Last week had certainly been eventful, and any week that ends with Thomas Friedman showing a semblance of humanity must be a week of historical significance. Israel had continued using US made F-16 fighter jets, Apache gunship helicopters, and Mirkava tanks to attack Palestinian refugee camps of Jenin and Nablus inside Occupied Palestine despite the cautionary words from Washington that are issued in conjunction with blaming Arafat for the violence!
Of the 65 Palestinians killed by Israeli aggression last week, 10 were teenagers and six were pre-teens, not including a baby who died during birth at an Israeli checkpoint. Israeli bombardment destroyed both government and civilian owned buildings, and Israeli troops systematically destroyed dozens of refugees’ homes. Please excuse me if I don’t duly mention Israeli victims of the violence last week, as the US news media continues to feature the human face of Israeli victims while casually referring to the more than 1000 Palestinian deaths.
As I write, Israel is poised to continue its brutal assault on the Jabalya refugee camp, and I am still waiting for Secretary of State Collin Powell to return my phone call to explain what the US government plans to do about the situation, besides making half-baked references to Palestine and besides sending Zinni, who also blames the Palestinians for standing in the way of Israel’s aggression, to make another infamous showing.
One might have thought from my recital of events that Thomas Friedman’s humanity has finally been exposed to the plight of the Palestinians; alas, I fear that Thomas Friedman might only have shed a layer of skin to reveal a shinier smoothness of malevolent spin, especially when considering his Atlanta Journal-Constitution column titled, “If moderates don’t act, civilizational [sic] war possible”, of March 10, 2002. The beginning of the column started with Friedman’s usual foreboding that “There is something about this new, intensely violent, stage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that is starting to feel like the fuse for a much larger war of civilizations.”
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, where was Thomas Friedman when the 1000th Palestinian had lost his/her life to the present uprising? I doubt that many Palestinians can accurately state who’d come closest to being the 1000th fatality from their side since Palestinian deaths, during this present catastrophe, have come in groups, and last week was no different. It could have been the seven-year old child who was incinerated or either 65-year-old man from Jenin or Nablus who has lived an entire life of misery and frustration, due to a Zionist dream that again considers the benefits of ethnic cleansing.
Well, most Palestinian sympathizers already know that Thomas Friedman refers to the losses on his side: the large number of Jewish deaths last week is what Friedman most likely implies as the result of new and intensely violent escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Sadly true, this is the first Thomas Friedman commentary I read that actually felt remotely human, only Friedman’s humanity does not evidently extend to the ‘Arabs’.
So I really can’t shake the sense that Friedman’s is a cynical humanity where the losses are only measured in a manufactured innocence that plans to defeat evil from the world. Before you scratch your heads with confusion, I am referring to what an ‘Amal Ashrawi’ described as a “stupid Good-Evil dichotomy” in an email from Ramallah dated March 8, 2002:
“Are we [Palestinians] not pretty enough for the Sex in the City audiences? Or is it just the lazy acceptance of the superficial and stupid Good-Evil dichotomy expressed by a highly insightful and observant leader (ehem) that has found its way into the thought processes of intelligent life. No one says anything when Israel crosses even the most sacred of red lines. Ambulance drivers and paramedics are targeted and killed, or at the very least they are prevented from transporting the injured to hospitals to increase the death toll among the Palestinians. Just yesterday, Israel shot and killed ambulance drivers and targeted, yet again, paramedics trying to save the injured. An ambulance was stolen by Israeli soldiers who then used it to ambush and kill Palestinians in cold blood.”
I suspect that Amal has first hand knowledge of American media, but she might have only partially identified the problem: Palestine is not competing with the mind-numbing US television. The nation sold on waging war to eradicate evil in the world simply doesn’t identify Arabs in general, Palestinians in particular, with the good side.
So no matter how many times we read accounts and see their complementary images depicting atrocity at the hands of Israeli soldiers, prettiness at face value simply cannot compete with propaganda in swaying US public opinion. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and any American will tell you: good guys wear white hats. Excuse me while I ponder the sincerity of Thomas Friedman and his Zionist ilk who have shown little more than contempt for Palestinian lives over the past year and a half by painting a precise black-by-numbers drawing about my heritage and by proposing to teach Arabs how not to hate.
In view of the following quote from last Sunday’s Thomas Friedman, “I still believe that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians, Americans and Muslims, do not want this war,” I am at a loss for understanding the Thomas Friedman of old who once proposed to Muslims and Arabs that they stop teaching hate to their children.
If only he’d known how much he’d taught me how not to hate, but by his example of hate, except I shall not hate Thomas Friedman! In the end, though Thomas Friedman still views Palestinian suicide bombers as evil while at the same time ignoring the evil of the Israeli military (Army, Air Force, and Navy) as retaliatory, he might finally be reaching out. So perhaps the language of retaliatory-masked blind revenge has finally hit his humanity and he has identified that Israel is to blame for killing Arab moderation since Rabin’s assassination, “For a brief moment, we saw Israeli and Arab moderates working against Israeli and Arab extremists.”
(Sorry, I’m just teasing. Don’t hold your breaths. He hasn’t to my knowledge blamed Israel directly for anything.) In his twisted and passionately Zionist way, Friedman seems to concede that the prospect of nuclear destruction is more real than not, and it could start in Israel. Does nobody take note of the idiotic nuclear scenario threats that my government is considering? Friedman, in his twisted view of the world, might actually be seeing a glimpse of it as he’d concluded in Sunday’s commentary:
“Some in Israel and in the American Jewish right argue that it is already a war of civilizations and that the only thing to do is kill Palestinians until they say ‘uncle.’ That is called ‘realism.’ Well, let me tell you something else that is real: if this uncompromising view becomes dominant in Israel and among American Jews, then cash in your Israel Bonds right now é the country is doomed. Because there are so many more Muslims than Jews to be killed, and weapons of mass destruction are becoming so much smaller and so much cheaper, it won’t be long before the student in my Egyptian friend’s story gets one of his eight bombs and wipes Israel off the map. Is that real enough for you?”
And there I sensed a vulnerability that sadly escapes those who blame the victim for their victimization until what had been going around finally comes around. As I had on numerous occasions publicly expressed my sympathy and condolences to Israeli victims’ families until their silence about Palestinian victims sickened me, I must recognize Thomas Friedman’s twisted way of reaching out for moderation.
(As an aside, shouldn’t moderation have always been a guiding principle, not just when your extremities are showing? In other words, one shouldn’t ascribe to holiness only when one is caught with one’s pants down. To be as blunt as I can, humans shouldn’t play God then seek God’s mercy when the chips are down.)
Therefore in light of President Bush’s plan to strike against non-nuclear countries with nuclear force, Thomas Friedman’s words carry significance further than the shores of the Mediterranean, and the present level of testosterone threatening to unleash nuclear fallout should concern the whole world and not just the Middle East.
(Author of upcoming novel, “Israel, By Any Other Name”, Ghassan Ghraizi was Born in Beirut, Lebanon, and has lived and earned his education internationally. A US military veteran, he’s experienced both war and peace. A CPA working for corporate America, his friends and family time is divided between individuals who are as varied as the countries he’d adopted.)