OU Denounces Friedman Op-Ed in New York Times

Posted on February 11, 2004 In Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish Synagogue organization, strongly criticized Thomas Friedman’s op-ed in the New York Times (February 5th, 2004) “A Rude Awakening.” Professor Richard B. Stone, Chairman of the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs said:

“We deplore Thomas Friedman’s specious accusations blaming the Israeli government and supporters of Israel for the current impasse in the peace process. Does Thomas Friedman really believe that ‘the failure to forge, empower and legitimize a modern center … Palestine’ is attributable to the actions or inactions of the ‘Bush team’ and Sharon? As much as all of us wish it were otherwise, is it not far more likely that the inability of a Palestinian ‘moderate center’ to seize the role of Peace Partner is about Palestinians and not about Bush, Clinton, Sharon, Netanyahu, Barak, Peres, or Rabin?”

“But never mind that,” continued Professor Stone. “Friedman is entitled to express views that miss the point. What really upsets us is the statement that PM Sharon has ‘George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office…surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s ready to do whatever Sharon dictates, and by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on Israel in an election year-all conspiring to make sure the President does nothing.’”

“A low point in the proud history of America-Israel relations occurred when the President’s father (the first President Bush) lamented his ‘lonely’ position in a sea of pro-Israel Jewish lobbyists. Friedman places the current President in an even more powerless position. Now the Jewish lobbyists have been joined by Christian lobbyists, in an alliance with Vice President Cheney and Bush’s political handlers, and Friedman calls the whole thing a ‘conspiracy.’”

“Where does one start? President Bush has insisted from the beginning, as he explained in the famous speech of June 24, 2002, that step one is a cessation of Palestinian terrorist violence. Everything he has done, or not done, since then, in or out of an election year, has been true to that very sound premise. The notion that Sharon controls Cheney is beyond preposterous. And the notion that a Sharon-dominated Cheney is conspiring with Jewish and Christian lobbyists and election year political handlers to coerce the President to continue the position he has correctly taken all along is to put a preposterous idea in the form of an accusation with sinister overtones.”

“Finally, why did Friedman not mention that the President’s attitude and behavior toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict, centered on cessation of Palestinian violence as the first step, is also supported in the Congress and by the American people? Would that, to Friedman’s frustration, turn his ‘conspiracy’ into a ‘consensus’?”

“We share Friedman’s concern that there may be a future Islamic Republic of Palestine but that is not because of President Bush’s policies. Rather it is because of the predictable failure of the Palestinian Authority to live up to its commitments to stop the campaign of terror, which has only yielded disastrous results not only for Israel, but also for the Palestinians themselves.”