Eric Burdon dancing with a fan onstage at the Zappa Shuni Amphitheater in Israel, August 1, 2013. (Photo: Times of Israel)
On August 7 Tom Friedman wrote:
Let’s start with a small item in Britain’s Independent newspaper on July 24, which began: “He once sang, ‘You Gotta Get Outta This Place,’ but now Eric Burdon is not even turning up at all having deciding to withdraw from a planned concert in Israel. … The Animals frontman, whose hits include ‘House of the Rising Sun,’ and ‘San Franciscan Nights,’ had been due to perform alongside local Israeli bands in Binyamina. … However, in a statement, Mr. Burdon’s management, said: ‘We’ve been receiving mounting pressure, including numerous threatening e-mails, daily. …’” Burdon was just the latest of a rising number of artists and intellectuals who have started boycotting Israel over the occupation issue.
On August 1 Eric Burdon appeared at the Zappa Shuni Amphitheater as scheduled. Apparently, Friedman and The New York Times were not aware that the British rock legend had performed in Israel despite the statement of cancellation from his manager. Neither Burdon nor his management team ever indicated that Burdon supported a boycott. In addition the fact that any real threats were directed against Burdon is subject to question.
The original version of the column mistakenly included the final line as part of the quote from The Independent. In the afternoon, the NYTimes issued the following correction which was placed at the end of the article.
An earlier version of this column incorrectly attributed to the British newspaper The Independent a sentence about a singer, Eric Burdon. The sentence — “Burdon was just the latest of a rising number of artists and intellectuals who have started boycotting Israel over the occupation issue” — was by Mr. Friedman. (Mr. Burdon ultimately decided to perform, despite pressure not to.)
Shouldn’t the Times have directly stated that in addition to the misplaced quotation marks, Friedman erred in writing that Burdon supported the boycott instead of only placing the fact of the rocker’s appearance in Israel in parentheses?
The corrected paragraph was part of a column in which Friedman naively extols Secretary of State John Kerry for bringing Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table despite Friedman’s own evaluation that the chances of success are slim.
Yet Friedman in his uniquely bombastic style which equally combines the vacuous, illogical and counterfactual comes up with this justification for the talks and a reason why they may be successful:
I also like the fact that Kerry dared to fail. It is how you make history as a secretary of state. It can also be helpful to him going forward. Even a little success like this breeds more authority, and more authority can breed more success in other arenas.
… But doing nothing also promised disaster — permanent Israeli control of the West Bank — and I think the center in both communities has come to see that. I repeat: They did not come to the table by accident or just to please us. [Emphasis mine] But saying yes to each other will require a new kind of leadership from Abbas and Netanyahu. They will have to help each other face down their respective internal opponents rather than use each other as an excuse for not doing so. How and whether they do that is the drama that you’re about to see play out. Pull up a chair.
I do not see how Kerry can gain authority by initiating this fiasco. And it will be a fiasco because, contrary to what Friedman claims, neither party wants to participate and are doing it to please the U.S. who is an indispensable economic and political supporter of both sides.
The opinion that “the center in both communities” will support the negotiation as a way of avoiding “the promised disaster – permanent Israeli control of the West Bank” is simply wrong. The Palestinians know that any U.S. brokered agreement will deny them their basic right of self-determination and will simply be an imposition of the Israeli position during the failed Camp David talks. Ironically, the Israeli center no longer (if they ever did) supports the proposals that Barak presented at Camp David nor do they believe that permanent Israeli control of the West Bank to be “a promised disaster.” Many Israelis actually see permanent control of the West Bank as realization of the “promised land.”
Friedman’s op-ed shows that both he and Kerry could use a better system of being updated on what is presently happening in the region. Reading the newspapers could be helpful in this endeavor.