The creation and acceptance of the new conventional wisdom is like a wave. We seem to have wave after wave when it comes to Israel. A few issues, much hyperbolic talk by Israeli politicians, some very irresponsible comments by some members of President Obama's Cabinet, a willing press, and the truth is born, facts be damned.
When it comes to Israel, the newest wave appears to be an amendment of the prior one holding that if only Israel would stop building "settlements," there would be peace and reconciliation within minutes. Now, in addition to Israel's "settlements" preventing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, it also seems that Israel's democracy is about to be destroyed.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's recent demand that Israel and the Palestinians just "get to the damned bargaining table" seemed to, at a minimum, put the onus equally on the parties for the lack of negotiations, conveniently forgetting that Israel has been pleading for direct negotiations for over a year and suspended West Bank "settlement" expansion for 10 months in order to motivate the Palestinians.
Never mind that the Palestinians refuse to come to the bargaining table unless Israel makes major concessions prior to negotiations. Never mind that it is now official policy of the "moderate," ostensibly peace-seeking Fatah party of the "moderate," ostensibly peace-seeking President Mahmoud Abbas/Abu Mazen to harass and threaten Palestinians who attempt to meet informally with Israelis. (See "Fatah declares war on 'normalization' with Israel", Jerusalem Post, Dec. 18). Preventing people from talking--what a way to promote peaceful coexistence.
Never mind that Dennis Ross, key Middle East negotiator in the administrations of the first President Bush, Clinton, and Obama recently stated that Abbas is determined to avoid negotiations with Netanyahu because he does not believe he can get the deal he wants and does not want to be blamed for failed negotiations.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly followed up by comparing the offensive efforts of a relatively few fanatical ultra-Orthodox Jews to segregate women and men on buses with the pervasive racism of the Deep South of the U.S. Never mind that the Israeli Supreme Court has twice declared the practice illegal and Israeli media are full of stories on how the government is taking action to stop the practice, while segregation in the South was wide-spread and government-sanctioned and supported for decades.
Never mind that millions in the South accepted and supported their racist way of life while most Israelis are appalled by this treatment of women. Never mind that both the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and Prime Minister Netanyahu have clearly condemned the odious practice.
Never mind that a former President of Israel recently started to serve a sentence handed down by an Israeli Arab judge for crimes against women while in office. One wonders if Secretary Clinton ever compared that demonstration of democracy with the handling of another President with whom she is quite familiar who claimed he did not do "IT" with a White House intern.
Secretary Clinton apparently was not satisfied with just comparing Israel to the racist South. She went onto say that the one incident in which five religious male soldiers walked out of a ceremony in which female soldiers were singing because of an ultra-Orthodox prohibition on watching women sing (you can't make this stuff up) reminded her of the treatment of women in Iran. Yes, Iran!!
Never mind that they imprison, torture, and kill women in Iran for showing too much skin, or for adultery, or for being raped, or for being lesbian, or for converting to a religion other than Islam. Never mind that the Israeli soldiers were punished and the behavior roundly condemned by the Army, many in the government, and by society in general.
Never mind that Israel has had a woman prime minister, has a woman Supreme Court president, and has women as leaders of two of the largest opposition parties. To Secretary Clinton, one isolated incident makes Israel comparable to Iran in its treatment of women.
So, the new wave of conventional wisdom is that Israel is an oppressive country at risk of destroying its democracy. And the wave is gaining strength amongst those in D.C. and New York who spend a lot of time talking to each other. It's time for those who like to catch a popular wave rather than to think and analyze independently to grab their boards. There is no greater surfer of popular waves than Thomas Friedman.
So, in a column overwrought, preachy, condescending, and mean-spirited even for him, Friedman has caught the wave with a vengeance. His recent N.Y. Times op-ed, Op-Ed Columnist: Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir, is a screaming, hugely overstated, angry, highly selective, mostly fictional commentary on the state of Israel's democracy.
Never mind that polls consistently find Americans' support for Israel over 65% and support for the Palestinians at less than 15%. Must be Jewish control of the media. Never mind that a lot of believing Christians strongly support Israel. Must be Jewish control. Never mind that Republicans, who never get much of a Jewish vote or support, feel that Israel is a bulwark against what they view as militant Islam. Must be part of the conspiracy.
Somehow when citizens support members of Congress who strongly support Israel, it is a nefarious activity in Friedman's eyes. The Congressional members are "bought and paid" for. One wonders if Friedman would feel the same way if the majority of Americans and the Congress agreed with him.
Never mind that Friedman's little nugget of a reason for Netanyahu's welcome has been used to murder millions of Jews.
Friedman has gone beyond journalism to apparently thinking that he plays a role in politics. He has taken to advising and cajoling in his columns. He likes to write "memos" to leaders. He has effectively become a politician. But he does not seem able to handle the fact that his admonitions to Israel are ignored and that his views on Israel are just not accepted by a majority of Americans.
Friedman knows what is right. Therefore, if he is on the losing side, it cannot be because people just disagree with him, or that he's been out-argued or out-politicked fair and square. There has to be some nefarious, unfair reason.
Because he cannot simply accept the fact that people do not agree with him, Friedman is quite ready and apparently comfortable just hooking into the old canard that Jews have money, Jews manipulate, Jews control politics, Jews are conspiratorial.
Friedman shows that he has lost all perspective and decency. He is an angry, petulant bigot, and he is not deserving of any respect.
There are plenty of Israelis fighting back against the increased nationalism and the efforts to curtail rights in the name of security. The fight is not pretty. Charges, counter-charges, hyperbole, threats, deadlock, deviousness. Sound familiar? Yes, it is not just the U.S. Congress that does democracy this way.
Friedman has spent his career surfing the waves. Dershowitz has spent his bucking the tide when truth and justice demanded doing so.