’s passionately desired outcome. That state, to be sure, would occupy the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people. But Friedman is either indifferent to, or eager for, the consequences of his misguided yearning.

Friedman seems oblivious to the reality that there already is a “Palestinian” state in Palestine, with a Palestinian demographic majority: the Kingdom of Jordan. It is located on the land east of the Jordan River, part of the original (post-World War I) definition of “Palestine.” It was gifted by Colonial Foreign Secretary Winston Churchill to Emir Abdullah for his own kingdom. By now more than half the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin. 

Last year Friedman, expressing his obsession with lacerating Israel, warned ominously that without a two-state solution requiring the Jewish State to return to its pre-Six-Day War boundaries it “will be stuck with an apartheid-like, democracy-sapping, permanent occupation” of Palestinian land. He has yet to realize, despite decades of reporting and pontificating, that Israel is unlikely to embrace his enduring fantasy of peace now.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of twelve books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a Best Book for 2019

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