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Certain people have more credibility than others when talking about certain subjects. For example, if Warren Buffet says that rich people should pay more taxes, nobody would accuse him of fomenting "class warfare".

That is because he will be the one that ends up paying all those taxes and he will have to endure the frosty reception from his fellow billionaires at social functions. In short he is credible when he speaks about rich people and their duties to society.

This brings me to a recent column of Thomas Friedman's in the New York Times, entitled, "Why Not in Vegas?", where he attacks with unusual ferocity, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli hard right, the casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, who is bankrolling Mitt Romney, and AIPAC itself.

First Buffetwise, let us set out Thomas Friedman's credentials in making this attack. Here is an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:

Friedman is Jewish. He attended Hebrew school five days a week until his Bar Mitzvah(...) He became enamored of Israel after a visit there in December 1968, and he spent all three of his high school summers living on Kibbutz Hahotrim, near Haifa. He has characterized his high school years as "one big celebration of Israel's victory in the Six-Day War." Friedman studied at the University of Minnesota for two years, but later transferred to Brandeis University and graduated summa cum laude in 1975 with a degree in Mediterranean studies. (...) After Brandeis he attended St Antony's College at the University of Oxford on a Marshall scholarship, earning an M.Phil. in Middle Eastern studies.(...) Friedman joined the London bureau of United Press International after completing his Master's degree. He was dispatched a year later to Beirut, where he lived from June 1979 to May 1981 while covering the civil war there. He was hired by The New York Times as a reporter in 1981, and redispatched to Beirut at the start of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. His coverage of the war, particularly the Sabra and Shatila massacre, won him the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting (shared with Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post).(...) In June 1984, Friedman was transferred to Jerusalem, where he served as the Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief until February 1988. That year he received a second Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, which cited his coverage of the First Palestinian Intifada.
So, not only is Thomas Friedman Jewish, but he has studied the Middle East in depth, lived there, speaks the languages and can be considered knowledgeable and committed by any standard I can imagine.  Whether you agree with him or not, (I rarely find myself reading off the same page as he does, especially on globalization) he is someone fully qualified to speak about the relations between Israel and the USA.

Here is a snippet of what he wrote in the New York Times:

I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas.(...) So how about all you U.S. politicians — Republicans and Democrats — stop feeding off this conflict for political gain. Stop using this conflict as a backdrop for campaign photo-ops and fund-raisers. Stop making things even worse by telling the most hard-line Israelis everything that they want to hear, just to grovel for Jewish votes and money, while blatantly ignoring the other side. There are real lives at stake out there. If you’re not going to do something constructive, stay away. They can make enough trouble for themselves on their own.
This is not the first such attack. In December of 2011 he wrote the following about the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu's appearance before the US Congress in the New York Times:
I’d never claim to speak for American Jews, but I’m certain there are many out there like me, who strongly believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state, who understand that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood yet remains a democracy, but who are deeply worried about where Israel is going today. My guess is we’re the minority when it comes to secular American Jews. We still care. Many other Jews are just drifting away. 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.
Many gentile readers will say to themselves that Friedman can get away with saying such things and using such unvarnished language because he is Jewish. That isn't so: exactly the opposite really. Many Jewish people, especially older ones, seem convinced that all gentiles are latent antisemites, just waiting to turn and rend them, so Friedman's attack would be considered just par for the course if it came from a gentile. From a Jewish person it stings.

The Jewish people have a long and perfectly justifiable reluctance to wash their community's dirty linen before strangers. Thomas Friedman, is not a secular Jew in the sense that Noam Chomsky is, Friedman is an observant Jew who participates actively in the life of his synagog and by speaking out so forcefully against the government of Israel and AIPAC, he is drawing a moral line in the sand which he may well suffer in defending, even among, or especially among, people close to him. It is necessary to understand this in order to properly value his stand.

Here is how his earlier article was treated in Commentary Magazine:

(...) let’s address one of the primary slanders at the heart of his piece: that the standing ovations Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received last spring were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Rather, they were the result of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans–Jew and non-Jew alike–think of Israel as a friend and ally.(...) The notion that the only reason politicians support Israel is because of Jewish money is a central myth of a new form of anti-Semitism which masquerades as a defense of American foreign policy against the depredations of a venal Israel lobby. This canard not only feeds off of the traditional themes of Jew-hatred, it also requires Friedman to ignore the deep roots of American backing for Zionism in our history and culture.
Why are Jewish Americans like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart,  exposing themselves to such abuse?

In my opinion this is because, in the world's most ancient prophetic tradition, Friedman and others like him, can see a nightmare scenario about to unfold in the Middle East, a war that may spread unpredictably throughout that entire region and even beyond, perhaps sucking in great powers on opposing sides, a war with a domino effect that may well push the entire world economy off the edge and into a full blown great depression, with unforeseeably sinister social consequences; a disaster that will affect the lives of every American, especially the most vulnerable, and will bring the curse of all humanity on the heads of those seen to have caused it.

Someone credible has to speak out.

I consider Thomas Friedman a brave and patriotic American and I salute him.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com

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Comment Preferences

  •  You left out his biggest credential, (6+ / 0-)

    the Unitthat is named after him.

    I predict that he will change his position in 6 months. Or 6 minutes.

    Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

    by p gorden lippy on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 02:13:36 PM PDT

  •  Wait, wait, wait (10+ / 0-)

    Did you really use "Friedman" and "credibility" in the same sentence?

    •  dogs and cats living together (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      volleyboy1

      By the way

      In my opinion this is because, in the world's most ancient prophetic tradition, Friedman and others like him, can see a nightmare scenario about to unfold in the Middle East, a war that may spread unpredictably throughout that entire region and even beyond, perhaps sucking in great powers on opposing sides, a war with a domino effect that may well push the entire world economy off the edge and into a full blown great depression, with unforeseeably sinister social consequences; a disaster that will affect the lives of every American, especially the most vulnerable, and will bring the curse of all humanity on the heads of those seen to have caused it.
      Skipped your Xanax this morning? Because that's the most overwrought panic attack I've seen in prose so far this year. "The curse of all humanity" -- hyperventilate much?
      •  What you don't think (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gzodik

        if Israel is dumb enough to bomb Iran that it couldn't set of another war in the region that could bring in China, Russia and the US? If you don't then I think you are being a bit naive.

        Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

        by jsfox on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 02:31:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Stopped clock rule applies, even to Friedman n/t (5+ / 0-)

      When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 02:27:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  All that experience yet most of his (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PatriciaVa, joesig, 420 forever, dsb

    columns are incoherent and evoke mostly mockery from people in the Middle East... how does he achieve it?

    The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

    by emidesu on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 02:23:34 PM PDT

  •  David my friend (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PatriciaVa, dsb

    first how are you? Things in Spain good for you?

    Now while I appreciate what you wrote here poor Tommy Friedman has little or no credibility in these parts.

    However I do tend to agree with what you wrote here. Now whether Freidman continues to agree with what he has written remains to be seen.

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 02:29:45 PM PDT

  •  Good post on a gutsy move by Friedman (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nannyboz

    Say what you will about Friedman and how many many times he has gotten it wrong, but this time, no.  He nails it for many reasons and the first being that Mr. Adelson has interests in Israel, that is for sure, but he also has reasons to protect his backside from having it thrown in jail for corruption.  Regarding Bibi, he is like Willard, just a common rich assed bully

  •  The credential argument (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joesig

    doesn't wash - not in Friedman's case.

  •  You forgot the snark tag (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    volleyboy1, zemblan
    Someone credible has to speak out.

    I consider Thomas Friedman a brave and patriotic American and I salute him.

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 02:42:09 PM PDT

  •  Fuck Friedman. That resume led to people... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Colossus

    on the fence about the Iraq war listening to Friedman's craziness in deciding invading Iraq was the best idea since sliced unleavened bread.  Read Greenwald and Taibbi on him--Friedman is the most deservedly mocked moron currently pretending to have a shred of expertise.  

    To avoid starting dumb wars, punish the dumb people who vote for them.

    by joesig on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 02:45:26 PM PDT

  •  Best thing Friedman could do for Israeli left... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zemblan

    is to join the Israeli right.

  •  GG wrote a blog post about Friedman a few days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IM

    ago:

    Link

    But the real gem in this post was a link to an old review of one of Friedman's books - the review was written by Matt Taibbi, and it's just priceless.

    GG describes the review as the "all-time Supreme Gold Standard for eviscerating not only Tom Friedman, but anyone".

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 03:01:08 PM PDT

    •  Read it and was struck by this paragraph.... (0+ / 0-)
      The need for massive investment in green energy is an idea so obvious and inoffensive that even presidential candidates from both parties could be seen fighting over who’s for it more in nationally televised debates last fall.
      We've regressed.

      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

      by sagesource on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 05:50:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  While I agree with many of the above comments (5+ / 0-)

    regarding Friedman's shortcomings, it does seem to me that for Friedman, the consummate neo-liberal, to have ditched both Bibi and AIPAC is not a good sign for either Bibi or AIPAC.

  •  Thomas Friedman does not suddenly become credible (0+ / 0-)

    because the Earth turns around a broken clock.  Ignore him.

    Republicans hate you more than they love their children.

    by Troubadour on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 05:09:18 PM PDT

  •  The establishment is sending a message (0+ / 0-)

    Thomas Friedman is establishment and the establishment is sending a message…. about bloody time.

  •  The dangers of being a weekly prophet (0+ / 0-)

    I wrote a weekly column on world affairs in a major newspaper for five years and when I read some of the things that I wrote... I think "damn David, you nailed that" and many other things simply make me cringe. So, in that sense I have some compassion for Friedman. He sets up his "prophet" lemonade stand every week in what is arguably the world's most influential newspaper and pontificates.

    Like a bullfighter he is out there by himself, he cuts the ears or we throw stuff at him, whistle or boo him or the bull catches him and messes him up... while we pass judgement. I certainly never fought in the rings he has or cut the ears he has or been gored like he has, but I have had enough of a taste of that to empathize.

    I think that much, perhaps most, of what Friedman writes is horseshit, but in this particular case he has taken a stand, one on which I imagine he had some sort of consensus behind him, conversations with friends and mentors before he put his head in the buzz saw I describe in my diary.

    I think that is the real significance of what he says: what is behind it...

  •  I agree with both Friedman and Seaton HOWEVER (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Seaton

    I think the Democratic leadership knows that a lot of the Hispanic swing voters of California, Texas and Florida are getting their news from Univision, that Univision is owned by Israeli billionaire Haim Saban, and that Haim has long been very clear about what he wants.    See Wikipedia's entry on him.

    So in that sense, Friedman certainly does NOT have the "establishment" behind him.    If you still don't understand, have  Howard  Dean and Cynthia McKinney explain it to you:
     http://forward.com/...
    (scroll down to "Grossman's Game Plan" and "Fat Contribution"  )

     It is to Obama's credit that he has been resisting some strong pressure from some major financiers of the Democratic Party to attack Iran, regardless of the cost to America in blood and treasure.   I just hope Obama shows the same resolution after the election, when he will no longer need the votes of Progressives.

    •  FORWARD was wrong, by the way (0+ / 0-)

      Billionaire S Daniel Abraham gave $200,000--not just $100,000 -- to the attack ads that destroyed Howard Dean's campaign in Iowa -- and was by far the biggest donor to that anonymous attack.  

      Dean couldn't discover who was stabbing him in the back because the FEC reports didn't have to be filed until 3 months laters.

    •  You're citing McKinney? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      volleyboy1

      She's the very definition of someone who sailed off the edge of sanity. Someone who takes Gilad Atzmon seriously is not someone who should herself be taken seriously.

      •  Actually I cited McKinney as an example of (0+ / 0-)

        what happens to Democratic politicans --including black politicans -- who don't hew to the AIPAC line of unquestioning support for Likud aggression.

        Maybe you can explain how a tsunami of over $1 million flowing from NEW YORK  and the WEST COAST into a rural Georgia election to destroy McKinney was consistent with respect for black Democrats and Democratic values.   Especially since that money did not show the SLIGHTEST regard for the interests and needs of McKinney's black constituents.

        But such two-faced hypocrisy is the norm -- witness the New Republic's campaign a few months ago to dredge up 20 year old newletters in an attempt to paint Ron Paul as a racist --whereas Marty Peretz's real problem with Ron Paul is that Paul questioned our disasterous Middle East policies.  

        Marty promoted an unnecessary war in Iraq that has killed more black Americans in the past decade than the Ku Klux Klan managed in the past century.

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