ZOA Condemns Thomas Friedman Column In N.Y. Times Accusing Israel & Jews Of “Conspiring” To Manipulate Bush And Cheney
February 5, 2004

NEW YORK – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned a column by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times claiming that Israel’s leaders are “conspiring” to manipulate President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

In his column on February 5, 2004, Friedman wrote that Israel’s Prime Minister “has 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, and by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on Israel in an election year all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing.”

“Friedman’s language conjures up disturbing stereotypical images of Jews conspiring to manipulate world leaders and events, and gives comfort to bigots who promote such imagery,” said ZOA National President Morton A. Klein.

“We urge the publishers of the New York Times to publicly repudiate Friedman’s outrageous insinuations.”

The ZOA notes the troubling similarity between Friedman’s article and accusation over the years by Pat Buchanan and other extremists that the White House is “occupied Israeli territory,” an accusation that many regard as antisemitic.

The ZOA also points out that Friedman’s statements are reminiscent of the statement by the first President George Bush, on September 12, 1991, that he was “one lonely little guy” besieged by “some powerful political forces” and “something like a thousand lobbyists on the Hill” (referring to American Jews who were visiting their Congressmen and endorsing U.S. humanitarian loan guarantees for Soviet Jewish refugees relocating to Israel).

At the time, Thomas Friedman characterized President Bush’s statement as “a harsh attack” (N.Y. Times, Sept. 21, 1991) and said the President had used “threatening language” (N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 1991). Friedman noted that “Mr. Bush’s remarks provoked a flood of supportive mail to the White House, much of it anti-Semitic” (N.Y. Times, March 2, 1992) He also wrote: “Mr. Bush exacerbated the crisis [in relations with Israel] by striking what many American Jews felt was a low blow with his statements of Sept.12, 1991 that basically implied that there was something disloyal about American supporters of Israel lobbying for the loan guarantees over Mr. Bush’s objections.” (N.Y. Times, Aug. 16, 1992)

ZOA President Klein said:

“Now it is Thomas Friedman himself who is doing what he criticized Bush for doing in 1991: engaging in harsh attacks and striking a low blow, by implying that there is something disloyal about American Jews and others expressing their views on Israel.

“At this time of increasing anti-Semitism around the world, one would have hoped that a prominent newspaper columnist like Mr. Friedman would be more careful and sensitive about using language and imagery that conjure up derogatory stereotypes about Jews.”

After the 1991 affair, veteran Jewish journalist Winston Pickett wrote: “American Jews were stunned by … the image of all-powerful legions of Jews overrunning the Capitol that seem implicit in what he said … Jewish leaders and rank-and-file [regarded Bush’s remarks] “as one of the most mean-spirited addresses by an American president in recent memory … [Mideast scholar] Daniel Pipes said [Bush’s statement] “will go down in the annals of anti-Semitic writing. Jew-haters will cite it as a reference point for years to come.” In fact, in the aftermath of Bush’s press conference, the White House received a rush of congratulatory letters with decidedly anti-Semitic overtones.” The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations condemned President Bush’s remarks as “troubling.” (Metro West Jewish News, Oct. 2, 1992)

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