Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tom Friedman, "PEP"

I have just finished reading a great book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, by Thomas Friedman. He spells out the consequences of continuing to live in a world that is suffering from global warming, over population and a vast inequity in the distribution of wealth and resources. It is an important book and I agree with what he says on 411 of his 412 pages. But, I was shocked by his comments on page 92, in which Friedman making the point that petro dictators support terrorist groups wrote:

Immediately after Hezbollah launched a reckless war against Israel from Lebanon in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah declared that Hezbollah would begin paying out cash to the thousands of Lebanese families whose homes were destroyed by Israeli retaliation… To paraphrase the Allstate commercial, “You’re in good hands with Hezbollah”…Hezbollah and Iran were like a couple of rich college students who rented Lebanon for the summer, as if it were a beach house. “C’mon, let’s smash up the place,” they said to themselves. “Who cares? Dad will pay.” The only thing Nasrallah didn’t say to the Lebanese was, “Hey, keep the change.”

I thought, Friedman is a PEP, (Progressive Except for Palestine, a term not original with me.) He could have made his point without assigning blame for the massacre of Lebanon to either side, but he could not pass up the opportunity to defend Israel and put the blame for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on the backs of the victims. It was Israel, not Hezbollah (or Iran) that “trashed” Lebanon, launching 12,000 combat missions killing over a thousand people, mostly civilians, 30 percent children, and displacing over a million people. And Friedman casually describes Hezbollah as thinking of the killing of so many as rich kids breaking up a beach house. Hezbollah are not rich kids who rented Lebanon for the summer. Lebanon is the only home they have. They had a home once. It was called Palestine, but they were driven out in 1948 and again in 1967. The “beach house” is all they have. They would never choose to “trash” it.

Friedman is a great writer with keen insights into many significant problems facing the US and the world today, but I don’t trust his analysis of the Israeli/Palestinian crisis. In his op-ed column in the New York Times, January 14, 2009, he describes the massacres in Lebanon and in Gaza as a successful effort to teach Hezbollah and Hamas a lesson they would not soon forget by inflicting pain on the Palestinian civilizations. He is careful not to endorse Israel’s massacres but he comes close. And he certainly does not condemn it.[1]

His casual comment that Hezbollah “launched a reckless war,” sounds like those who say, “No big deal. Jews and Arabs have been fighting each other for a thousand years.” Such a statement assumes that both sides choose the battle and have an equal chance to gain from the conflict.

The truth is, the conflict is more like a defenseless girl raped in the park who scratches her assailants face. We can’t just say, “Oh well, there is violence on both sides.” In fact, it is more unfair than that because our media seems to say, what kind of bad girl goes around scratching people? Our sympathy goes to the rapist when all we see on the news are pictures of the scratches.

I remember in 2001, Senator George Mitchell made a fact finding trip to Israel/Palestine and announced that the Palestinians were begging for U.N. observers to see what was happening to them there. Mitchell said that we couldn’t pull it off because Israel was adamantly opposed to it. So, the UN resolution for observers failed. The United States and Israel voted against it. It would have violated Israel’s sovereignty.

I have never known of a rapist who wanted a cop in the park.

“Then, why don’t the girls just stay out of the park?” Some have asked. Why? Because they were born in the park. It’s their home and they are not allowed outside the park. And they have been raped for 61 years.

Thomas L. Are
April 25, 2009

[1] Google: Glenn Greenwald, Tom Friedman offers a perfect definition of terrorism. Jan. 14, 2009, But first, Google: Tom Friedman’s Op-Ed Column, Israel’s Goals in Gaza, New York Times, January 14, 2009.