View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, February 08, 2004

Tom Friedman Off Mark Again! 

Tom Friedman is at his smarmy worst again. His Feb. 5th column in the NY Times ("A Rude Awakening") betrays his ongoing, perverse sense of reality that is impossible to reconcile with the rather notorious facts on the ground. First, in decrying American abdication of a supposed responsibility to “forge, empower and legitimize a moderate center in . . . Palestine [sic],” he neglects an important distinction: The U.S. recently conquered Afghanistan and Iraq militarily, and is now in total control of the apparatus of state in both countries as a result. That's the most salient reason why the U.S. has a chance now to create a "moderate" counterbalance to the Islamist totalitarians in those countries.

In contrast, the U.S. does not enjoy any such advantage in the West Bank or Gaza. Nor, ironically, does Israel, having acceded much governing authority there to the corrupt, terror-supporting Palestinian Authority. If either the U.S. or Israel is to create a new, sanely moderate Palestinian leadership, the first step must be to roundly depose the old, murderous one: Yasser Arafat, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and their allied groups. Right now, no moderately minded Palestinian would dare come to the fore willingly, lest he be intimidated, exiled, or--what’s more likely--killed. Until the criminal terror leaders are no longer calling the shots—literally—and a pacified environment has been created and is maintained by a superior force, no moderate leadership cadre will be able to emerge.

Second, Friedman would have us believe that Ariel Sharon has a devious lock on Messrs. Bush and Cheney, and that Sharon is the tail wagging the dog of state as a result. Apart from gratuitously feeding old Arab canards about illicit Jewish control of the U.S. government, Friedman disserves us all by demonizing the Israeli leader. Sharon may in fact be proposing withdrawal from Gaza and relocation of settlements precisely because America won't let HIM do what by national right, Biblical mandate, and historical imperative Israel needs to do: Reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza completely, depose Arafat, Yassin, & Co., disband the PA, forcibly dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and disarm the entire Arab populace other than a small, uniformed civil police force. Contrary to Friedman’s slant, it is Sharon’s hands that are tied in dealing with the Palestinians, not Bush’s, given Israel’s profound and chronic reliance on American diplomatic support and largesse.

Friedman’s attempt to paint Sharon as responsible for Hamas ultimately coming to rule in Gaza and the West Bank in the event of an Israeli pullout is even more disingenuous. Amazingly, he accuses Sharon of “fail[ing] to lift a finger to empower more responsible Palestinians-like Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan,” thus “creat[ing] a power vacuum in Gaza and the West Bank, filled by Hamas, the Islamist militant group.” If Sharon has been disabled by American rules from forcibly ending Arafat’s control of the various militias and security agencies, what possibly could he have done to help Abbas and Dahlan assert more authority? How on earth can anyone empower “the moderates” when totalitarians have a protected rule of the roost?

If Friedman is honest about wanting to build a decent, moderate political center in the Gaza and the West Bank, he needs to stop bashing Sharon and start supporting him having a much freer hand. Simply put, the viciously atavistic, oligarchic autocracy now existing the territories has to be ended first--by a military campaign if necessary--before Israel can successfully cultivate Arab leaders who are prepared to develop a truly civil, humane, and democratic polity that will coexist peacefully alongside it.

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