Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Education of Thomas Friedman; or, why Americans should be Careful about Someone Else’s Home

By Tuvia Brodie

(Disclaimer: any reference here to Thomas Friedman’s private behaviour is 100% fiction. I know nothing about his personal life or his credit cards)
On May 22, 2012, Thomas Friedman published (in The New York Times) yet another essay placing full responsibility for peace in the Middle East (or the lack thereof) exclusively upon the shoulders of Israel. Poor man: he’s like a American businessman who went to a prostitute while travelling in the Middle East, got his pocket picked and doesn’t realize his American Express card is missing. Having become one of the West’s most ardent defenders of the ‘Palestinian cause’, he cannot repeat often enough how oppressed the Arab is and how terrible the Jew is. If love is blind, Mr Friedman is in love, for he consistently ignores the secret of dealing with Arab: before you open your mouth, learn Arabic--or get a reliable translator. This is important because the Arab is not like Westerners. He is smarter.  He can, poetically speaking, pick your pocket before you realize what has happened. The Arab might look stupid; but if you have ever been to the Arab Shuk, you know that looks can deceive. Apparently, Mr Friedman hasn’t noticed this. As his appearance on the American game show, Jeopardy, reveals, his general knowledge-base is not exactly encyclopaedic. The same might be said of his knowledge of the Arab-Israel conflict.
Mr Friedman believes that the Arab is a victim of Jewish ‘colonialism’. Israel ‘oppresses’ the Arab—and thereby threatens her standing as a democracy. Israel must give the Arab what he wants. Peace will come only when the Jew surrenders land--immediately. Mr Friedman may not use these exact words to defend his ‘Palestinians’; but these words appear to capture the essence of his message.
It’s a good story, this tale of  ‘Palestinians’ oppressed by Jews.  Misleading pictures portraying Jews as Nazis are terrific, and lies-as-news sell extremely well. A writer can make a living defending the Arab. It’s a good deal for Mr Friedman.
There’s just one problem: that stupid-looking Arab you are helping isn’t stupid. He knows a good deal, too; and if (poetically speaking, of course) he convinces you to proclaim to the world the virtue of his town prostitute, he could then earn a commission on her increased business; so he will not silence you. Instead, he’ll tell you that the prostitute is his sister who once wanted to join a convent but couldn’t, because the Jews ruined her reputation.
Why wouldn’t he tell you that?  The more eagerly you promote his claims, the more he gains.
That prostitute is not his sister. He doesn’t have a sister. Instead, he has a lie: the Jews stole his ‘Palestinian’ homeland. How do we know this is a lie? We know because we do something Mr Friedman doesn’t do—or can’t: we listen to what the Arab says in Arabic: Palestinians are not the indigenous population of modern-day Israel who yearn to regain their family homes (what they apparently tell Mr Friedman); rather, they are what Hamas Minister of the Interior and National Security Fathi Hammad (no minor functionary or ordinary Gaza citizen) recently told his Arab brothers  (h/t calevbenyefuneh.blogspot): “we all have Arab roots, and every Palestinian, in Gaza and throughout Palestine, can prove his Arab roots—whether from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, or anywhere. We have blood ties…Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis” (see also, Caroline Glick, Column One: the eternal liberation movement, Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2012).
The Arab knows the truth: there are no indigenous ‘Palestinians’. ‘Palestinians’ are Arabs who came from someplace else. ‘Israel is ours’ is a lie. Their ‘homeland’ is a lie.
When Mr Friedman refuses to do his homework well or honestly he ends up (poetically speaking) promoting the virtue of a town prostitute who, because the spotlight Mr Friedman gives her increases her business, supports that entire town. Her fictitious virtue becomes the town’s pride. His fictions turn her into a civic income source. Naturally, this being the Middle East, the more the men of her town promote her fictitious virtue to an eager Mr Friedman, the more money she pays them from her increased business—and the more they expect from her in return. It’s something like American capitalism, Arab-style.
This entire enterprise depends upon Mr Friedman’s Western friends who, the Arab understands, depend upon Mr Friedman. That’s a relationship the Arab men of town understand: everyone depends upon someone else—until the men with money get what they want.
The Jews are central to the success of this enterprise. Without Jews to play the role of villain, the town prostitute goes out of business; and if she goes out of business, the men with money not only lose their recreation, they lose their cash flow.
The prostitute and her handlers understand this form of capitalism. It’s simple. It’s personal. It works. Mr Friedman is the perfect American traveller. He brings to the Middle East a sharp eye for beauty, reduced inhibitions because he is out of country-- and little knowledge of local customs. He is the perfect customer for enterprising locals with a story to sell.
Too bad he hasn’t thought to look for his American Express card.

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