The Zionist Conspiracy
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Jewish Press Editorial on Thomas Friedman
In the same week that my op-ed column (in the latter portion) criticized the New York Times' Thomas Friedman, the Jewish Press published an editorial stating:
"We have never understood the Jewish community`s fascination with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Indeed, when he was chosen by the Anti-Defamation League as an award recipient some months ago, we agreed with the Zionist Organization of America`s expression of dismay. To our mind, Friedman`s skepticism of Israel`s position vis a vis the Palestinians, and his questioning of America`s acknowledgement of a special relationship with the Jewish state, hardly commends him for worthy mention."
After quoting two recent offensive statements in Friedman's columns, including his comparison of "settlers" with Iraqi terrorists, the editorial asks:
"Who is this guy? His columns are typically bereft of fact. Is he a Kissinger or a Powell, with a substantive diplomatic background? Why should we really care about what he has to say? Does his status as a New York Times columnist give him special provenance?"
The Jewish Press seems to be lamenting the acclaim given to Friedman by the ADL, as well as liberal Jewish groups like Israel Policy Forum, at whose recent dinner Friedman served as keynote speaker.
As for the question of whether it is worthwhile to pay much attention to Friedman because of "his status as a New York Times columnist," I agree that any op-ed columnist is only expressing an opinion, and one need not take any particular column by any particlular columnist too seriously. Yet it is important not to ignore the fact that as many as millions of people read a typical Thomas Friedman column. Not only is he published in the Times, but often also in the International Herald Tribune and, at times, in other newspapers across the world.
When Friedman unleashes his vicious hatred of the Israeli right-wing and its supporters - which he does with extreme frequency even in columns having little or nothing to do with Israel - his readers are likely to construe his rantings as accurate statements of fact, precisely because he himself is Jewish and is not seen as hostile to Israel. And Friedman is viewed as an impartial Middle East expert by many, as evidenced by the way he has been treated on programs like Meet The Press and Charlie Rose.
Therefore, while I believe it generally suffices to simply point out the bias of any influential columnist, without overreacting, when blatantly false statements are made, it is our duty to respond and challenge the writer. That's why my column did not delve into Friedman's hateful views, but did demonstrate that his claims about Israeli "settlement" construction were absolutely false.