Tom Friedman disgraces himself and the NY Times

By Edward I. Koch
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Following is an advance release of Ed Koch's Bloomberg Radio Commentary for Feb. 14

Of all the anti-Semitic slurs, one of the most outrageous is that Jews secretly control the world.

This false and foolish accusation has been heard many times. In March, 1997, the black Muslim cleric, Louis Farrakhan, said on CNN’s “Evans and Novak” that Jews “meet once a year or so in Hollywood or in Park Avenue to look at the trends of America and the world. And if there are trends they do not like, then they write scripts, they write movies, they write books. They do things to influence the trends. And that is why I intend to stay on this path until there’s some change made. Black people are going to be free of Jewish control.”

Farrakhan’s fabrication about Jewish power and secret conspiracies is an updated version of the infamous "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a forgery created by the Russian Czar's secret police to incite pogroms — organized massacres against Jews. Even Henry Ford used the "Protocols" to support his well-financed rant against Jews during the days when he was rising to prominence through the production and sale of his Model-T Ford.

A comparable attack on Jews was made by Pat Buchanan in 1990, when he referred to Capitol Hill as “Israeli-occupied territory.” On “The McLaughlin Group,” Buchanan said, “There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East -- the Israeli defense ministry and its ‘amen corner’ in the United States” with a litany of Jewish names.

Last week we heard yet another version of the same old lie, this time from Tom Friedman in his February 5th column in The New York Times. Friedman, alleging that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are secretly controlled by Jews, wrote, “...Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he's had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who's ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates…”

There are those who say it's paranoid to accuse a fellow Jew of an anti-Semitic remark. I don’t think so. Let me cite another example: Bob Novak, a Jew by birth who converted to Catholicism and now defines himself as a “cultural Jew.” Over the years Novak’s constant attacks on Israel have been, I believe, thinly disguised attacks on Jews.

To cite but one example, on his Nov. 24th show, Novak went ballistic on Israel. While discussing the Israeli assassination of Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, a senior military leader of Hamas who was directly responsible for dozens of Israeli civilian deaths, Novak denounced Prime Minister Sharon for ordering his execution. Novak’s colleague, Margaret Carlson, called Hanoud a terrorist, and Novak defended him as a freedom fighter. Carlson responded, “Bob,’re the only person who would call Hamas freedom fighters.” Novak rejoined with, “Oh, no; people all over the world do.”

Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, put it well when he stated, “Those who only find fault with the Jewish people, the Jewish State and the actions of the Jewish sovereignty and never find anything that is positive are anti-Semites under the guise of anti-Zionism and anti-Israel.”

Now comes Tom Friedman, often proclaimed as an expert on the Mideast. When President Bush, Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and, to a lesser extent, Secretary of State Colin Powell, come to the conclusion that it is in the national interest of the United States to support Israel, it must be, according to Friedman in his column of last week, because they have been brainwashed by “Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is so powerful, according to Friedman, that Cheney is "ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates." Ridiculous. Dick Cheney is a man of enormous competence and intellectual ability with an established record of achievement and service to the nation. To suggest, as Friedman does, that he is selling out the country is an enormous disservice to Mr. Cheney and indeed to any public servant.

Did Friedman think President Bush was a puppet of the Arabs when, according to The New York Times, his father "telephoned Crown Prince Abdullah to assure him that his son's 'heart is in the right place' and that he was 'going to do the right thing' when it came to the Middle East?"

Tom Friedman, who is full of himself, believes he can resort to the anti-Semitic slur of secret Jewish control, and avoid criticism because he is a Jew. In reality, Friedman disgraced himself and his newspaper. His false words, coming at a time when anti-Semitism is skyrocketing worldwide, are particularly irresponsible and repulsive. If he is capable of feeling shame, I hope he feels it now.

Edward I. Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, is a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave.

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