Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

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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Friedman: There He Goes Again

by Elliott Abrams
November 21, 2013

Here’s an interesting quote:

Never have I seen Israel and America’s core Arab allies working more in concert to stymie a major foreign policy initiative of a sitting U.S. president, and never have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s. I’m certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.

Pat Buchanan? Some other voice of the anti-Semitic fringe? Who after all can be “certain” that there is a “growing tendency” on the part of  “many American lawmakers” to put aside American interests and loyalties and simply do what their Jewish, Zionist paymasters require and demand?  Well, Thomas Friedman of the  New York Times is “certain,” and here uses language that is the usual fodder of anti-Semitic journals and writers. Indeed you can be sure– or “certain,” to use his terminology–that anti-Semites will be quoting his lines for years on end. (By the way, what evidence does he offer for this astonishing charge? None.)

This is awful stuff. It does not seem to occur to Friedman that those lawmakers simply agree with the Saudis (and many other Arabs) and Israelis that the Obama policy they oppose is dangerous for the United States. They are not “taking Israel’s side against their own president’s” but taking America’s side against a policy they see as foolish and dangerous. Does Friedman think John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two of the key critics of Obama’s Iran policy, are beholden to “the Israel lobby” for their re-election campaigns, for donations, for future promotion? This is nonsense on stilts. To take a single example, when AIPAC worked with the Obama administration to support the President’s plan to strike Syria because his “red line” against using chemical weapons had been broken, it failed to sway members. The votes were not there. Can Friedman explain why? Why did those members of Congress fail “to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations?” The answer is because they disagreed, as did their constituents, with the President’s policy–despite the pleas of the “Israel lobby” that Friedman thinks all-powerful.

Friedman parades out these accusations against Congress whenever there is a strong and visible demonstration of agreement with an Israeli prime minister he does not like. It is absolutely fair for Friedman to argue that the views of these members of Congress are foolish, ignorant, dangerous, and so on, but calling these men and women disloyal, willing to put aside U.S. interests to get “Jewish…campaign donations,” is quite something else. It ought to be beyond the pale. It is a gift to anti-Semites everywhere, it will increase anti-Semitism, and it is a vile and baseless insult to the scores of Representatives and Senators who are trying to protect American security as best they know how–but have apparently committed the crime of disagreeing with the great Tom Friedman. I guess one alternative theory, that they are right about the policy issues and he just might possibly be wrong, has not entered his mind.

I suspect that if a guy named Joe Doaks sent in a proposed op-ed article to the Times that claimed (offering zero proof) that members of Congress are in the pay of the Jews and that’s why they vote as they do, more and more, taking Israel’s side against our president’s, the editors would reject it out of hand. And they’d be right.

 

Post a Comment 24 Comments

  • Posted by Mehdi
  • Posted by sam

    there you go again abrams, i can’t see why you’re so rude to people who have the courage to even slightly criticize israel. i believe mr. friedman is man of conscience who wants to be on the right side of the arc of history.

  • Posted by Adam

    I have been also been struck by the increasingly hysterical defense of Obama foreign policy offered by the NY Times lately. There was a time when Friedman was considered something of an authority on ME affairs, but he has moved away from sober analysis to what is clearly partisan mud-slinging and, as you rightly say, anti-semitic slurs.

    As always, it’s much easier to blame the jewish lobby than take a hard look at Obama’s failures and the realities in the ME.

  • Posted by Noam

    Sam – the point he was making (which obviously went right over your head) is that when American politicians on both sides of the aisle would rather side with Israel than with their president, and when Arab countries who devote incredible efforts towards demonizing Israel agree with its position, maybe the time has come to consider that Obama isn’t infallible and that he is wrong on this topic?

    If Obama said the sky was green and Netanyahu said it was blue, and senate democrats sided with Netanyahu, would you call that the nefarious influence of the Israel lobby, or would you realize that Obama was wrong on the issue? How many people have to break ranks with Obama before you’d be willing to entertain the possibility that your hero might be wrong?

  • Posted by Sarit

    “I suspect that if a guy named Joe Doaks sent in a proposed op-ed article to the Times that claimed (offering zero proof) that members of Congress are in the pay of the Jews and that’s why they vote as they do, more and more, taking Israel’s side against our president’s, the editors would reject it out of hand.”

    Judging by recent NY Times coverage, I am afraid they would accept it with haste.

  • Posted by Aref assaf

    The writer must be an AIPAC paid operative. Israel’s lobby has always played a major role in US forging policy through its votes and money it bestows or precludes from politicians. Being an Israel firster is definitely un American.

  • Posted by Aref assaf

    “For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.

    “It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians.”
    This Mr. Abrams was not said by an anti-Semite. It was said by President Jimmy Carter.

  • Posted by Joe

    @Sam…..Huh? What part of ; “…what evidence does he offer for this astonishing charge? None.” don’t you understand? Good grief, man. Are you stuck on stupid?

  • Posted by Noam

    @Aref – “This Mr. Abrams was not said by an anti-Semite. It was said by President Jimmy Carter.”

    Who is an anti-Semite. And a liar.

  • Posted by contra

    This article is written under the laughable assumption that anybody who dares to criticize mighty Israel must be an anti-semite even if they themselves are a jew. Give me a break.

  • Posted by Noam

    @Contra – “This article is written under the laughable assumption that anybody who dares to criticize mighty Israel must be an anti-semite even if they themselves are a jew.”

    That is a laughable claim. In fact, I suggest you take a reading comprehension class because the point is the exact opposite. Friedman, like many such serial Israel bashers before him, assumes that anybody who dares to DEFEND Israel must be in the employ of AIPAC or the clandestine Israel lobby and can’t possibly be doing it of their own volition.

    So let me ask you, is the Saudi Royal Family also in AIPAC’s pocket?

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    The very idea that Obama even has a “foreign policy” to begin with is laughable in the extreme . Friedman’s argument goes downhill from there . I think that during Obama’s last colonoscopy , the doctor found Friedman’s head .

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    The very idea that Obama even has a “foreign policy” to begin with is laughable in the extreme . Friedman’s argument goes downhill from there .

  • Posted by ah

    Noam – I’m curious to hear you defend your argument that “Friedman, like many such serial Israel bashers before him, assumes that anybody who dares to DEFEND Israel must be in the employ of AIPAC or the clandestine Israel lobby and can’t possibly be doing it of their own volition.”

    It seems to me that Friedman is often one of the main champions and defenders of Israel and Israeli policy, and has been so for over a decade now. From time to time he questions the wisdom of certain choices they make.

    On top of that, I think your claim that Carter is anti-Semitic is completely unsupported by facts and indicative of your bias.

  • Posted by johnt

    I would think Freidman would be quite mollified be Obama’s support of a terrorist Islamic state, Iran, including what amounts to bribes. Freidman ought to be mature enough to realize you can’t have it all. And methinks Obama is only getting started.

  • Posted by e b

    Actually, yes, McCain does rely on AIPAC to get reelected; he’s the second larges recipient of all Congressmen (House and Senate) of AIPAC donations ($771,012) http://maplight.org/us-congress/interest/J5100/view/all

  • Posted by ah

    Johnt,

    You seem to be confusing “support” with the idea of reaching a compromise temporary solution, which is the foundation of diplomacy. It’s also called bargaining, the idea that you offer one thing, and your opponent offers something in return, not “bribes”.

    You should perhaps rethink your argument or take a historical look at the idea of diplomacy to better understand the shortcomings of your statement.

  • Posted by Independent Observer

    There are several errors in E B’s claim regarding AIPAC:

    1. AIPAC is not a political PAC and makes no donations.
    2. MapLight gives no source for its numbers.
    3. Israeli- or Jewish-oriented donations are dwarfed by other sources (including the de facto pro-Arab lobby).

  • Posted by stephen Albert

    It also worth noting that the French were none too happy about President Obama’s initiatives. Result-if the a story leaked to Le Canard Enchainé is to be believed,Obama called President Hollande to tell him to get his foreign minister Laurent Fabius to calm down.

    Fabius isn’t exactly a hothead. The fact that Obama called the French President and made this rather ridiculous and paternalistic request says a lot about how desperate he was to get a deal-any deal.

    Now maybe members of Congress are opposing this deal because a secret French lobby has planted doubts in their heads. Or maybe like the French foreign minister,they have their doubts abut the soundness of the deal.

  • Posted by Hunter Watson

    Upon reading these comments presume that Mearsheimer and Walt’s “The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy” had never been written. The impact of the Israel Lobby on Congress is indisputable.

  • Posted by Hunter Watson (Corrected)

    Upon reading these comments a visitor from another planet would have to presume that Mearsheimer and Walts’ “The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy” had never been published. The impact of the Israel Lobby on Congress is indisputable.

  • Posted by CiceroThe Latest

    This is what comes of treating Thomas Friedman like a serious thinker and the New York Times like a serious newspaper.

  • Posted by CiceroThe Latest

    Aref assaf: Thank you for presenting the CAIR perspective. Not that you were needed for that, given their antisemitism.

    But to correct one error. You wrote: “This Mr. Abrams was not said by an anti-Semite. It was said by President Jimmy Carter.” Mr. Carter IS an anti-Semite.

  • Posted by ah

    Hunter Watson – completely agree, the impact of the Israeli lobby really is indisputable. Unlike the ridiculous claim by Independent Observer, AIPAC and other pro-Israel organizations very clearly and obviously give money to US Congressional candidates (as they have a legal right to do).

    And no, his second claim that pro-Arab money dwarfs pro-Israel money is utterly absurd and unsubstantiated.

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