Feb
21
2009

Tom Friedman's Terrorism Hypocrisy

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman referred disparagingly this week to the praise that terrorism allegedly receives in "mainstream Arab media, like Al Jazeera." In his February 18 column, Friedman wrote:

To be sure, Mumbai's Muslims are a vulnerable minority in a predominantly Hindu country. Nevertheless, their in-your-face defiance of the Islamist terrorists stands out. It stands out against a dismal landscape of predominantly Sunni Muslim suicide murderers who have attacked civilians in mosques and markets–from Iraq to Pakistan to Afghanistan–but who have been treated by mainstream Arab media, like Al Jazeera, or by extremist Islamist spiritual leaders and websites, as "martyrs" whose actions deserve praise.

Actually, Al Jazeera refers to such attacks as "suicide attacks"–as a quick search of the Al Jazeera website, where one can view programs online, can attest.

But if Friedman were really concerned about media praise of terrorism, he might start by raising alarms about a certain New York Times columnist by the name of Thomas Friedman.

In a January 14 column defending Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip, Friedman praised the 2006 Israeli attacks on Lebanon, which killed about 1,000 Lebanese civilians, as the "education" of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah:

Israel's counterstrategy was to use its air force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians–the families and employers of the militants–to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

See FAIR's Action Alert: "Terrorism on the NY Times Op-Ed Page (1/14/09).

Update: To be fair to Friedman, he was presumably talking about Al Jazeera's Arab-language service, not Al Jazeera English, when he wrote that "mainstream Arab media, like Al Jazeera," refer to suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Pakistan as "martyrs." So what do bloggers fluent in Arabic have to say about the columnist's assertion? One blogger who teaches Arabic and is the former editor of the journal Arab Media and Society wrote (Semi-Expert, 2/18/09): "Arab mainstream media, and certainly not Al Jazeera, the most mainstream of them all, in fact, don't refer to suicide bombers as martyrs." Friedman's claim was also challenged more harshly at the Angry Arab blog (2/18/09): "Can somebody tell this liar who does not understand Arabic, and who relies on MEMRI for his misconceptions about the Arab media that Al Jazeera does NOT refer to terrorists in Iraq as 'martyrs' and does not offer them praise?"