Today Thomas Friedman weighs in on the political crisis in Israel, and echoes the apocalyptic view of Haaretz writers and liberal Zionists; Israel is destroying itself, and its future as a Jewish state is at risk. Friedman makes only one reference to Israel’s Jewishness in the article and it’s negative:
Meanwhile, Israel sinks ever deeper into a de facto binational state controlled by Jewish extremists.
Friedman’s conclusion is being widely quoted. “For those of us who care about Israel’s future, this is a dark hour,” he writes.
It is just a matter of hours before J Street champions this article’s headline, “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine,” as evidence of the peril that Israel is in as the homeland of the Jewish people — an alarm to an American Jewish audience that seems to be doing just fine as a minority in the U.S.
The first thing that must be said about Friedman’s column is that it is based entirely on reports from Israel, chiefly Haaretz, and a discussion with Moshe Halbertal of Hebrew University. Friedman can’t refer to the New York Times coverage of the crisis because the Times has booted this story. It has done little reporting on the murdering medic, Elor Azarya, whose shooting of a wounded Palestinian suspect captured on video on March 24 set off the crisis. It covered up the warnings of creeping fascism from former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and deputy chief of staff Yair Golan. It has shown little interest in documenting the extremism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s choice as Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Friedman’s column is very good on all these factual points. Though he leaves out the idea of a possible military coup, he does cite Lieberman’s idea of bombing the Aswan dam.
The second thing about this column is that it is very unfortunate that in order to maintain his establishment credentials and speak plausibly to Washington, Friedman must begin by getting an inoculation for his criticism of Israel by maligning BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Friedman states in his second sentence that the BDS campaign “is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique.”
That’s absurd, and a sad reflection on the endurance of the Israel lobby inside the establishment. BDS has drawn the support of many progressive organizations and leaders around the world because it represents the most effective non-violent means of pressuring Israel to change its behavior. If that means the end of Israel as a Jewish state — well, what does “Jewish state” mean anyway, when fully half the population under the government’s control isn’t Jewish? BDS supporters believe in “democracy.”
Friedman’s smear is obviously the establishment litmus test these days. Hillary Clinton says BDS is bad. So does President Obama, so does the French prime minister. But that will soon change. As Israel sinks further into its existential identity crisis, the few remaining liberals among the Jewish elites there will turn desperately to the world to pressure Israel, as Gideon Levy and Larry Derfner have already done. That pressure means boycott, divestment and sanctions. And if it also means the end of Israel as a Jewish state, that prospect will by then no longer be tragic to realistic Americans, including Friedman, who have glimpsed the paranoid Sparta that the Jewish democracy has produced.