Friday, March 6, 2015

The Hannah Arendt in Thomas L. Friedman

Using the pretext of the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt, a conflicted Jew and a lefty icon, cast aspersions at David Ben-Gurion, Israel's then-P.M., and at Israel in general. (It wasn't nearly cultivated and "German" enough for Arendt, who, whatever else she was, was first and foremost an insufferable snob.) Decades later, another lefty icon, New York Times "genius" pundit Thomas L. Friedman, uses the occasion of Netanyahu's speech to fling mud at the same targets. Here's Jonathan Tobin's assessment of  TLF's post-speech hissy fit:
Unsurprisingly, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is at the head of the pack in this regard [the pack that wants to delegitimize those in Congress who support Israel]  but his column about the speech was a triumph of incoherence and specious arguments even by the debased standards by which he has operated on the Grey Lady’s op-ed page. Worse than that, the speech gave the writer an excuse to recycle anti-Semitic slurs he floated the last time Netanyahu spoke to Congress.
Friedman didn’t claim that Netanyahu misrepresented the facts about the proposed Iran deal or even dispute the danger that an Iranian bomb would represent. His problem is with what is to him an even more dangerous idea: that the security interests of Israel and the United States might overlap. He asserts that a weak deal that might prevent Iran from getting a bomb for ten years would be perfectly adequate as far as defending American security even if, as he seems to be implying, it might not be what is good for Israel or the Arab nations in the region that are every bit as upset with the administration policy as the Jewish state. Demands that Iran give up its nuclear infrastructure, something that President Obama promised in his 2012 foreign policy debate with Mitt Romney would be integral to any deal struck by the United States, are simply unrealistic and therefore must be dismissed even if that’s what most Israelis and Arabs think is necessary for their security. 
Friedman’s right about one thing. A nuclear deal with Iran would only work if the regime changed its nature and was ready to “get right with the rest of the world,” as President Obama put it. But though he likes to pose as a tough-minded analyst, he leaves unsaid the fact that no serious person thinks Iran is moderating under its current government. Nor is logical to believe that it would do so if that tyrannical, terror-supporting, anti-Semitic regime were to get the major economic boost and political prestige that would it get from a nuclear deal with the United States. 
But by the end of his column, Friedman runs out of ideas or even the energy to try and square his prejudices with the facts and simply lets loose with an anti-Netanyahu rant. He argues that if Netanyahu really wanted support for his position on Iran, he’d make concessions to the Palestinians even though he knows very well that those wouldn’t bring the region one inch closer to peace. In fact, Netanyahu has the tacit support of most of the Arab world for his speech. It’s only the Obama administration and others obsessed with the idea that détente with Iran is possible that didn’t like it. 
Friedman concludes his piece by saying that it “rubs me the wrong way” to see a foreign leader pointing out the mistakes of an American president in front of Congress. But in that paragraph he lets us on to his real problem with the speech and the entire discussion about Iran: the existence of a solid pro-Israel coalition in Congress that thinks Netanyahu’s concerns are worth a hearing. Friedman says, “I have a problem with my own Congress howling in support of a flawed foreign leader.”...
The only reason they're howling, Tom, is because he's so right and your flawed leader is wrong. He's strong and your leader is weak. He's got heft and your leader is a lightweight. He has gravitas and your leader is a clown.

There never was such a thing as "the banality of evil"--the memorable Arendtian phrase that skewed the thinking of so many re Eichmann and the Nazis. I have no problem, though, applying the word "banal"--which, after all, means trite, vapid and empty--to TLF and the feckless POTUS he so adores. They may not be evil, the two of 'em, but there's no doubt that at the moment they are serving the cause of the world's greatest evil.

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