Jan
14
2009

Terrorism on the New York Times Op-Ed Page

Friedman supports civilian suffering as "education"

New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman endorsed terrorism in a January 14 column defending Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip.

To answer his own question about Israel's plan--"What is the goal?"--Friedman referred back to the 2006 attacks on Lebanon, which killed about 1,000 Lebanese civilians. To Friedman, this was the "education" of the 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.

The "logical" plan, as Friedman explained it, is to punish civilians in the hopes that this will force the political change you prefer. This is precisely the "logic" of terrorists.

According to Friedman, this "education" worked on Hezbollah, and he hopes it will work in the current conflict: "In Gaza, I still can't tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to 'educate' Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population." Friedman's preference is for the terrorism "education."

This pro-terrorism argument has been made before by Friedman, who advocated the same sort of terror against Serbs, writing (4/6/99) that "people tend to change their minds and adjust their goals as they see the price they are paying mount. Twelve days of surgical bombing was never going to turn Serbia around. Let's see what 12 weeks of less than surgical bombing does. Give war a chance."

The New York Times has developed certain rules and guidelines for its opinion columnists over the years--they are not permitted to endorse political candidates, and they are generally expected to refrain from criticizing one another by name in print. Other policies have been made clear in the past--as when liberal columnist Paul Krugman was instructed not to refer to George W. Bush as "lying" during the 2000 campaign (Washington Post, 1/22/03).

Does the Times have a similar standard for columnists who endorse inflicting suffering on civilians? Or does the acceptability of advocating terrorism depend on who is being terrorized?

ACTION: Ask the Times if Thomas Friedman's column advocating terrorism against civilians in Gaza meets the paper's standards for its opinion columns.

CONTACT:

New York Times

Public Editor

Clark Hoyt

public@nytimes.com

(212) 556-7652

Editorial Page Editor

Andrew Rosenthal

editorial@nytimes.com

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