The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #3: Thomas Friedman


New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was for a long time a particularly harsh critic of Israel. The criticism had a special edge, a sneer, to it. The Israelis were such idiots he almost couldn’t believe it.

As in a November 2009 column where Friedman asserted:

Right now [America] want[s] [peace] more than the parties…. Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other…. [T]hen I say, let them enjoy it. I just don’t want to subsidize it or anesthetize it anymore. We need to fix America. If and when they get serious, they’ll find us. And when they do, we should put a detailed U.S. plan for a two-state solution, with borders, on the table….

Full disclosure: Israelis don’t like this sort of thing. We don’t like being derided by a comfortable American Jew like Thomas Friedman for “not feeling enough pain,” not wanting peace. We don’t like being told that we and our rather peace- and democracy-challenged neighbors are on the same peace-refusing page, and a “detailed U.S. plan” is all it would take for flowers of harmony to sprout.

Then there was the March 2010 dust-up when Vice President Biden was here, and the Israeli Interior Ministry committed the terrific faux pas of announcing plans for apartments—for Jews, no less—in a Jerusalem neighborhood. Biden, Friedman wrote,

should have… flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: “Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious….”

Again, those damn idiot Israelis. If one were to veer into the psychological, one would note that in these outbursts Friedman himself is suffering embarrassment over what he sees as his boorish country cousins, and contrasting this rather emphatically with his American allegiance.

And there were other instances, as when, writing from Tahrir Square, Cairo, in February 2011, Friedman celebrated what he called a “Facebook-driven, youth-led democracy uprising” and jeered at Israel’s leadership—after all, what did these country rubes know about the region they lived in?—for being so “out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven” as to think that the fall of Hosni Mubarak would usher in the Muslim Brotherhood.

All this, again, was especially nasty criticism, but not antisemitism. But if there’s one thing you learn from looking into antisemitism in today’s world, it’s that the severe and persistent Israel-critics have a larger Jewish problem.