Thomas Friedman on the flotilla raid: It was definitely a "setup"

The official Mustache of Elite Opinion has nothing against Turkey, of course, but they were asking for it

Published June 2, 2010 3:55PM (EDT)

SkyLounges across this flat world, take note! Opinion guru Thomas Friedman has issued his important, moderate, hot, crowded opinion on the disastrous raid by Israeli commandos on a humanitarian aid flotilla headed to Gaza!

Thomas Friedman is not mad at Turkey for forcing Israel to raid their ships in international waters and kill at least four Turks. He is just... disappointed:

As a friend of both Turkey and Israel, it has been agonizing to watch the disastrous clash between Israeli naval commandos and a flotilla of "humanitarian"activists seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Personally, I think both Israel and Turkey have gotten out of balance lately, and it is America's job to help both get back to the center -- urgently.

Yes, Thomas Friedman, friend to Turkey, places "humanitarian" in scare quotes. But there is his diagnosis: the sides are "out of balance." Back to the center with you two! Everyone has to get back to the Thomas Friedman-defined "center!"

(Thomas Friedman knows how to solve this problem in the Gulf of Mexico, too: the oil must get back to the center of the pipe.)

"I have long had a soft spot for Turkey," Friedman then says. Because "Turkey's role" is "one of the critical pivot points that helps keep the world stable." So... I guess traders calculate Turkey's role to decide if they are bullish or bearish on world stability, then? That is, I think, what that means.

But now Thomas Friedman is done proving that he is not just reflexively pro-Israel and anti-those-other-guys. He loves Turkey. Turkey is his friend. But, come on, this is all totally Turkey's fault.

This is Friedman's problem with Turkey: they complain way too much, and too loudly, about the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Turkish leader has been complaining so, so much about how that blockade is immoral and inhumane, lately! Why can't he just shut up about it?

I have no problem with Turkey or humanitarian groups loudly criticizing Israel. But I have a big problem when people get so agitated by Israel's actions in Gaza but are unmoved by Syria's involvement in the murder of the prime minister of Lebanon, by the Iranian regime's killing of its own citizens demonstrating for the right to have their votes counted, by Muslim suicide bombers murdering nearly 100 Ahmadi Muslims in mosques in Pakistan on Friday and by pro-Hamas gunmen destroying a U.N.-sponsored summer camp in Gaza because it wouldn't force Islamic fundamentalism down the throats of children.

Ok, but, Tom. It is nice that you have no problem with Turkey or humanitarian groups (where did those scare quotes go?) criticizing Israel, loudly. Except that the rest of your paragraph there seems to describe the problem you have with that.

The "why can't Israel get away with being as vile and violent and criminal as the worst nations and terror groups in the world??" argument does not reflect well on Israel's knee-jerk defenders. How many of those states and regimes are explicitly supported, armed, and funded by the government of the United States of America? How often are the actions of the Iranian regime repeatedly and vociferously defended on the New York Times op-ed page and by partisan cable news hosts from both sides of the crazy divide?

But we are not even to the best part, yet! Emphasis mine:

Turkey has a unique role to play linking the East and West. If Turkey lurches too far East, it may become more popular on some Arab streets, but it would lose a lot of its strategic relevance and, more importantly, its historic role as a country that can be Muslim, modern, democratic [Thomas Friedman has an interesting view of Turkish history! --AP] -- and with good relations with both Israel and the Arabs. Once this crisis passes, it needs to get back in balance.

Ditto Israel. There is no question that this flotilla was a setup. Israel's intelligence failed to fully appreciate who was on board, and Israel's leaders certainly failed to think more creatively about how to avoid the very violent confrontation that the blockade-busters wanted.

No question! No question, at all, that this flotilla was a setup, designed to trick the Israeli commandos into boarding it, from a helicopter. That is why those "humanitarian" activists were so well-armed with... poles and chairs and sticks and things one would find on a boat. They had set a trap, for Israel, to trick Israel into killing between 9 and 20 people. (But because Friedman is very balanced he admits that it was very stupid of Israel to fall for this trap and kill those people.)

You must always remember that while reasonable people consider Thomas Friedman to be a joke -- a barely literate cartoon mustache of oversimplification whose understanding of global politics is slightly less comprehensive than a USA Today infographic and who possesses about as much insight into world events as a lightly vandalized Wikipedia stub entry -- the sort of people who ineptly manage and run the nation take him very seriously and look to him to form their opinions about important subjects outside (and sometimes relating to) their immediate expertise, be that foreclosing on families or running the Defense Department for the Bush Administration.

So this is the official Moderate Elite Opinion on the flotilla raid: Maybe Israel could've found a smarter way to prevent basic goods from reaching the people of Gaza, but those "humanitarian" activists were fucking asking for it.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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