My people are into the season of Advent, when Christians throughout the world begin a year-long reflection on the saving mysteries of Christ.
My Advent weekend coincides with the end of the three day Muslim Eid ul Adha, the Celebration of Sacrifice. It is on this occasion that Muslims remember Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah .
The Eid ul Adha comes at the conclusion of the Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.
This past weekend was one of those inter-faith moments when the three Abrahamic religions shared the same Koranic and biblical moment, albeit with different interpretations.
Aware of these religious celebrations, I found it especially distressing to pick up my Sunday New York Times and discover that Thomas Friedman was once again sounding the alarm: The Muslims are coming; the Muslims are coming!
Had I been Tom’s editor, I would have spiked this column (“killed it”, in newspaper parlance), and sent him a memo: “Sorry, Tom, this one doesn’t pass the smell test, especially on the weekend of Eid ul Adha. At long last, man, show some respect!”
This Friedman column gives off the distinct smell of smoke generated from an excess of uncontrolled anger. Tom should know anger clouds one’s judgment. His column is offensive not only to Muslims, but to Christians and Jews as well.
What prompted Friedman’s latest outburst against Muslims was the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, presumably at the hand of US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Friedman began his column:
Major Hasan may have been mentally unbalanced — I assume anyone who shoots up innocent people is. But the more you read about his support for Muslim suicide bombers, about how he showed up at a public-health seminar with a PowerPoint presentation titled “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam,” and about his contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric famous for using the Web to support jihadist violence against America — the more it seems that Major Hasan was just another angry jihadist spurred to action by “The Narrative.”
Reread these words with your deductive reasoning cap firmly in place. What do we find? First, Friedman acknowledges that he agrees with the assumption that Major Hasan “may have been” mentally unbalanced. But then he finds, as he no doubt hoped he would, some anti-American moments in the major’s life.
What is the evidence at hand? Tom writes that Hasan “showed up” at a public-health seminar, with a Powerpoint presentation bearing the ominous title, “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam.” Further, Major Hasan has had “contacts” with Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric famous for using the Web to support “jihadist violence against America.”
Based on this evidence, Friedman concludes Hasan “was just another angry jihadist spurred to action by ‘The Narrative'”. By the end of the paragraph, Hasan is no longer just mentally unbalanced; he is an “angry jihadist”.
Well, Tom, which is it? Mentally unstable or a jihadist? Or in your mind, are the two the same? Friedman doesn’t hang around in his column long to clarify his quick shift from mentally unstable army officer to jihadist. He races on to the real purpose of his column: His attack on The Narrative.
Friedman has adopted the latest marching orders, quite possibly issued from Israel’s spin-masters. In recent years, the word “narrative” has slowly made its way into the margins of public discourse, thanks to the insistence of the Palestinian supporters who maintain that the Zionist narrative has been, until now, the only narrative heard in public discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I presume Israel’s spin masters sent out the new memo, or in Tom’s case, probably gave it to him personally during some of his warm and friendly chats with high level Israeli military and political officials. The spin is this: “The Palestinians are making the case that 1948 was actually the start of two narratives, the Palestinian and the Zionist. We must not let this succeed!”
To understand their sense of panic, consider the history of the competing narratives: The dominant Zionist narrative begins with the Holocaust and anti-semitism. Then it moves to the permanent condition of Jewish victimhood that gives Israel permission to batter the Palestinians with all the violence it needs to drive the Palestinians into walled-in villages and cities. This narrative has been so dominant that it has been, simply, The Way Things Are.
You have no doubt seen the impact of the Zionist Narrative when friends and colleagues tell you, in amazement, they never before realized what the conflict was all about. They grew up believing the Zionist narrative that the outnumbered Jewish people were bravely defending their land against the mighty Arab armies that wanted to drive the Jewish people “into the sea”.
They have just seen and/or heard the Palestinian narrative. This stuns them into realizing that The Way Things Are are not really The Way Things Are.
Since 1948, the Palestinian people have experienced a different narrative. What is that narrative?
It begins with the Nakba (the “catastrophe”), when the modern state of Israel was created on land formerly known as Palestine. Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land was followed by the carefully planned program of ethnic cleansing, a systemic program designed to drive Palestinians away from their original homeland.
Tom Friedman has shown himself to be a willing and faithful warrior in the War of Narratives. As he describes the background of Major Hasan, Friedman sounds the warning: “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.”
What is scary is that even though he was born, raised and educated in America, The Narrative still got to him.
You hear that, people? This guy is no foreign-born ticking time bomb. He was BORN, RAISED AND EDUCATED in America, and he succumbed to THE NARRATIVE, thanks, it appears, to the influence of a single radical cleric.
Get the children inside! Home grown narrative pushers are roaming our streets!
Friedman’s description of this dangerous Narrative is chilling, ugly and most definitely, fails the Eid ul Adha smell test. Here is Friedman again:
The Narrative is the cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11. Propagated by jihadist Web sites, mosque preachers, Arab intellectuals, satellite news stations and books — and tacitly endorsed by some Arab regimes — this narrative posits that America has declared war on Islam, as part of a grand “American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy” to keep Muslims down.
Do you know any parents, pastors, church officials, public officials or college presidents, who have cowered before the fear tactics of the Zionist Narrative? Of course, you do; don’t try and deny it.
Have you wondered lately how best to describe what drives American foreign policy? Friedman tells us, using his best neo-con language in a remarkably distorted litany that covers 20 years of American history.
Yes, after two decades in which US foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny — in Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, Somalia, Lebanon, Kurdistan, post-earthquake Pakistan, post-tsunami Indonesia, Iraq and Afghanistan — a narrative that says America is dedicated to keeping Muslims down is thriving.
Friedman, in case you have forgotten, was a cheer leader for the Iraqi war because he argued that WMDs were about to erupt from Iraq, first to strike Israel and then finally, the rest of the world.
Who were those institutions and individuals who drove us into our war against Iraq? The US Congress and the Industrial-Military complex, to be sure, but the war was pushed further by major media like the Washington Post and the New York Times, with its star columnist Friedman leading the way.
Most public figures have repented of their support for the Iraq war, especially politicians who were hurt by their association with yet another unpopular war. But don’t look for repentance from our man Tom Friedman.
On May 30, 2003, Friedman appeared on the Charlie Rose PBS program. Here is an excerpt from that interview, courtesy of Glenn Greenwald’s blog:
ROSE: Now that the war is over, and there’s some difficulty with the peace, was it worth doing?
FRIEDMAN: I think it was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel I understand more what the war was about . . . . What we needed to do was go over to that part of the world, I’m afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. . . . And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? . . . . Well, Suck. On. This. That, Charlie, was what this war was about.
We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That’s the real truth.
In his Eid ul Adha Sunday column, Friedman concluded his tirade against Islam with a suggested speech for Barack Obama to deliver.
Whenever something like Fort Hood happens you say, ‘This is not Islam.’ I believe that. But you keep telling us what Islam isn’t. You need to tell us what it is and show us how its positive interpretations are being promoted in your schools and mosques.
If this is not Islam, then why is it that a million Muslims will pour into the streets to protest Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but not one will take to the streets to protest Muslim suicide bombers who blow up other Muslims, real people, created in the image of God? You need to explain that to us — and to yourselves.”
Friedman started his column with a question about Major Hasan’s mental instability. He segued quickly, and throughout his column, to a discussion of a now defunct War of Civilizations, Islam against the West. It is a leap totally without evidence.
Friedman would do well to reflect back on a massacre of Muslim worshippers that took place on February 25, 1994, when an Orthodox Jew, Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 Palestinian worshippers and injured another 125, at Hebron’s Ibrahim Mosque.
Goldstein was an Israeli-American settler who served in the Israeli army as a reservist. He was also a member of the extremist Kach movement, which openly advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel. He carried out his massacre with an assault rifle and four magazines of ammunition
Goldstein lived in the Kiryat Arba settlement next to Hebron. After the massacre, a memorial was erected for Baruch Goldstein at the entrance to Kiryat Arba.
Goldstein was supported by extremist forces in Israel, but in no way did he represent all of Judaism.
All religions have fanatics who act in horrendous ways contrary to the religious tradition they claim to follow. It is unworthy of an experienced journalist like Tom Friedman to elevate such a tragic event into a tirade against Islam.
Picture above of a Palestinian family is by Connie Baker. It was taken at a back entrance to Bethlehem. The picture from Mecca is from the Los Angeles Times.