Oh, the phenomenon that is Thomas Friedman! One must give credit where credit is due; the man’s store of dishonest metaphoric platforms that enable public acceptance of violence against Arabs and Muslims seems inexhaustible.
Today, in his New York Times column, he boils down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a comfortingly brainless series of questions: Who owns the hotel?/Can the Jews have a room here?/Shouldn’t we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque? [I’m still shaking my head in disbelief at that last one]. The answers to his questions, not surprisingly, involve backing Israel in whatever military solution to the issues before them they deem acceptable, and denying Israeli culpability in the problems it has engendered for itself with its four decade occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
In an alternate universe of unique physics where these would be valid questions posed with sincerity by a man not completely discredited after nearly ten years of horrendously bad advice on the Middle East, there would still be some problems with his perspective.
First, his sources:
1. Mamoun Fandy of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Fandy once opined that the film Fahrenheit 9/11 was racist and is a confidant of the Saudi king. More importantly, IISS is well known (or should be) for its outrageously inaccurate assessment of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which was then distilled and turned into the famously false Downing St. Dossier.
2. Martin Indyk: This man has Middle East disaster written all over his face. He came to fame as the research director at AIPAC, then as Clinton’s aide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during Clinton’s disastrous shepherding of the Oslo process. He is about to rise again as an aide to future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Second: His conclusions
A. The Occupied Territories shouldn’t be viewed in the context of a political settlement that answers Palestinian’s need for economic and political self-determination and Israeli security. Indeed, why bother, because as Fandy explains, we can’t talk about “Arab Israeli peace anymore…we may be looking at an Iranian initiative.”…”Gaza now borders Iran.” Poor Israel with its largest military in the region, and its nuclear weapons and its pemanent veto device at the UN security council. None of it was good enough to prevent Iran from directing the entire peace process. No point in negotiating with Gazan Palestinians I suppose.
B. Rather than an actor in a very local struggle for autonomy, Hamas is instead part of a vast ‘Islamist’ war against modernity. Indyk opines that Gaza is now ground zero for this struggle (in 2002 secular Iraq was ground zero when Friedman famously told Charlie Rose that we needed to put guns in the faces of Iraqi civilians and tell them ‘suck. on. this’). Hamas like al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein will never be happy with just Gaza, or even Israel. They’ll take over the US too. You’ll see.
With this in mind, its obviously legitimate for Israel to kill 600 people in Palestine. Or even a thousand as they did in Lebanon. Its perfectly reasonable, we’ll talk about it again when they reach the same death tolls we leave as our legacy in Iraq.
Ironically, the one question Friedman never asks in his columns: how could I have been so disastrously wrong about everything having to do with the Middle East for over a decade? And of course, the follow up question: how do I still have a job here?