Rep. Steven Rothman (D –NJ) demanded an apology, calling Friedman’s assertion
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.
Rothman is not alone in his outrage. According to a Washington Post opinion piece, the outrage is bi-partisan. One senior GOP advisor stated:
Bibi’s standing ovation in Congress was bought and paid for by the American taxpayers who overwhelmingly support Israel. They vote, they pay our salaries and they stand with Israel.
And from the Democrat side:
Today, Tom Friedman did a cheap imitation of [Steven] Walt and [John] Mearsheimer as he charged that the ‘Israel lobby’ bought a congressional ovation for Bibi. If Friedman did actual reporting rather than opining from his anti-Israel perch at the Times, he would have learned that, in an otherwise polarized Congress, there is genuine, bipartisan support for Israel that reflects America’s heartland.
And speaking of the so-called “Israel lobby,” Friedman must know that his accusation echoes the widely discredited book by Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” (2007). Walt and Mearsheimer follow in the grand tradition of anti-Semitic accusations that the “Israel lobby” or the “Jewish lobby” or the “Zionist lobby” has somehow hijacked the American political system and bends the American government to its will.
But Friedman must also know that a long list of critics have exposed Walt and Mearsheimer as bigoted frauds. Their book is marred by innumerable errors and shoddy scholarship, unprovable generalizations, mis-quotes, half-quotes, and even falsified quotations, use of information from neo-nazi websites as though such sources were reliable, attributing credence to obvious conspiracy theories, accusations of dual loyalties, lending valence to age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes, and reliance upon Arab propaganda as though it were authentic historical analysis. Even internationally renowned scholars holding named chairs at major universities can make mistakes; but when their joint venture is one long exercise in errors and omissions, one must question the integrity of the authors.
The same is true of Thomas Friedman.
He could be wrong about his insistence that Israeli communities in the West Bank are a stumbling block to peace. Intelligent minds debate this issue.
He could be blinded, as are so many among our pundits and journalists, by his own hopeful idealism regarding the future of democracy in Arab countries now undergoing political upheaval and civil war in what has been misleadingly dubbed the “Arab Spring.”
But he cannot not know that the accusations of a predatory and all-powerful “Jewish lobby” in the 21st century are largely a product of Arab anti-Israel political and propaganda warfare, as Arab leaders stigmatize Israel and American Jewry in order to hide the perilous and stark reality of enormous Saudi influence on the highest levels of American government, and especially the office of the president: influence succinctly described in 2002 by Mohammed al-Khilewi, a former Saudi diplomat, as follows:
When it comes to the Saudi-American relationship, the White House should be called the “white tent.”
With his sudden and unexpected descent into the parroting of ugly and bigoted anti-Israel, and essentially anti-Jewish, screed, Friedman discloses a frightening reality, hidden hitherto behind a veneer of professional expertise and journalistic objectivity: he is willing to regurgitate Arab lies even when they stand in obvious contradiction to reality.
This willingness calls into question his integrity.
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