Thursday, July 1, 2010

Even Michael Jackson's Rabbi Hates Tom Friedman

Poor, poor Tommy. It seems like everyone wants a piece of him these days. (Call it the Fire Tom Friedman effect.) The left can't stand him. The right can't stop howling about his "I wish we could be China for a day" shtick. Anyone who is the least bit sympathetic to Muslims and Arabs (or at a minimum, doesn't like killing them indiscriminately) finds the mustachioed one quite repugnant. And now Tommy has pissed off Michael Jackson's rabbi!

Meet Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Maybe you already have. I'd never heard of him before he ripped into Tommy, but apparently he has or had a show on TLC and he's written like 40 books including one called Kosher Sex which he gives observant Jews his blessing to do all the crazy and kinky things they've always wanted to do (provided the lights are out, of course). And best of all, he's been "successfully counseling individuals and couples - most notably the late Michael Jackson and Jon Gosselin - for years"!

Now Shmuley Boteach may very well be the greatest name ever. And with a bio like that, it's very possible that someone is pulling a Nordlinger here. And this off-the-wall introduction to his Tommy piece doesn't do much to quell my suspicions about this Boteach character:
I don't often read Tom Friedman in The New York Times. True, he is one of the most lucid writers in America and his crystal-clear prose help in understanding some of the world's most intractable conflicts.
Tommy lucid? Crystal-clear prose? Sure sounds like Nordlinger. But we at Fire Tom Friedman take all things Tom Friedman very seriously and so we're going to treat Schmuley Boteach as if he's a legitimate celebrity whore/Rabbi. So what's eating Shmuley?

Friedman is, of course, entitled to his view. But he is not entitled to slander Israel. And this past Sunday he did so with relish.

In words that blur the line between commentary and defamation Friedman wrote of the "brutality of Israel's retaliations" against Hezbollah and Hamas, and how Israel "chose to go after them without being deterred by the prospect of civilian casualties." He then crossed a line of common decency when he irresponsibly accused Israel of using "Hama rules" in its war against the twin terror groups. "Hama Rules," he explained, "are named after the Syrian town of Hama, where, in 1982, then-President Hafez el-Assad of Syria put down a Muslim fundamentalist uprising by shelling and then bulldozing their neighborhoods, killing more than 10,000 of his own people."

This is a straightforward blood libel.
Oh no. It can't be. Thomas L. Friedman, Israel's faithful lapdog, has flunked an Israel purity test! And it's not just the good Rabbi who is foaming at the mouth. My "Tom Friedman" Google Alerts are coming fast and furious with everyone from Ruthfully Yours to Soccer Dad excoriating Tommy for the 'Hama rules" comparison.

This just isn't right. Tommy has been so good to the Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd, putting a reasonable face on their unreasonable views. They can't take away Tommy's lifetime AIPAC membership just like that!

Now I'm no Schmuley Boteach, but maybe I can help mend some fences here. (Although one can't help notice that half of the Rabbi's celebratory clients are divorced and the other half is, among other things, dead.) I know Tommy better than anyone so let me try to clear up what I think is a big misunderstanding.

First, the "Hama Rules" thing. Now I understand why blind Israel backers the phrase and its implied comparison to Assad so offensive; after all, it's not like Israel has ever used a bulldozer in a civilian neighborhood or anything like that. But you need to understand that Tommy really loves rules and these "Hama Rules" are some of his favorites. In fact, he's not shy about letting you know that he coined the phrase "Hama rules," which means, according to Tommy means there are "no rules at all" in the Middle East. Sure he could have just said Israel used an "anything goes" approach which probably would have been less offensive to the Israel zealots. But when given a choice between a simple well-known expression and a trademarked Friedman phrase that requires explanation, Tommy will choose the latter (self-promotion and it kills a paragraph!) every time. No offense meant.

Which brings us to the whole "not deterred by the prospect of civilian casualties" business. It's true that a Friend of Israel is always supposed to insist that Israel does more than any other country in the world to avoid civilian casualties. But what you have to understand is that Tommy didn't, as Rabbi Boteach claimed, "accuse Israel of using "Hama Rules" in its war against Hamas and Hezbollah. Tommy was not accusing; he thinks using Hama Rules -- and showing disregard for civilian life -- is a good thing (provided the civilians are, you know).

Tommy may have been impolitic, but he really wasn't criticizing Israel. Hama Rules is how Tommy lives his life! Or at least how he advices others to deal with those crazy Muslims in the Middle East. Tommy has essentially counseled Hamas Rules in Iraq ("what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand? Suck. On. This."); Afghanistan "a new attitude toward the battle" that includes acting "just a little bit crazy" and using "whatever tactics will make the terrorists feel bad, not make us feel good;" and Gaza, where Tommy urged Israel to "educate" Hamas by "inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population."

So please, Israel fanatics, will you take Tommy back? At this point, he's basically got no one else. Besides, if you're going to insist on such purity that even Tom Friedman can be excommunicated, that means no one is safe. Not Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Not even Soccer Dad.

Fire Tom Friedman.

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