The last time I praised Mr. Friedman’s words was in 1989 when his book From Beirut to Jerusalem was released. In the first half of his book he recounts his time in Beirut, from 1979 to 1984, when he covered the Lebanese civil war for The New York Times. I had lived in Beirut at the time, having moved there in 1969 with my Lebanese husband and two small children. Six years later, on April 15, 1975, the war began, a block from our apartment.
Mr. Friedman witnessed the war from West Beirut. My vantage point was East Beirut. We both watched a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city slowly unravel. We saw the war invade every neighborhood. We watched militias fight each other at intersections and across alleyways. In the hotel sector they bombed one another’s seized hotels destroying Beirut’s major landmarks. In the city center around Martyrs’ Square, they engaged in street-to-street combat, annihilating the city’s two-thousand-year-old souks and in 1982 we watched in horror while Israel indiscriminately carpet bombed the city for seventy straight days.
We both left Beirut in 1984, he to become the Times’ bureau chief in Jerusalem, me to re-settle back in the states. He called his time in Beirut his own private nightmare. Mine was more akin to a relationship with a lover-city that was clever enough to entice me back with good behavior every time I thought to leave. Mr. Friedman spent the next five years in Jerusalem; I spent those years, and more, trying to recover from the effects war. After our shared experience we parted ways politically, he to continue his writing career; me, to begin mine.
One of the most read columnists in the world, Mr. Friedman has always advocated unequivocal support for Israel and a “two-state solution” even when it was blatantly obvious that such a solution was no longer possible, while repeatedly blaming the Palestinians for the demise of Oslo. In my book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides I not only advocated for a fair and balanced approach to the conflict, giving equal voice to both parties, but I also envisioned a one-state-solution as the only reasonable way forward.
So imagine my surprise when on February 10, 2016 Mr. Friedman wrote that: “It’s hard to know who delivered the mortal blow. Was it the fanatical Jewish settlers determined to keep expanding their footprint in the West Bank and able to sabotage any Israeli politician who opposed them? Was it right-wing Jewish billionaires, like Sheldon Adelson, who used their influence to blunt any US congressional criticism of Netanyahu? They all killed the two-state solution. Let the one-state era begin.” He went on to say that “the next U.S. president will have to deal with an Israel determined to permanently occupy all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including where 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians live.”
According to Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss, “We’re on the threshold of a great Jew-versus-Jew battle about who lost Israel. The neocons are going to fight back hard and liberal Zionists will at last use the right word to describe what Israel has established: apartheid.
Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy who writes for the Israel daily, Haaretz said: “There’s only one major party to blame for the situation and only it (Israel) is responsible for ending the occupation and never lifted a finger to do so. Israel never meant, not for a moment, to reach the two-state solution. Israel is the strong party as well as the occupier, so the blame cannot be divided between it and the weaker, occupied side. Nor can one settle for blaming Netanyahu, the settlers and Adelson. Are all the others, from Shimon Peres to Livni, Hezog and Ehud Barak any less guilty? And are most of the Israelis, who enabled this situation to continue all these years with their indifference, any less guilty?”
This is a seminal moment in journalism, the moment in which one journalist who has always reflected the mood in Washington and influenced it is finally discarding the ideas that have accompanied him and others for far too many years.
Again, Phil Weiss: “The longest masquerade ball, the two-state orgy, has reached its end, even as far as Friedman is concerned. If America listens to such senior commentators, there’s still hope.
Thank you, Thomas Friedman, for leading the way.
Get more insights in my books, Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides. The book is available for purchase here: