20 December '11
Tom Friedman thinks Jewish readers should get over it and let him come in from the cold. He's explained to the Jewish Week's Gary Rosenblatt that he "regrets" his choice of words in a December 13 column when he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's standing ovations during his speech to Congress were "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."
The ugly charge with its overtones of anti-Semitism caused a firestorm of criticism. But now we know, he only meant to say the standing ovations were "engineered" by the lobby.
He tells The Jewish Week:
“In retrospect I probably should have used a more precise term like ‘engineered’ by the Israel lobby — a term that does not suggest grand conspiracy theories that I don’t subscribe to,” Friedman said. “It would have helped people focus on my argument, which I stand by 100 percent.”
Does that include standing 100 percent by his statement attributing to Mitt Romney the view that:
America’s role is to just applaud whatever Israel does, serve as its A.T.M. and shut up
And does it include Friedman invoking as admirable the radical, fringe voice of Ha'aretz's Gideon Levy, whose unbridled attacks on Israel include applauding academic boycotts of Israel and hoping for boycotts "someday [that would] also include tourism officials, business people, artists and athletes."
Of course, Friedman's clarification is nonsense. It is precisely the argument that he stands by 100 percent that was so outrageous and offended so many and endeared him to the likes of Stephen Walt.
It will take a lot more than a meaningless interviews in this vein, no matter in how many Jewish papers they appear, to persuade readers that his vituperative charges are consistent with his self-described -- as relayed by The Jewish Week -- "unswerving support for the State of Israel."
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