(Cross-posted with +972 Magazine).
Ma’ariv today launches a full-front personal attack on Thomas Friedman, going after the NYT columnist for his recent (too recent, but highly welcome) move to the moderate left on Israel-Palestine, and most especially for his criticism of Netanyahu.
The high-pitched article, which gets a front-page lead and a two-page spread in the first pages of the print edition, is mouth-frothing set in print. Author Avi Ratzon – a veteran sports commentator – has a rather fine choice of words he wants to hurl in Friedman’s “rotund, self-satisfied face.” He calls Friedman an “escort boy”, accuses him of pulling the old “concerned, worried Jew trick”, but most bizzarrely, says Friedman is only attacking Netanyahu because he is…. jealous. Yes, jealous: Jealous that while he was picking oranges, Netanyahu was serving with distinction in a commando unit.
This has the potential to be at least as embarrassing to Israeli journalism as the infamous spat between columnist Nachum Barnea and Ariana Huffington last year. Without further ado:
On Jealousy / Avi Ratzon, Ma’ariv, 15 November 2010
Tom Friedman rides again on the Mideast chariot. Actually, he’s been riding it forever, but this time it’s more intense. It’s not just that the Right has returned to power. The New York Times reporter, so concerned for the fate and future of the State of Israel, could have coped with that, somehow. He and his newspaper have lived through and even survived prime ministers who weren’t their glass of whiskey and plate of sushi and shrimps. For example, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon, until the latter discovered the secret of Greek magic on the sounds of their bouzouki [sic].
With Benjamin Netanyahu, however, Mr Friedman doesn’t seem to get along very well. The problems here started back in Mr Netanyahu’s first term, but recently Mr Friedman’s attacks on Mr Netanyahu have assumed brutally personal tones that don’t characterise the esteemed journalist in his dealings with Arab dictators from across the Middle East. When concerning these tyrants, Friedman’s texts are moderate and cautious, as Jordan’s King Abdullah and Fahed King of Saudi Arabia were elected in democratic, discreet elections, while Netanyahu seized power with the force of arms in a bloody military coup.
It started with a violent article by Friedman, in which he called the prime minister of Israel a spoiled child, and went on in to appear on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press,” where he literally threatened the State of Israel and its prime minister that they need to accept the conditions of President Barack Obama, or else.
Friedman was delusional and frightening on that show. He waved his arms and made warning signs, as if he were the High Commissioner of the Middle East, coming to warn the natives that unless they obey his instructions, harm will come. His appearance reminded one of popular characters one can see and hear on Arab television channels, especially on Al Jazeera late at night.
Yesterday Mr Friedman’s attack reached a climax. He explained to us that Netanyahu reminds him of a man falling from an 80-story building, who for 79 floors thinks he’s flying, and then ends up landing on his face. What can you say, a truly refreshing new world of metaphors from the journalist who won three Pulitzer prizes.
Well, it’s time to get the cat out of the bag and tell Mr Tom Friedman a few words in his rotund, self-satisfied face. For example, that the fact he volunteered here in some kibbutz in the south 40 or 50 years ago doesn’t impress us at all anymore. Mr Friedman, Israel has thousands of Jews, Gentiles and converts that have volunteered in kibbutzim, but they don’t rush to write books and tell the boys in high class parties in New York and Chicago, but stayed here and rushed to join the IDF.
Some of Friedman’s lackeys are in the habit of pointing out time after time that Friedman held a bar mitzva for his son, at the Western Wall, in an Israeli synagogue, or maybe somewhere in the United States. Really? Did he also read the haftarah? Soon you’ll tell us he has a Jewish National Fund collection box at the top of his bed. If that’s a fact, it’ll knock us off our feet. And if you tell us that he visits some synagogue for Kol Nidrei and Nei’la, we’ll be breathless.
We don’t need your advice
Dear Mr Friedman, we understand your weakness in everything that concerns Binyamin Netanyahu. When you were volunteering to pick oranges in a kibbutz, he followed in the footsteps of his brother Yoni and volunteered to the Sayeret Matkal elite commando unit, where he became an outstanding officer. He later became Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, a foreign minister and a prime minister. Could it be he had realised your dreams, and this is the reason for your obsession and weakness for the man? It’s not certain, we’re skeptical people here, and still we wouldn’t have rejected the possibility out of hand. After all, jealousy is a human, humane issue.
But we should ask the question, how long can you go on squeezing the lemon of a Jew who volunteered in a kibbutz, who had a Bar Mitzva, who’s a Zionist and who cares about Israel. Stop, enough. Stop threatening and get out of the frame. There are plenty of journalists here who think that your entire existence is indeed one of jealousy, which is why you target Netanyahu; that your worldview is identical to that of the radical Left here in Israel, and that you are serving as an escort boy providing embarrassing journalist services to Obama, who is your light, your support and your god.
Let it be clear, the opinions of the Left, even the radical Left in Israel, are legitimate and and even desirable, to focus the state’s difficult problems on the way to a solution acceptable to the majority. Every now and then one fumes and boils to read and hear the infantile opinions of journalist Nachum Barnea and writer David Grossman. With them it’s very simple. You put a cash machine into the ATM [sic] and you get peace.
But still, these opinions are written here, from here, by two men who lost what they held dearest: their beloved sons. One in a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem, another in the Second Lebanon War. I’m honoured to confront the world view of two such men, even if election results tell us time and again their world views are radical and therefore marginalised.
You, Mr Friedman, are no Grossman and no Barnea. You’re just an American journalist. There are hundreds and thousands like you the world over. Many of them, for instance those at the Wall Street Journal, have opinions the opposite of yours. They are asking where you and the Palestinians were during the first nine months of the settlement construction freeze.
So enough with the worried, concerned Jew manipulations, Mr Friedman. The leaders in Israel have enough intelligence, experience and reason to make the right decision on the way to another, reduced settlement freeze. Nobody here needs your advice – advice that comes in slogans every preschool child in Israel can recite without threats and intimidation. Get out from under our skin, Mr Friedman. We have enough troubles here without you, pal.