Blind to apartheid, Tom Friedman offers Israel as model for U.S. democracy

Thomas Friedman (Charles Haynes - Flickr)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  January 12, 2022

Offering the new Israeli government as a model for fixing American democracy, Tom Friedman leaves out that numerous human rights organizations say it practices apartheid.

Tom Friedman really is stupendous. He’s like some impresario at a vaudeville who goes out every night with the same patter for 50 years, and the same lineup of tired stars, the fire-eater and the tattooed lady and the little person standing on the horse. Except in Friedman’s case the act isn’t even faintly entertaining. He pushed the Iraq war in his “personal crusade” for democracy in the Arab world with many consequences for the people of the Middle East but none for him. No, on reflection, “I would do it again,” he said in 2019, from an armchair in New York.

And every progressive political trend and human rights report that animates the left is just beneath Friedman because it doesn’t serve his worldview, as a privileged Beltway insider with a long attachment to Israel.

His column today is particularly annoying. It says that Americans should resolve the democracy crisis in our country by emulating Israeli political culture — putting together a bipartisan ticket to demolish Trump, just as Israel defeated Netanyahu with a diverse coalition.

Israel is an idealistic model for the Democratic Party in this article, its government composed of happy Arabs and leftwing Zionists. There is no awareness that this government is just as rightwing in policy as Netanyahu, that Yair Lapid whom Friedman casts as a leftist is a telegenic expansionist in a long line of Jewish supremacists, and that “super-liberals” in the new government are apologists for Jewish colonization. No mention of the fact that one human rights organization after another has issued reports saying Israel is an apartheid state. No awareness that the rightwing pro-Zionist Arab party in the Israeli government is not representative of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who resent what is at best second class citizenship. No awareness that the Israeli government exalts the Jewish Nation State law that grants exclusive language and land rights to Jews.

Friedman’s picture of Israel — a place where “the lambs there actually lay down with the lions” — is as roseate and false as it was when he stood at his high school blackboard cheering on the 1967 war to his classmates. Or when he confessed that “Israel had me at hello” to a Jewish audience a couple years back.

His lead is tone-deaf in that orotund Friedman style that drives thoughtful people crazy.

[O]ne reason I pay very close attention to the Israeli-Palestinian arena is that a lot of trends get perfected there first and then go global — airline hijacking, suicide bombing, building a wall, the challenges of pluralism and lots more. It’s Off Broadway to Broadway, so what’s playing there these days that might be a harbinger for politics in the U.S.? Answer: It’s the most diverse national unity government in Israel’s history, one that stretches from Jewish settlers on the right all the way to an Israeli-Arab Islamist party and super-liberals on the left.

Ayman Mohyeldin of MSNBC nails the racism on twitter:

I thought the most aggravating thing in this Op-Ed was going to be the title. [“Biden-Cheny 2024?”] Then I read where Friedman implies that Palestinians perfected terrorism and Israel perfected pluralism while forgetting to mention it perfected occupation assassinations state surveillance & detentions.

Whereby Tom Friedman -while talking about US politics – casually implies Palestinians perfected airline hijacking’s and suicide bombings and his editors at the New York Times thought it that was totally normal and ok to publish that. [good grief emoticon]

The column is a paean to the superior values of Israeli political culture– those “civic-minded Israeli elites… created a broad national unity coalition whose main mission was to make the basic functions of government work again and safeguard the integrity of Israel’s democracy.” And “Unity has not meant paralysis.” And by the way, Netanyahu is smarter than Trump.

We could go on and on but what’s the point. I’m still hoping against hope that no one actually takes Friedman seriously.

Thanks to Donald Johnson, who writes about Friedman’s piece: “Friedman admits a 2 state solution is not coming any time soon and he still thinks Israel is a good model for us; his ability to keep treating Israel as anything other than a racist country represents what Democrats are like. I am not sure that in the long run American liberals will see Israel as the apartheid state it is. People have an almost bottomless capacity for rationalization on this subject. I hope the younger generation is better but I don’t know, Americans in general just don’t care about our human rights violations except when they serve a partisan talking point.”

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006