Ariel Sharon never sent Yasir Arafat flowers.
Whatever one thinks of the former Israeli general and Defense Minister, Sharon did not play games with his enemies. He killed them. After a few years in Beirut, I came to understand a little why the Jews had a state and the Palestinians didn’t. The European Jews who built Israel came out of a culture of sharp edges and right angles. They were cold, hard men who always understood the difference between success and failure, and between words and deeds. Because the Jews were always a nation apart, they developed their own autonomous institutions and had to rely on their own deep tribal sense of solidarity. This gave them a certain single-mindedness of purpose. They would never settle for a substitute homeland; life for them was not just another Mediterranean life cycle or fatalistic shrug.
The single-mindedness of the European Zionists also had a certain ruthless aspect to it. They emerged from ghettos in which they were never invited by the outside world to drink coffee. They were never part of a Middle Eastern kaleidoscope, like Lebanon, where today’s enemy could be tomorrow’s friend. For the Jews coming out of Europe, today’s enemy was tomorrow’s enemy. The world was divided into two: the Jews and the goyim, or Gentiles. The Arabs, for the Zionists, fell into two subsets of goyim—agents and enemies. Agents you ordered and enemies you killed.
The rhythm of life in the Arab world was always different. Men in Arab societies always tended to bend more; life there always moved in ambiguous semicircles, never right angles. The religious symbols of the West are the cross and the Jewish star—both of which are full of sharp, angled turns. The symbol of the Muslim East is the crescent moon—a wide, soft, ambiguous arc. In Arab society there was always some way to cushion failure with rhetoric and enable the worst of enemies to sit down and have coffee together, maybe even send each other bouquets.
This passage is incomprehensibly idiotic on so many levels. Besides the obvious – do I really have to point out how inane his point about religious symbols is? – Friedman is generalizing his experiences in relatively cosmopolitan and liberal Beirut to the Arab world as a whole.
Sure, Arabs love to have coffee – but the idea that this means they accept compromise with Jews is the exact inversion of the truth.
No one represents Friedman’s disgusting characterization of bigoted, menacing, trigger-happy European Jews more than Menachem Begin. You know – the person who traded territory that was double the size of Israel itself for a piece of paper.
The real Arab world is a place where antisemitism is mainstream and where rejectionism of Israel is absolute even in countries that have “peace treaties” with Israel. It is the Arabs who have announced boycotts of Jews since the 1920s, Arabs who stated the “three no’s” of Khartoum, Arabs who accuse even Hamas terrorists of being too pro-Israel.
It is the Arabs who utterly reject normalization with Israel, and those hardheaded European Jews who want to be accepted in the Middle East. (The Jews from the Arab world tend to be more hawkish, because they understand the mentality of the Arabs a lot better than Friedman does.)
Oh, I think its also a fair bet that moderate, compromising Arafat never sent Ariel Sharon flowers either.
How can anyone take Friedman seriously after reading trash like this?
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About the Author: Elder blogs at http://elderofziyon.blogspot.co.il/The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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