About 9 years ago, I started reading Thomas Friedman’s column in the New York Times. Anyone who knew me at the time (and for about the next 4 years) probably grew to hate him because I was constantly emailing his columns to people. I was, without doubt, one of his disciples, spreading his word to all who would listen. To this day, I still talk about and recommend his 1991 book, From Beirut to Jerusalem.
Things have changed though. In short, the majority of his columns were all about the same thing. I didn’t even consider reading his most recent book because it was on the same topic. I still monitor the columns, but don’t often get excited.
I was quite happy to read today’s column though. To me, it was a manifestation of the old Tom Friedman. He writes about Hamas and Israel and notes that Israel’s unstated goal might be similar to the war in Lebanon in 2006.
It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That’s when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: “What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?”
It’s possible that I like this column because it offers less hopelessness than the images we are bombarded with on CNN (good thing I don’t watch that channel). Or maybe it’s because of the ideas it presents.
In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims. Now its focus, and the Obama team’s focus, should be on creating a clear choice for Hamas for the world to see: Are you about destroying Israel or building Gaza?