Mideast Media Sampler – 08/16/2013
Last week Thomas Friedman wrote a paean to John Kerry’s peacemaking, Daring to fail.
In the middle of the article he presented the same sort of “concern” for Israel that Secretary of State Kerry did.
Let’s start with a small item in Britain’s Independent newspaper on July 24, which began: “He once sang, ‘You Gotta Get Outta This Place,’ but now Eric Burdon is not even turning up at all having deciding to withdraw from a planned concert in Israel. … The Animals frontman, whose hits include ‘House of the Rising Sun,’ and ‘San Franciscan Nights,’ had been due to perform alongside local Israeli bands in Binyamina. … However, in a statement, Mr. Burdon’s management, said: ‘We’ve been receiving mounting pressure, including numerous threatening e-mails, daily. …’” Burdon was just the latest of a rising number of artists and intellectuals who have started boycotting Israel over the occupation issue.
First of all as even Friedman acknowledged, Burdon’s cancellation was due to “threatening e-mails.” This wasn’t an example of protesting Israeli policies. Second of all the stated purpose of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement isn’t co-existence; it’s no Israel. In one paragraph, while professing his concern for Israel, Friedman accepted threats as an acceptable way to oppose Israeli policies and validated those seeking to destroy Israel as legitimate.
Oh, and Friedman didn’t even bother to keep up with the news. Burdon, in the end, reversed himself, ignored the threats and played in Israel. In other words Friedman’s argument was obsolete before his fingers hit the keyboard. Wasn’t he paying attention?
— Jubel Foster (@JubelFoster) August 10, 2013
But it isn’t just the news that Friedman ignored; he ignored his own ideas!
Four years ago, Friedman hailed the advent of “Fayyadism.” Based on the aspirations of the recently appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Friedman wrote:
Fayyadism is based on the simple but all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or rejectionism or personality cults or security services, but on delivering transparent, accountable administration and services.
So no good governance option available for the foreseeable future, why is Friedman pushing Israel to make peace with Abbas? Maybe “Fayyadism,” at least as Friedman presented it was a good idea, but in practice Fayyad had no constituency. The past twenty the Palestinian leadership, haven’t been preparing their constituents for peace and coexistence, but for continued conflict. The basic ingredient for coexistence is public support, something neither Abbas nor, his predecessor, Yasser Arafat ever sought to build. “Fayyadism,” the thin reed upon which Friedman contended Israel could achieve peace no longer exists, but he persists that Israel must make peace with the relic of “Arafatism.”
Friedman paid no real attention to his concept of “Fayyadism.”
— Commentary Magazine (@Commentary) February 14, 2013
In 2002, Friedman wrote his most famous column in which he alleged that (then) Crown Prince Abdullah was going to introduce a peace plan which would promise Israel full recognition (nebulously defined) for a full withdrawal (specifically detailed) from all territories captured in 1967, disregarding the intent of UN Resolution 242.
But who was Israel to rely on for this peace? Why Hosni Mubarak, Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, Moammar Qaddafi and other Arab strongmen, who are now out of favor. In fact after the revolution that swept Mubarak from office, Friedman mocked Israel:
Let’s start with Israel. For the last 30 years, Israel enjoyed peace with Egypt wholesale — by having peace with just one man, Hosni Mubarak. That sale is over. Today, post-Mubarak, to sustain the peace treaty with Egypt in any kind of stable manner, Israel is going to have to pay retail. It is going to have to make peace with 85 million Egyptians. The days in which one phone call by Israel to Mubarak could shut down any crisis in relations are over.
Ten years after browbeating Israel for not reacting more favorably to a peace guaranteed by a bunch of authoritarian Arab rulers, he mocked Israel for trusting one of them.
Whether it’s his own idea, or one he adopts, Friedman is really good at using it to claim that Israel’s not interested in peace. When the idea is no longer relevant, Friedman just forgets. When it comes to the peace process (and, especially blaming Israel) it’s like he has ADD.
— William Daroff (@Daroff) February 9, 2011
But Friedman isn’t the only party who has focus issues when it comes to the Middle East.
Yossi Shain wrote at Ynet:
The Obama administration, which has excelled in leading from behind (in Libya, for example) is not leading at all. There is a reason why it is focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as a possible bright side that may boost its status in the region. This situation is sensitive, dangerous and even explosive. The US administration’s urgent need to bring about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians makes Washington less patient and less sensitive to nuances. This may create unnecessary pressure which may also project on Washington’s ability and motivation to act vis-à-vis the Iranian issue.
Robert O. Freedman wrote similarly, if less harshly in the Baltimore Sun:
One can only applaud the restarting of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank. Yet, given the other problems the United States currently faces in the Middle East — crises in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, to mention only the most obvious ones — it is an open question as to whether Secretary of State John Kerry should have spent so much time on Israel-Palestinian peace talks, having visited the area no fewer than six times in the first six months following his appointment, while the U.S. has let the other problems in the region worsen.
The difference between Friedman and the latter two analyses, is that Friedman ignores his own ideas; the others note that the Obama administration has ignored more serious issues to focus on the peace process.
It seems that, one way or another, an element of pushing for the peace process right requires one to ignore one’s own faulty assumptions or more significant international problems.