Times' Friedman Responds On `Israel Lobby' Phrase
12/20/11
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New York Times columnist Tom Friedman told The Jewish Week Tuesday that the wording of a memorable phrase in his Dec. 13 column (“Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir”) may have been inexact when he wrote that the standing ovation Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received in Congress this year “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

“In retrospect I probably should have used a more precise term like ‘engineered’ by the Israel lobby — a term that does not suggest grand conspiracy theories that I don’t subscribe to,” Friedman said. “It would have helped people focus on my argument, which I stand by 100 percent.”

That argument, he said, was about the need to distinguish between American and Israeli interests at times, and to note that many American Jews “are deeply worried about where Israel is going today.”

Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is used to both criticism and praise in the Jewish community for his writings on the Mideast, which often are disapproving of Israel’s settlement policies and of the Netanyahu government. But he came under strong verbal attack from a wide swath of Jewish leaders for the Dec. 13 column. It expressed concern about political and cultural shifts in Israeli society of late, including Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling the recent Russian elections fair, Jewish extremists attacking an Israeli army base last week, public buses providing segregated seating for men and women, and a series of proposed Knesset bills that critics say will weaken Israel’s democracy.

But most of the criticism of the column from Jewish leaders focused on the reference to Netanyahu’s congressional ovation being “bought and paid for by the Israeli lobby.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote in his blog that Friedman “crossed a line” with the Israel lobby statement, which he called “inaccurate and shockingly insidious,” conjuring up “the ugliest anti-Semitic stereotypes.”

Friedman has often written of his support for the State of Israel, despite his sometimes sharp criticism of Jerusalem’s policies. His was a lonely voice of support for Israel in the mainstream press during the Israeli army’s military campaigns against Hamas and Hezbollah.

Last Update:

01/10/2012 - 12:21

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I just wonder how did it get to the point when a mainstream journalist publishes an anti-semitic statement in a major newspaper, and there is no outcry from major media outlets or liberal intellectuals who are usually quite outspoken when they perceive that some minority group may be offended. Has Israel bashing become so commonplace that quite a few comments in NYTimes would fit in a neonazi paper yet the self-righteous authors and readers consider them "objective criticism of Israel"?

Mr. Friedman is so oblivious of why his statement is offensive that he actually makes matters worse by saying that he should have probably used a different word like "engineered" rather than "paid for". It's all the same, isn't it?

Of course, the invitation for Netanyahu to speak before the Congress was a political event, of course it was "engineered", "organized", etc. by pro-Israel politicians. But the standing ovation was given to a prime Minister of a country in recognition that a few million people managed to build a prosperous and democratic country under constant threat of annihilation from its neighbors, this was ovation given as a sign of recognition of Israel achievements, and to say that it was "paid for" or "engineered" or whatever is an insult to everyone. But the worst thing, in my view, is that so many people, including Tom Friedman, people who consider themselves "decent" and "liberal" and "even-handed" and "objective" don't even recognize how bigoted they have become.

An anonymous poster wrote, 'There is little appetite in the country or in Congress, whether on the left or the right, for further war in the Middle East.' I agree, but it is the US led by Obama and Clinton that has expanded US military involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, the Congo, etc. etc. Frankly, if you are implying that Israel had anything to do with those enlargements of the US military footprint around the world, you are wrong and prejudiced against Israel. Aggression by the US doesn't equate to blame the Jews.

Joseph,
You said, 'Carter actually said that the situation on the West Bank would result in Apartheid there. He specifically excluded Israel proper from his remarks.'
No one knows what the situation in the West Bank will result in. Why should anyone believe that the one term President who lost Iran knows how the status of the disputed territories will evolve? The fact is: Jews and Israel have nothing in common with the white South Africans who created the Apartheid state. When an author titles his book, 'Palestine: Peace not Apartheid' he is sending a prejudiced political message which is offensive to Israelis and all Jews. You say he specifically excluded 'Israel proper'. That's a relief. 'Israel proper' is alright with Jimmy! The truth is: we all know what Carter meant and it was not pro-Israel.

It is a pity that this entire discussion is revolving around a careless turn of phrase. The real issue with respect to the ovations offered by Congress is whether they were sincere and deeply felt, or whether they represented the posturings of a group of politicians in the year leading up to presidential and congressional elections. While I believe that there are many in Congress who admire Israel, I believe those cheers were more politically motivated than the offer of a blank check which many seem to want them to be. There is little appetite in the country or in Congress, whether on the left or the right, for further war in the Middle East. The United States will, of course, defend its interests if they are attacked, but it may not be so quick to come to the aid of an ally which acts restlessly and which starts something it is unable to complete. Israel needs peace, and it is the President and Secretary Clinton who are offering Israel the support needed to achieve it, not those cheering phonies in congress.

I think this is well ... and ... fairly said .....

Jon

Friedman is making a fortune off of the Jewish community with huge fees he collects on speaking engagements. I propose that if a Jewish organization invited Friedman to speak, they should be ostracized and ultimately boycotted by the greater Jewish community

"It's hard to be Jew". Sally Zerker, during the recent CIJR conference in Montreal, gave an excellent talk on the subject of why "Jews support the left" and feel compelled to do so even when it is anti-semitic. You can see it on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3mazsYJdq8&context=C3134473ADOEgsToPDskKZCQQBSRe_VBrZOw70cfpR

She reminded us that prior to World War II Jews had their own Jewish Communist party, because the non-Jewish party was "no jews allowed". Some Jews still chose to identify with the new religion of Communism rather than Judaism. Jonathon Kay has written a book about conspiracy theorists. There he points out that many of them are very smart people who rely too much on their own judgements. I do not know which category Friedman falls into. Perhaps both. Even as a clear intellectual it is easy to be led a astray.

Check out Finkelstein, Walt and Mearsheimer, and their are Israelis in this category as well, as Barbara Kay pointed out in her talk at the CIJR, (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Friedman is an example of what I always believed which is" Jews are their own worst enemy" & it always hurt me to say that. I believe Friedman is an example of the progressives, Socialists & communists that want to change our country. They are taking the power away from the people & most of US do not see that. The Repubs that were recently elected to stop this are critically failing the very people that elected them. The Dems overall are no longer JFK'ers, they are progressives, socialists, communists etc. The quality of the men and woman in office presently especially in the Federal government on both sides leave at the least a lot to be desired on both sides of the fence. Whether you realize it or not, we are now in the most UNSTABLE time in our Countrys history & Time is of the Essence though it is quickly working against our individual Freedom & Security that all if not most take for granted. If we lose it it will never return,

As a student at the University of Wisconsin, I know Friedman's claims are incorrect. If Netanyhu came to my campus, he would get multiple standing ovations, that were not "engineered" by anyone.

Thank you, a great and hopeful comment coming from a campus!

Boy Oh Boy - the liberal jewish press takes two hits in two consecutive weeks. First Tebowed and then Freidmaned. I don't know who is more disengenuous - Hammerman trying to wheezle out of his own anti-Christian prejudice or Freidman trying to extricate his foot from his mouth. Most have us have had just about enough of these outright liars who claim with a straight face to support Israel and other Jews, but who provide our enemies with a non-stop supply of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel word bites. This week as we celebrate the victory of the Jewish people over the enemies from without, let's not forget about our need to battle the enemies from within.

'...he [Friedman] wrote that the standing ovation Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received in Congress this year “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."'
Friedman's characterization of Netanyahu's speech before Congress is both not true and anti-semitic. Not surprisingly, Friedman wants to preserve his reputation with Jews, so he resorts to parsing and qualifying his offensive remarks. Another self-proclaimed 'lover' of Israel, Jimmy Carter, said 'Israel is Apartheid'. Don't you just want to hug these 'lovers of Israel'?

"Another self-proclaimed 'lover' of Israel, Jimmy Carter, said 'Israel is Apartheid'."

Carter actually said that the situation on the West Bank would result in Apartheid there. He specifically excluded Israel proper from his remarks. (And to those who believe that the West Bank should belong to Israel, that the Bible is a real estate deed, I have nothing to say.)

As for Friedman, he is entirely right to express "concern about political and cultural shifts in Israeli society of late, including Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling the recent Russian elections fair, Jewish extremists attacking an Israeli army base last week, public buses providing segregated seating for men and women, and a series of proposed Knesset bills that critics say will weaken Israel’s democracy."

Obviously in the mind of Friedman there is some vast qualitative difference between "engineered" and "bought and paid for". But speaking has an aipac member, ergo, a member of the international zionist conspiracy I remember when he had his nose up Arafats ass back in the say. Once a scumbag always a scumbag.

They will try to get him Goldstoned. Just like they are trying to do the same on Joe Klein at TIME. Remnick is probably falling out of favour. I saw an interview where Neal Sear(former head of AIPAC) openly insuated that Beinart was 'out for fame and money' and not out of genuine concern.

He also stated that Beinart 'played with anti-Semitic stereotypes' because of a cash - a shocking acusation.

What's next? Attack all these liberal Jews as self-haters?
The Likudnik supporters of Israel within the Jewish American establishment, even those who claim to be liberal, are searing our community apart.

Being pro-Israel means standing up to a Likudnik line that essentially means
A) Apartheid
B) Ethnic cleansing
or C) A bi-national state(a.k.a the End of the Jewish state/Zionism).

I want a free, democratic and, yes, majority-Jewish state.
The Likudnik line, and it's refusal to even budge an inch, will end that wish.

It's time to draw a line between the real pro-Israel wing and the imagined one.

with friends like this meshugener who needs enemies.

Tom Friedman is disingenuous. He regrets he did not write 'engineered'! Give us break pal! What's so different about the word "engineered."? It has precisely the same effect. Do you really believe that Walt or Mearsheimer would find fault with that verb?

That said, he's right - he IS still the same person. Look at what he wrote back in October 1997. Delete the names of the players back then and insert the names of the players today. Same vitriol. Just a different day!

'I cannot recall a time of greater disquiet among mainstream American Jews over the drift of events in Israel. It’s for the same reason many Israelis are distressed — the dashed hopes of the Oslo peace process, combined with the rising tension between religious and non-religious Jews, all happening under an Israeli leadership that has more in common with Larry, Moe and Curly than with David Ben-Gurion​, Menachem Begin​ and Yitzhak Rabin​. Both in Israel and in the U.S. there is a deepening concern that Israel today is led by people who have no clear vision and no courage to stand up to the religious and political extremists bent on driving Israel over a cliff… The White House knows there’s a new mood out there among American Jews… [the] chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told [the] President Monday that American Jews want the President to press both [the Palestinian President] and Benjamin Netanyahu​ to do what’s needed to restore the peace process, and then let the two of them negotiate a settlement.'

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