Posted by: Bill | January 14, 2009

The Old Tom Friedman

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?



  1. Got here via Google, six months late. Friedman is justifying the targeting of civilians by Israel in order to “educate” Hamas and Hezbollah, though he lies about the Lebanon War (according to Human Rights Watch, most of the civilian casualties there were not caused by Hezbollah forces hiding amongst civilians, but by Israel bombing civilian infrastructure and homes and sometimes even refugees). And he uses Orwellian language about killing civilians in Gaza–“by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and HEAVY PAIN on the Gaza population.” Oh, yes, heavy pain. He’d have no hesitation in saying “killing civilians” if he was talking about Palestinians killing Israeli civilians.

    The whole logic behind this is that it is okay for Israel to inflict “heavy pain” on civilians (i.e., bomb them) in order to change their opinions. Friedman refuses to acknowledge that this is the logic of terrorism.

    It’s remarkable to me how many well-intentioned people can read Friedman’s rhetoric without noticing how monstrous some of it is.

  2. […] Tom Friedman regarding the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner. It’s clear that Tom realized I am no longer one of his disciples and he is trying to win me back. I know that Barack will never do this, but it was fun to read and […]

  3. […] Friedman’s latest column made me laugh out loud As I have noted before, I used to be a leading Friedman disciple. However his columns and books have increasingly been […]

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