Thursday, June 23, 2011

What to do with Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman has a way of getting attention with provocative statements and inaccurate facts. His new recipe for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (“What to do with Lemons,” NY Times, 18 June 2011) is a case in point.

When Friedman claimed that “The World is Flat” in his 2005 book on globalization, all he meant, obviously, was to get a catchy title. The book begins with the story of Christopher Columbus, who set out to find India only to reach the Americas. Friedman claims that this proved Columbus's thesis that the world is round. Actually, proof that the world is round came later, in 1522, when the sole surviving ship from Ferdinand Magellan's fleet returned to Spain.

When it comes to the Middle East, however, Friedman’s belief that the world is flat seems to be sincere. No amount of evidence will make him budge from the dogma that the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1949 armistice lines with bring the conflict with Israel to an end. Which is why he twists facts in order for the theory to look correct.

For a start, UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (from November 29, 1947) did not partition the British Mandate between a Jewish state and an Arab state. It only endorsed the recommendation of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). General Assembly resolutions are not binding upon UN members. Resolution 181 became moot anyway after the Arab states rejected it and attacked Israel.

Turning Resolution 181 into a Security Council Resolution, as Friedman suggests, will accomplish nothing. Such a resolution would not be adopted under Chapter 7 of the international convention dealing with acts of aggression. It would be adopted under Chapter 6, which deals with finding a peaceful solution to international disputes via negotiations. So the Security Council would officially ask Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate. What an achievement: they’ve been doing just that, to no avail, for the past two decades.

Besides, there is already a Security Council resolution on the Arab-Israel conflict: it is Resolution 242. This Resolution does not require from Israel a withdrawal to the temporary 1949 armistice line. The future border between Israel and its Eastern neighbor is to be negotiated. When Friedman claims that “The dividing line should be based on the 1967 borders,” he not only invents a border that never existed. He also turns Resolution 242 on its head.

Aware of the fact that reverting to the 1949 armistice line is technically impossible, Friedman calls for “land swaps” that would enable “5 percent of the West Bank where 80 percent of the settlers live” to “be traded for parts of pre-1967 Israel.”

Why should there be “land swaps” when Israel is entitled, according to Resolution 242, to retain parts of the West Bank in the framework of a peace agreement? In his recent address to AIPAC on May 22, President Obama claimed that the 1967 lines with land swaps “has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations.” This is untrue. The only US Administration that mentioned land swaps was the Clinton Administration during the Camp David negotiations in July 2000.

Friedman concludes his op-ed by quoting Gidi Grinstein’s gloomy prediction that “September can be a confrontational zero-sum moment with potentially disastrous consequences.” Actually, Abbas is bluffing. “Palestine” was already recognized by the UN as a state in 1988. In addition, one of the conditions for state recognition in international law is to have a government. This is why Abbas tried to work out a deal with Hamas in order to put an end to the Gaza/West Bank dichotomy. With this deal falling apart, there are still two, not one, Palestinian governments.

The world is not flat, but Thomas Friedman is flat-wrong about the Middle East. “You know what they say to do with lemons?” he asks in his piece. “Make lemonade.” Well, do you know what I say to do with prima donnas whose judgment is blurred by an inflated ego? Ignore them.


Linda Weisenberg said...

Great article--wish more journalists would call him out on his arrogant know-it-all opinions on Israel.
He is a jerk who is loved by the mainstream ignorant press. Thanks for being one of the few who have exposed him.

Linda Weisenberg
Cleveland, Ohio

Steve Wenick said...

Use the paper, in which his column appears, to wrap a schmaltz herring.

Jonathan Dress said...


Jonathan Dress said...


Anonymous said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong but, following the 1948 War of Independence, it was the Arabs who insisted that only an armistice be signed and not a formal peace accord. Signing something more than a cease-fire agreement would have meant a de facto recognition by both sides of actual borders. By limiting it to an armistice agreement, the Arabs hoped that, in a future conflict, when they would once and forever get rid of the Jewish state, they could not be forced back by international pressure to the international "borders" they had previously agreed to in 1949. They could claim that the armistice was, as the very word is defined, a temporary halt of hostilities.

The Arab attempt to "settle" the conflict in 1967 failed miserably, they lost territory as a result of their aggression, and now, all of a sudden, everyone is talking about the 1967 borders to which Israel must withdraw. Everyone conveniently forgets that, at the demand of the Arab side, those lines are ceasfire lines. Everyone also forgets that Resolution 242 called for withdrawal of Israeli forces "from territories" and not "from the territories".

Seems like amnesia can sometimes be a politically useful tool.

James Burke said...

Linda is correct, he is a jerk but he is a well paid jerk who wrote a book " from beirut to jerusalem " that has proven to be full or wrong prophecies. Firedman wanted us to think that what arab muslims really want are air conditioned BMWs and condos overlooking the mediterranean.

Abas can not say that he accepts a Jewish state nor a Christian state. Friedman can bring up 181 or 242 but the issue is not acrage but the fact terror has a religion. It is Islam.

If friedman wants to give away land, he can start in his own backyard. He married very well and has a mansion worth millions hidden away from NY city. He should donate land to arab muslims on which to build their country.

He is an overstuffed hypocrite writer for the bankrupt NY Times.