Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Mr. Friedman’s Diatribe Against Israel

by Elliott Abrams
December 14, 2011

Occasionally critics of the government of Israel and of its American supporters put aside polite talk and bare their souls, and that can be an edifying if deeply unattractive moment. Such a moment arose today in the New York Times, where its columnist Thomas Friedman exposed the depth of his hostility:

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.

Now, it is a fact that Americans remain extremely supportive of the State of Israel, as poll after poll has shown year after year and decade after decade. That support is near an all time high. Here is what the Gallup Poll found this year:

In recent years, with no major breakthroughs in the Mideast peace process and no resolution to the Hamas vs. Fatah political rift in the Palestinian Territories, Americans’ sympathies toward the conflict’s players have leaned heavily toward the Israelis. In fact, with more than 60% of Americans sympathizing with Israel since 2010, public support for the Jewish state has been stronger than at any time other than in 1991, when Israel was hit by Iraqi Scud missiles during the Gulf War.

Of course, that support is suspect to Mr. Friedman, for Gallup also found that it is higher among Republicans than among Democrats and higher among conservatives than among liberals. But what in the world except prejudice can lead Mr. Friedman to make the ugly charge that support for Israel in Congress, need support for Mr. Netanyahu in Congress, is “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby?”

I would hope that in the cold light of morning Mr. Friedman would re-read what he wrote and withdraw the remark. Members of Congress in a country that is two percent Jewish stand to applaud Prime Minister Netanyahu because they, like their constituents, support Israel and want America to support Israel. Many of those standing and cheering were from districts where there are no Jews or a handful of Jews, and where Evangelical churches form the strongest base of support for the Jewish state. Now perhaps Mr. Friedman means those churches when he refers so nastily to the “Jewish Lobby,” but I doubt it. I think we all know what he means, and that is why he should withdraw the ugly remark fast. He owes an apology to hundreds of members of Congress who spoke for their constituents when they applauded Mr. Netanyahu, and to the millions of Americans Jews and Christians whom they faithfully represent.

Post a Comment 68 Comments

  • Posted by Felapton

    Friedman foresees a time in about a year when America will have to choose between engaging in a potentially nuclear war or abandoning the Israelis to extermination. There’s not much doubt which option Obama and his European groupies will want to choose. But off Manhattan Island, Americans are not so craven.

    God and Arab stupidity will protect Israel. Two infinite, eternal realities.

  • Posted by Matty

    We will never know for sure which of those clapping congressmen did it because they truly support Israel in their hearts, but we DO know that most of them need to work to keep their stream of donation checks from AIPAC.

  • Posted by Dan Friedman

    There is no fury like a pundit scorned. St. Thomas has been dead wrong about Israel and the peace process for at least 20 years. For someone with his outsize ego – and a byline – that’s an unacceptable embarassment. With the pathetic column in question he’s simply lashing out and saying “how dare you defy me?” What’s next, will he announce he’s joined J Street?

  • Posted by Jodi

    A lot of [dangerous] inaccuracies here, typical of Abrams.

    A couple of examples:

    1. Contrary to Abrams’ fantasy, Americans’ support of Israel has steadily dropped over the past 10 or so years
    2. Not once did Friedman refer to a “Jewish Lobby”, and yet Abrams seems to defend Congress’ support of Israel, in spite of being on “2% Jewish” — those 2% being “liberals”.

    I find it astonishing that anyone takes him seriously.

  • Posted by International Observer

    The assertion that 1.7% of the US population has bought Congress is outrigh anti-Semitism, stinking of Protocols innuendo.

    That the New York Times would pbulish such anti-Semitic drivel — not for the first time — makes quite evident that the rot of (Ilsamophiliac) anti-Semitism has crept from the Euroleft to the edges of the US left, and from there to the very centre of the US left, the Gray Lady herself.

    Unless the US Jewish leadership awakens to this spreading disease and fights its presence (in the media, in academia, within the Democratic Party) with all means available, then the future of US Jewry is bleak; it will eventually be reduced to the fearful, second-class citizenship the Euroleft-Euroislamic alliance has imposed upon European Jews.

    Oh, and please, please put the NYT out of business; it is beyond moral redemption.

  • Posted by International Observer

    Matty wrote, “stream of donation checks from AIPAC.”

    Matty’s inaccurate and defamatory statement should be removed from the blog; to my knowledge, AIPAC is a “Public Affairs Committee,” not a “Political Action Committee,” and so cannot and does not make direct contributions to politicians.

  • Posted by Michael

    Mr. Friedman begins his opinion piece thus:

    “I have a simple motto when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I love both Israelis and Palestinians, but God save me from some of their American friends — those who want to love them to death, literally.”

    He never cites a single instance of “American friends” of the Palestinians.

    Are we to infer from this that the Palestinians have no American friends?

    That the American friends of the Palestinians are simply rational and moderate in their embrace of Palestinian cause?

    That the cause of the Palestinians is itself inherently rational and moderate and therefore those counted as American friends cannot be faulted for loving it?

    Or possibly only those Americans deeply committed to the cause of Israel are at fault?

    If he’s angry at Newt he should blame Newt, not anyone and everyone sympathetic to Israel. But I don’t think it really has anything to do with Newt. I don’t think he ever got over the invasion of Lebanon and his view of Israel is still stuck somewhere in the 80s, much as many of those who lived through the 60s still view everything through that prism.

    In truth, I stopped reading Mr. Friedman’s opinion pieces for a while. His insights tend to be derivative, syncretistic, shallow, and generally not well grounded in reality.

  • Posted by Michael

    Jodi – please read Tom Friedman’s actual op-ed piece before commenting.

    In the middle of paragraph 7, Tom says:

    “That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby”

  • Posted by Stanley Tee

    Gee, why didn’t Tom Friedman think of it. Ask the Congressmen if they were “bought and paid for”. Here’s what one of them had to say:

    December 14, 2011

    CONTACT: Aaron Keyak
    office: (202) 225-5061
    cell: (202) 905-6361
    email: aaron.keyak@mail.house.gov

    Washington, DC — Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) released the following statement on Thomas Friedman’s column where he wrote that the “standing ovation [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” in The New York Times this morning:

    Thomas Friedman’s defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish State of Israel, in his New York Times opinion piece today, is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the US. Mr. Friedman is not only wrong, but he’s aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the US-Israel relationship and its American supporters.

    I gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a standing ovation, not because of any nefarious lobby, but because it is in America’s vital national security interests to support the Jewish State of Israel and it is right for Congress to give a warm welcome to the leader of such a dear and essential ally. Mr. Friedman owes us all an apology.

  • Posted by Harris Campbell

    You know I have read Mr. Friedman’s article many times and I can not find the words Jewish Lobby used that Mr Abrams quoted in his blog. It is not helpful to make stuff up and pass it off as a quote. To make up this phrase is to depict Mr Friedman as an anti-Semite (or a self-hater). Shame on you Mr Abrams for such an underhanded attack.

  • Posted by Mark

    Fact: Mr. Friedman used the term “Israel lobby” in his column.

    Fact: Mr. Abrams used the term “Jewish Lobby” – with quotes so as to attribute it to Mr. Friedman – in his blog post to describe Mr. Abrams’s perceived meaning of Mr. Friedman’s comments.

    Of course, the facts change nothing.

    Mr. Abrams believes that anyone who dares to question Israel, Israeli policy and politics, and/or the United States’ policy and politics towards Israel and the Middle East is either a anti-Semite, a self-hating Jew (if applicable), an opponent of Judaism or Israel or both, a devotee of Hitler and Nazism, and an object of scorn and ridicule.

    Mr. Abrams believes that Israel, Israeli policy, and the United States’ approach towards both must be always supportive and such support may never be questioned or doubted.

    Mr. Abrams is hardly the first person to embrace these viewpoints. He will not be the last.

  • Posted by Jeff Blankfort

    Yes, Friedman is frequently too full of himself in believing that he knows what is best for the planet but he isn’t stupid. What he says about the Israel Lobby and Congress is as well known in Washington as is the way to K Street.

    All one needs to do is check the website of AIPAC http://www.aipac.org to see the extent of the Lobby’s power on the hill and indeed AIPAC has frequently bragged about in fancy brochures that are distributed within the organized community and on Capitol Hill.

    On what other issue concerning US foreign policy do we see 100-0 votes in the Senate and 404-6 in the House? On what other issue do we have 3/4 of the Senate signing letters, drafted by AIPAC, demanding that the president do or not do this or that with regard to Israel? The answer is none in both instances.

    Yes, Israel is more popular among Americans than the Palestinians and that is no surprise given the Lobby’s domination of the media. What Abrams does not mention are the polls that show Israel less popular among Americans than most European countries and yet who really believes that Sarkosy would even get a single standing ovation let alone be invited to address both houses of Congress.

    So what did Friedman write this now? Because like an increasing number of Israelis and Israeli journalists he realizes that Israel is in the process of committing a political Massada, that it is moving away from what has been a democracy for Jews to fascism for everybody, embodied by but not limited to Israel’s Foreign Minister and bar room thug Avigidor Friedman and he wants both to warn American Jews (good luck, Tom!) and distance himself from the scene before it implodes or explodes.

  • Posted by David

    Nowhere does Friedman use the phrase “Jewish lobby”.

    Please correct this.

  • Posted by Ormond Otvos

    While it’s easy to say that actual AIPAC donations are small, that’s not what politicians are frightened by.

    They worry about the immense, intense campaigns behind the scenes that AIPAC mounts against those who are deemed insufficient cheerleaders for Israel.

    These campaigns are widely reported, and widely accepted.

  • Posted by Bill

    A bought-and-paid-for pundit denounces the denunciation of others as bought and paid for. Laughable–hope you can keep this act up, Abrams, it’s a good one.

  • Posted by yhwh

    Prof. Walt threw me here from foreign policy magazine. Though I liked it nonetheless.

  • Posted by David Deutsch

    If Congress responded to the will of the American people in its standing ovation of Netanyahu it would be one of the very few times in modern history that it has done so and done so effectively, as one body. That responsiveness has never been the case.

    In addition, what Americans believe is largely a reflection of what they are told by the Western media which also favors Israel. It is not an independent spontaneous love affair with Jews by any means.

    You are irritated because Friedman told the truth and that truth is painful, that the ovation was scripted, bought and paid for by the Lobby. That is an ugly charge and it is the ugly truth.

    Polls don’t mean anything: They are mirrors of the pollsters. Americans stood by and allowed 34 servicemen to be killed by Israeli attack on the Liberty without retribution. Even Johnson threw these servicemen to the dogs rather than upset the Israelis. It is ugly and it is obscene. And it is real and true, as well. Learn to love it or push back, like Tom is doing at last.

  • Posted by David Deutsch

    Elliot — get your ducks in a row. American freedom, troubled as always, is at stake and we need you to push back and push back hard.

  • Posted by jojo

    Good for Mr. Friedman for having the balls to tell the truth.

  • Posted by Eliyahu

    Tom Friedman is bought and paid for as much as anybody. He is a journalistic hack. He is paid to write all sorts of garbage, inanities, superficialities. David Deutsch above is a fool if he really believes that “the Western media” favor Israel. Rather, he is himself influenced by a pro-Arab MSM to believe the kind of crap that Friedman writes in the NYT. Think of how much dough Tom F makes from the NYT and from his books, which –in my opinion– are a crime against the trees.

    On the subject of anti-Israel media bias I suggest that Deutsch read the CAMERA website and Honest Reporting which demonstrate constant MSM falsification of what Israel does and says.

  • Posted by Adam Jones

    Mr. Abrams, you wrote that Tom Friedman “refers so nastily to the ‘Jewish Lobby’.” By the quotation marks, you attributed to him a phrase he never used. The “Israel Lobby” of course extends far beyond Jewish supporters of Israel, as Mearsheimer and Walt showed in their important book. You need to apologize to Friedman for your careless misquote of his text, and for the pernicious suggestion of anti-semitism for which it is used as a buttress.

  • Posted by Jeff Fishman

    Thomas Freidman is destined to become the next Judge Goldstone, who so desperately wanted to appear fair and objective that he totally bought into Palestinian propaganda and found fault with and reason to criticize Jews and Israel at every opportunity. By the time he saw the light, the damage had been done. A reading of the previous responses shows how this hint of an anti-semitic Jew fuels the fires of true anti-semites and Arabists. Will Friedman see the light before the next, and perhaps final, effort to destroy Israel?

  • Posted by Dean Kitnick

    Mr. Abrams, I applaud your modesty in characterizing Thomas Friedman’s latest attack as a “deeply unattractive moment.” However, so as not to mislead the reader, this moment is hardly a rarity and is not unique. Rather, it may be viewed as just one in a very long series of vulgar attacks against the Jewish Nation and its supporters.

    Friedman has described Israel as “Yad Vashem with an air force.” And, “. . . in 1975, [almost 4 decades ago] he had already identified himself with the Palestinian national cause, with apologies for PLO Terrorism ….” (See “Thomas Friedman’s Israel: The Myth of Unrequited Love,” by Jerold S. Auerbach in “With Friends Like These, The Jewish Critics of Israel,” edited by Edward Alexander, S.P.I. Books, 1993).

    Friedman’s seemingly pathological need to viciously attack the “bad” Jews and thereby promote himself as “good” reminds me of another infamous Tomás of Jewish ancestry whose twisted soul produced for Spanish Jews of the 15th century what Freidman seeks for the Jewish Nation of the 21st century. Friedman is the self-appointed, mendaciously promoted, Grand Inquisitor of Israel. He is Thomas Friedman de Torquemada.

  • Posted by neal hurwitz

    Tom should NOT have written that that way… if he has a problem with Bibi he can state that…

    Kinda dumb to write it that way Tom!

    and the ‘Israel Lobby’?… what’s that? Mearseimer and Walt??? support for Israel is very diverse and why use THAT term Tom??? Not smart. But you are from Minn. 🙂

    Best, Neal

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