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Ed Koch: Tom Friedman’s Skewed Vision Of Non-Violence

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Koch-042012

In his April 4th New York Times column, Thomas Friedman endorsed what he designated to be “non-violent resistance by Palestinians” against Israel. He added that Palestinians need to “accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock they throw at Israel with a detailed map” delineating their territorial demands.

Friedman, I’m sorry to say, is allowing himself to be used by radicals whose goal is not peace but the destruction of Israel. Two prior prime ministers of Israel, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, offered the Palestinian Authority a return of all but between 7 and 9 percent of the West Bank. That area would bring into the State of Israel most of the 300,000 Israeli Jews living on the West Bank, referred to by Israelis by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria. The 7 to 9 percent would then be replaced by land swaps.

Those offers from Israel were turned down by the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority has for the past year and a half refused to return to high-level peace negotiations unless Israel agrees to its preconditions which include a settlement freeze on all construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem and a stipulation that negotiations proceed from what Israel believes are indefensible pre-1967 borders.

The Palestinian state called for under the two-state solution – which has been accepted by the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his immediate predecessors – also includes Gaza. Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the latter territory was totally evacuated by Israel. Since that evacuation in 2005 and after an election won by Hamas, the Palestinians in Gaza under Hamas have continued their war against the Jews. Recently, Hamas in one day sent 150 rockets into southern Israel, disrupting the economy of the area and endangering its population. The rockets are simply sent in the general direction of cities and towns with their civilian populations as the targets.

Supporters of the Palestinian Authority and its two components, Hamas and Fatah, hold Israel to blame for the lack of progress in peace talks. They are furious that Israel refuses to cede more territory under these conditions and thereby commit suicide in pursuit of an illusory peace.

Supporters of the Palestinian Authority include Jews in Israel itself and here in the U.S. However, it is rare that any Jewish supporters of the Palestinian Authority would urge the Palestinians to resume violence against the Jews of Israel. It therefore came as a shock to read in Friedman’s column that he endorses the resumption of rock throwing against Israelis.

Friedman’s article was itself, in effect, a rock thrown directly at Israel and the peace process. I caution Friedman not to recommend violence lightly. Having been a victim in 1991 of rocks thrown by Palestinians during the first Intifada – an injury requiring 9 stitches to suture my scalp where it was struck by a stone – I couldn’t help but wonder: how would Friedman feel if a child in Israel were to be struck by a stone, perhaps losing an eye or worse? Would Friedman blame himself for having encouraged the Arabs on the West Bank to hurl stones in what he describes as a “non-violent” measure?

I thank the Times for publishing my letter to the editor denouncing Friedman for including stone throwing as a “non-violent” tactic. I also wonder why the Times editorially has not denounced or chastised his behavior, so as to reassure its readers it does not agree with its premier foreign policy pundit.

Friedman, who welcomed the Arab Spring – which in Egypt and elsewhere has produced governments that are now dominated by Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that support the use of terrorism – is fast becoming the darling of Islamist terrorists everywhere.

My letter published by the Times follows:

Rock Throwing by Arabs To the Editor: Thomas L. Friedman (“A Middle East Twofer,” column, April 4) endorses what he calls “nonviolent resistance by Palestinians” against Israel. He adds that Palestinians need to “accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock they throw at Israel with a detailed map” delineating their territorial demands.

I was attacked by “nonviolent” Arab rock throwers while touring the old Jewish quarter of Jerusalem in 1991. I needed nine stitches but was fortunate to have suffered only relatively minor injuries. If my attackers’ aim had been a little sharper, I could have lost an eye, or worse. Many Israelis as well as foreign tourists have been badly injured, sometimes permanently maimed, in such “nonviolent” assaults.

Israelis have even been murdered by rock throwing. Last September, Asher Palmer, 25, and his infant son, Yonatan, were killed when “nonviolent” rocks were thrown at their car, causing a fatal crash. We may disagree on borders, settlements, refugees or other contentious Arab-Israeli issues. But can’t we all agree that in the English language, the terms “nonviolent” and “rock throwing” are mutually exclusive?

Edward I. Koch

Ed Koch served as mayor of New York from 1978 to 1990.

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