Friday, December 16, 2011

Is Tom Friedman Anti-Semitic?

Just when you thought that Tom Friedman's writing couldn’t get any worse, the Times columnist outdoes himself.

By now, you have surely heard of Friedman’s latest foray … into anti-Semitism.

Take this paragraph from his last column: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.”

One does not know where to start. Perhaps with Friedman's first words where he dumbs down his discourse in order to appear to be cool. His opening words, “I sure hope” are adolescent argot.

Surely, Friedman knows that that is grammatically incorrect. “Sure” is an adjective, not an adverb. The phrase should read: “I surely hope.”

Arrogant and presumptuous, Friedman pretends to explain America to the Israeli Prime Minister. He assumes that Netanyahu might have misunderstood what the American
Congress was trying to tell him when it gave him multiple standing ovations.

In Friedman’s rhetoric, it is reduced to one standing ovation.

Most importantly, Friedman insults the Congress by declaring that it has been “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

He reduces the elected members of the American Congress to a bunch of tools and dupes. They have sold out principle for Jewish money.

If anyone else had employed such a vile anti-Semitic slur he would have been summarily dismissed from his perch on the New York Times op-ed page.

If a conservative talk show host had said it he would have already been drawn and quartered.

Yet, Friedman gets away with offering us an idea that comes to us from two notorious Israel-haters and anti-Semites, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. At the New York Times it’s just another day at the office.

John Hinderaker comments: “I can’t explain the weird obsession that so many on the Left have with the ‘Israel lobby.’ In some cases, it is transparently driven by anti-Semitism; Mearsheimer and Walt appear to fall into that category. But that diagnosis doesn’t seem to apply to Friedman. Maybe in his case, like so much that one reads in his columns, it is just a reflexive repeating of something he heard someone else say. “

I think that it’s fair to give Friedman a pass on anti-Semitism. After all, he’s Jewish.

But still, note what Hinderaker is saying. Some people use anti-Semitic rhetoric because they are frankly anti-Semites. Others, however, use it because they want to be hip and cool. They want to belong to the in-crowd. So they repeat the phrases that identify them as members of the group, without really meaning what they are saying.

Hinderaker is being generous here. He is saying, quite correctly, that uttering an offensive phrase does not necessarily mean that you are expressing your thoughts or feelings.  

Psychologically, he is correct. Freud notwithstanding, our phrases, including our infelicities and mistakes, are not necessarily an expression of a conscious or unconscious mental state.

Yet, our culture maintains a double standard here. If a conservative had said the same thing, he would never have received the same consideration. If a Republican had said anything that was even vaguely racist he would be denounced from coast to coast. No one would have suggested that he was  dumbing down his discourse to look like he belonged to a hip group.

Be that as it may, for Friedman the American Congress does not represent the will of the people. It expresses what the Israel lobby wants it to express.

Where then does Friedman find the authentic vox populi?

Amazingly enough, he finds it in the student body of the University of Wisconsin!

You see, a bunch of barely legal college students from a notably leftist campus represent the real America. Many of these same students were active participants in the siege of the Wisconsin State House last winter. Their love for democracy did not extend to respecting the will of the people as expressed in an election.

Friedman imagines that if Netanyahu spoke on the Wisconsin campus, students would boycott him. Even the Jewish students, he avers, would stay away.

Of course, some of them might attend in order to prevent him from speaking.

Why would they do this? Friedman cannot admit that these students might have suffered the leftist indoctrination that so often passes for education on many college campuses.

He says that they would boycott Netanyahu because they are “confused.”

This is drivel. In truth, it is trendy and hip on college campuses to be anti-Israel. Students who actively support Israel incur risks. If Friedman is right, it is unacceptable on a leftist campus to show support for a liberal democratic nation like Israel.

Do you imagine that any of these students would boycott the president of Iran or the leader of Hamas?

1 comment:

n.n said...

Sure, why not. It wouldn't be the first time a "Jew" acted against the principles of Judaism and subverted the well-being of Jews.

Jews, as individuals, and in cooperatives, are intrinsically competing interests like any other. I would hope better principles would prevail, but history has demonstrated that all individuals are vulnerable and subject to corruption.

As for left-wing ideologues, so long as they offer promises of physical, material, and ego instant gratification, and occasionally offer a sample of la-la land, then individuals who suffer from delusions of grandeur, choose to fail, or are vulnerable, will likely support their positions, even when they are internally inconsistent.

Oh, well. This is simply an undeniable and, apparently, inescapable reality which ensures the historical cycles will continue.

Isn't individual dignity, processed in a world with finitely accessible resources (natural and human), great?

"Bought and paid for"? Yeah, right. That's not where corruption of individuals and society begins.