Thursday, June 19, 2003

# Posted 12:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

THOMAS FRIEDMAN IS ON CRACK. You know, it takes real indisputable talent to be able to espouse basically sensible arguments and ideas, and yet manage to do it in a way that makes you almost unreadable to your audience. Case in point: Friedman argues, this week, that is in Israel's interests for Hamas to be rooted out, but by Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority (albeit with substantial quiet U.S. and Israeli help), and not by Israeli tanks. Without wanting at the moment to engage a massive imbroglio, I happen to agree. But for the moment, that's immaterial: what seems fascinating is that, en route to making a fairly sensible (though not uncontroversial) argument, Friedman manages to drop such Friedmanisms as calling Hamas a "ragtag terrorist group" (I'll quibble with "ragtag," don't worry, not "terrorist"), and disputing whether the organization has ever had enough senior operatives and officials for Israel to have been able to kill as many senior Hamas members as it claims to have done. Call Hamas what you will - it doubtless deserves it. Peace will never come about until the organization is gone. But is Friedman on crack? Hamas is a mind-bogglingly vast organization, which includes an overt Da'wah arm, a security arm devoted to gathering information on suspected collaborators with Israel, multiple press and propaganda offices, three military arms (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam hit squads, the Aman, and al-Majahadoun al-Falestinioun), and an unequalled network of overt charitable activities and front fundraising organizations. As much as I agree with the one trick of Mr. Friedman's pony - i.e., that peace and security for Israel (and its neighbors) will require, eventually, a two-state solution and a moderate, secular, reformist government in Palestine - his frequent mistakes and inane comments lead even the most sympathetic reader to question whether he really gets the Middle East that well, after all.
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