Thomas Friedman Interviewed on Israel and Anti-Semitism

The Debate Link has posted the first part of an interview with Thomas Friedman. While they discussed several topics, the most interesting was Friedman’s defense of Israel from recent criticism and comments on anti-Semitism from the left. While the civilian casualties is a legitimate concern, Friedman placed them in perspective:

. . ., you’re dealing with an enemy that has embedded itself in the civilian population (on the Lebanese side). Hezbollah has no bases to retaliate against–in the conventional military sense–and so Israel almost by definition couldn’t retaliate against Hezbollah without hitting civilian targets. And that’s tragic. It’s tragic for me–I hate to see Lebanon be destroyed–but at the same time, it was the only way from the Israeli point of view to exact a price on Hezbollah’s constituency that ultimately Israeli hoped–and I don’t think this was a crazy thing–would deter Hezbollah the next time, with people saying “wait a minute, I don’t want to go through this again.”

So, I don’t think Israel “snapped,” I don’t think it behaved in a particularly irrational manner. It was brutal, but it was an ugly war, and one that Israel didn’t invite.

Friedman was later asked about anti-Semitism from the left and the relationship between Jews and the Democratic Party:

DS: And so how should liberals, say, on college campuses–because I think that’s a place where I think a lot people say there is a hotbed of leftwing anti-Semitism–how does the liberal on a college campus respond to this?

TF: Well, I think…[y]ou have to marshal the facts. You have to debate. And you have to engage people. And you have to get in their face. And you have to challenge people. When you see British Universities discussing a boycott of Israeli universities, because of the occupation, you say, “Wait a minute.” Are they boycotting Syrian universities? I mean Syria stands accused–by the United Nations–of complicity in the murdering of the President next door: Rafik Hariri. And certainly pro-Syria forces stand accused in Lebanon of murdering the two most liberal Arab journalists and progressive Arab journalists in the world today Gibran Tueni, and Samir Kassir, who led the democracy movement in Lebanon….

And so the point is, you can’t argue from emotion. You have to argue from facts. And one can simply point out those kind of contradictions. Because there is only one way to explain those contradictions, sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes, and that’s anti-Semitism….

DS: Jews are one of the most loyal Democratic bases. Do you think there is any threat to that? A lot of conservative columnists have been trying to pitch Joe Lieberman’s loss in the Democratic primary as a repudiation of the Jewish base–I don’t think that’s the case–but do you see any risk of Jews breaking some of that Democratic loyalty?

TF: Well I think that Jews have been moving from left of center to right of center–there is an element that has been moving for the last twenty years–surely since Ronald Reagan. So there has always been that element. And George Bush has been a very–ostensibly–pro-Israel President. I suppose there is an element that definitely responds to that. But I don’t know, when I look at the Democratic candidates out there right now, whether it is Kerry, or Hillary Clinton, or Joe Biden, I don’t see anyone hostile to Israel at all. And I don’t just mean in a cliched sense.

Talking about the Democratic Party and talking about “the left” are two different things, as you know. In terms of the Democratic Party, I still think it’s a very hospitable place for Jews.


  1. 1
    Nick says:


    there’s anti-Semitism at the Democratic daily? Did you and Pamela have some kind of falling out?

    For the record I certainly acknowledge that the Holocaust not only happened but was the greatest crime in human history bar none. As for Mel Gibson, I’ve thought Gibson had a screw or two lose for a long time-certainly since he said he rejected “Vatican II”. His anti-Semetic rant just shows he’s as crazy drunk as he is sober.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    Its probably not worth rehashing here, but we definately did disagree over the response to Mel Gibson and his father’s Holocaust denial.

    The disagreement over the Holocaust was over an aspect you didn’t mention but I suspect you’d also agree with. The disagreement was over seeing the harm caused by the Holocaust deniers and in condemning this group.

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