Veteran Israeli journalist and former New York Times correspondent Michael Widlanski doesn't think much of Thomas Friedman's latest screed suggesting that Israeli policies toward the West Bank are blocking peace and advocating a new Palestinian strategy to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into a diplomatic corner.
Friedman's April 3 New York Times column was "his newest seasonal Mid-East peace plan combining Friedman's own special home recipe of hypocrisy, lovingly layered with finger-licking idiocy," Widlanski writes in a new column published by Accuracy in Media. In it, Friedman advocated that, in order to highlight the evil of occupation, the Palestinians undertake "nonviolent" tactics ranging from boycotts to throwing rocks at Israelis.
In a letter to the Times, former New York Mayor Ed Koch noted the absurdity of Friedman's premise that rock throwing is peaceful protest. Koch pointed to the slaying of 1-year-old Yonatan Palmer, killed along with his father in the West Bank last year when their vehicle was struck by rocks and overturned. Five Arabs are currently on trial for allegedly plotting and carrying out the deadly attack.
Friedman should know better, Widlanski writes. He recounts a 1988 incident in which Friedman's car was stoned by Palestinians as he drove through Jerusalem.
"If I had a gun, I would have blasted the faces of all those sons of bitches," Friedman reportedly yelled after returning to the Times' office. Yoram Ettinger, then head of Israel's Government Press Office, told Friedman that the experience should make him more sympathetic to Israeli security concerns.
"Friedman was right to be upset. He was hypocritical not to report it then and is hypocritical to treat Arab rocks as a natural part of 'bargaining,' where Arab attacks in 1967 are repaid by the Arabs getting all the land back they used to attack Israel," Widlanski writes.
But Friedman's hypocrisy on rock throwing is only one example of his skewed perspective. In the same column, he lionized Marwan Barghouti, currently serving five life sentences for orchestrating terrorist attacks that killed Israelis, as an advocate of "nonviolent" Palestinian resistance.
Friedman argued that Barghouti should be freed in order to achieve a two-state peace settlement in which Israel relinquishes 95 percent of the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
Friedman ignores the fact (as stated by President Clinton's point man on Mideast negotiations, Dennis Ross) that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected a virtually identical offer in the final weeks of the Clinton administration. In September 2008, Arafat's successor Mahmoud Abbas rejected a similar offer from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Read the full column here.