New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who poses as a tough friend of Israel, offensively referred to the “Israel lobby” in his Wednesday column “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir."
After bashing Newt Gingrich for suggesting the Palestinians are an “invented” people, Friedman reiterated the usual talking points in support of a Palestinian state, but with a hostile and paranoid twist.
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.
“Israel lobby” is considered a derogatory term, especially the way Friedman used it to suggest political corruption. (A Google search of the term brings up as the first match an article by the authors of the notoriously anti-Israel book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” not a favorable sign.)
Elliot Abrams, blogging at the Council on Foreign Relations, hopes Friedman withdraws the line and apologizes: “He owes an apology to hundreds of members of Congress who spoke for their constituents when they applauded Mr. Netanyahu, and to the millions of Americans Jews and Christians whom they faithfully represent.”
Rep. Steven Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat, also demanded an apology:
Thomas Friedman's defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish State of Israel, in his New York Times opinion piece today, is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the US. Mr. Friedman is not only wrong, but he's aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the US-Israel relationship and its American supporters.
I gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a standing ovation, not because of any nefarious lobby, but because it is in America's vital national security interests to support the Jewish State of Israel and it is right for Congress to give a warm welcome to the leader of such a dear and essential ally. Mr. Friedman owes us all an apology.
After his burst of offensiveness, Friedman strung together some obscure stories from Israel, including this one, apparently one of many stories that would offend...Jewish students at the University of Wisconsin (don't ask):
It confuses them to read, as the New Israel Fund reports on its Web site, that “more than 10 years ago, the ultra-Orthodox community asked Israel’s public bus company, Egged, to provide segregated buses in their neighborhoods. By early 2009, more than 55 such lines were operating around Israel. Typically, women are required to enter through the bus back doors and sit in the back of the bus, as well as ‘dress modestly.’ ”
As if much harsher kinds of repression of women aren’t an everyday occurrence in other Middle Eastern countries.