Photo Credit: Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90
New York Times columnist, Thomas L. Friedman

The UJA Federation of New York has invited controversial New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to be the featured speaker at its upcoming June 4 event. Friedman will be the star of what the Federation is billing as a “conversation” with the editor-in-chief of the New York Jewish Week, Andrew Silow-Carroll.

In announcing the event, the Federation stated, “We’ll take your questions on the global ramifications of this age of uncertainty.” I have some questions, but they concern the credibility of the speaker who has been selected as an authority on global events. Perhaps Mr. Silow-Carroll can ask them.

  1. Mr. Friedman, in your New York Times column on April 4, 2012, you endorsed what you called “non-violent resistance by Palestinians” against Israel. The examples of such resistance you gave were boycotts, hunger strikes, and rock-throwing.
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Last week, a young Israeli soldier, Amit Ben-Yigal, was murdered by an Arab who threw a heavy rock at his head. He was at least the 17th Israeli murdered by Arab rock-throwers since the 1980s. Mr. Friedman, do you still consider rock-throwing to be “non-violent”?

  1. In your February 4, 2020 column, you claimed that the real obstacle to peace is the impact of climate change in the Middle East. One of your main pieces of evidence was the fact that “in the summer of 2018, the Sea of Galilee [the Kinneret] was so low from droughts…that it was threatening to become another saline lake, like the Dead Sea.”

On April 24, The Jerusalem Post reported that the water level in the Kinneret is now at a 16-year high. In fact, it is so high that it has almost reached what the Israelis call “the upper red line,” meaning it may flood the nearby city of Tiberias if water is not drained. So, Mr. Friedman, will you now acknowledge that your fears were exaggerated?

  1. In your December 29, 2016 column, you claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Obama “an enemy.” The Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) conducted a thorough search but found no evidence that the prime minister ever used that term. What’s your evidence for claiming that Netanyahu did?
  2. In your February 4, 2015 column, you argued that if Israel’s prime minister addressed Congress against the Iran deal, “anti-Semites, who claim Israel controls Washington, will have a field day.” Can you see why many Jews would regard it as disingenuous for you to repeatedly claim that Israel controls Washington and then urge Israel to change its policies because otherwise anti-Semites will claim Israel controls Washington?
  3. In your November 19, 2013 column, you wrote that “many American lawmakers [will] do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.” Can you understand why many Jews regard these words as both dangerous and anti-Semitic?
  4. In your December 13, 2011 column, you wrote that the standing ovations that Israel’s prime minister received in Congress were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Can you understand why many Jews regard this charge as a classic anti-Semitic libel?
  5. In your February 5, 2004 column, you wrote that Israel “had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.” Can you understand why many Jews see this accusation as an anti-Semitic trope?
  6. In your October 19, 1987 column, you predicted that in 12 years “Israel and the occupied territories [would] be in, demographic terms, a bi-national state.” Well, here we are, 33 years later, and Israel is obviously not a bi-national state. Are you willing to acknowledge that you were mistaken?
  7. You have been arguing since the 1970s that Yasser Arafat had become moderate and Israel should negotiate and make concessions to him. But in January 2002 – more than eight years after he supposedly made peace with Israel – Arafat was caught trying to smuggle 50 tons of weapons into Gaza on board the SS Karine A. Do you still consider Palestinian leadership to be “moderate”?
  8. Two of the largest Palestinian Authority-ruled cities, Tulkarm and Kalkilya, are located about nine miles from the Mediterranean Sea. That means that if a Palestinian state were established, Israel would be just nine miles wide. That’s less than the distance from your home in Potomac, Maryland, to nearby Washington, DC. Can you understand why Israelis are reluctant to put themselves in such a vulnerable position?

And one question for the UJA Federation: How much are you paying Thomas Friedman? Ordinarily, a speaker’s fee might be regarded as private information. But considering Friedman’s long history of making troubling statements, it seems only fair that donors to the UJA Federation be informed how much of their donations are being used to pay him.

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Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism,” now available on Kindle.