For the past few months I’ve been getting email blasts several times a day from someone named Dan Friedman (no connection to the Forward’s arts & culture editor), ultra-right email posts with short, pithy barbs aimed at Obama (whom he calls BHO), liberals and the Israeli peace camp. He’s pretty far over the line, but I’ve been opening his posts because they’re short and I’ve found them sometimes witty, and I felt they gave me a window into a mood in certain quarters out there. Until today, that is.
Today I learned something important about the Internet and human frailty. Friedman sent out a post titled “An Israeli Throws in the Towel,” reprinting an article he came across by an Israeli professor. The professor warns that Obama won’t stand up against Iran’s nukes. Friedman introduces the piece with a few choice paragraphs dripping with contempt, pointing to the article as an example of how clueless Israelis are about the real threats they face.
The writer is an American expat living in Israel whose commentary appears in the Jerusalem Post. He has had an illustrious career nailing down one job after another at institutions with important-sounding names. (OK, everyone has a right to make a living.) Apparently, it’s suddenly dawned on the professor that Obama “isn’t going to take strong action on the [Iranian] nuclear weapons issue.” Welcome to our solar system, dear friend. But what’s most significant about the startling revelation painstakingly outlined in his piece is that the word “Israel” is AWOL and so is any suggestion the unmentioned country might have to try to save its own butt by taking matters into its own hands. Frankly, it’s pointless and unfair to single out this particular Israeli commentator for criticism. His attitude is so pathetic – and so typical. df
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Unless you happen to know, as Friedman obviously doesn’t, that the writer of the article he’s ridiculing, Professor Barry Rubin, is one of Israel’s earliest, most outspoken and best-informed hawks on the dangers Israel faces from Iranian and other Islamic extremism, going back decades. He comes to his pessimism honestly; he’s one of Israel’s leading experts on the non-Arab Muslim countries on Israel’s periphery, meaning mainly Iran and Turkey. He’s been accusing Obama of being soft on Iran since before Obama was elected.
In other words, Friedman is inadvertently ridiculing one of the deans of his own school of thought, because he doesn’t know enough about the stuff he spouts off on to know who his own allies and flag-bearers are.
It will come as no surprise that I don’t agree with a whole lot of Barry Rubin’s conclusions about Israel and its enemies, but I know he knows his stuff as few others do. (Full disclosure: We were friendly back in high school. I think we’ve sort of scowled at each other a few times since.) Agree or disagree with him, though, one dismisses Rubin at one’s peril — unless, of course, one is simply blowing smoke through one’s nose or some other orifice and pretending to be knowledgeable about a sensitive topic one actually knows nothing about.
Friedman should be looking up to the people who created and built the school he subscribes to, not mocking them. But, to be fair, we shouldn’t be surprised when a kindergarten kid hasn’t yet learned the principal’s name. There is so much to learn in those memorable early stages. Look, tsatskele, this goes on the Internet. That goes in the potty.
Here is a catalogue of Barry’s most recent articles on Iran, dating back only as far as 2005. (Follow the links to his other topics; there’s a lot of solid reading there.) Here is a piece he wrote in October 2008, warning that Obama and his team were dangerously naïve about Iran and shouldn’t be elected. I don’t agree with its conclusions, but I take the cautions seriously. I wish Dan Friedman had read it before he started sending out a mass email sliming the author.
By the way, if Friedman finds Israelis as aggravating as he indicates, why doesn’t he just leave them alone?
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).