Antisemitic writer who claimed Jews run Congress to speak at a prominent NY synagogue – opinion

Friedman has repeatedly accused Jews of controlling Congress and/or the White House.

By Moshe Phillips

One of America’s most prominent synagogues, Temple Emanu-El, in Manhattan, will be hosting a two-night “Virtual Summit on Antisemitism” later this month. And then, three weeks later, it will host a talk by a pundit who has claimed Jews bribe Congress.

Does that make any sense?

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote in his Dec. 13, 2011 column that the standing ovations Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received when he addressed Congress that year were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

Yet Friedman is scheduled to speak on “Israel on My (Troubled) Mind” at Temple Emanu-El on March 18. Isn’t that ironic? The man who publicly accused American Jews of “paying” congressmen to support Israel is going to speak at a synagogue about how troubled he is about Israel.

That “bought and paid for” slur was not a one-time outburst. Friedman has repeatedly accused Jews of controlling Congress and/or the White House.

For example, in his November 19, 2013 column in the Times, Friedman claimed there is “a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.”

Also well worth noting is his infamous New York Times column of February 5, 2004, in which Friedman declared that Israel’s prime minister has “had 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 Mr. Sharon dictates …”

Friedman added that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Jewish lobbyists, Vice President Cheney, and unnamed “political handlers” were “all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing [regarding Israel].” At the time, former New York City mayor Ed Koch said (on Bloomberg Radio) that Friedman’s statement was “an anti-Semitic slur.” How can anyone disagree with Mayor Koch on this?

If a white supremacist accused Jews of bribing members of Congress, no synagogue in the world would invite him as a speaker. Yet here is one of Manhattan’s most prominent synagogues hosting a newspaper columnist who has made that exact same accusation.

Before anybody starts accusing me of trying to “censor” or “cancel” Friedman, let me be very clear: I am not saying Friedman should be banned from Temple Emanu-El, or prevented from appearing at any other synagogue or Jewish institution. All I’m saying is that Emanu-El has a moral obligation to explain to its members exactly who it is that they are inviting.

The advertisements for Friedman’s upcoming talk report only that he is a “bestselling author,” and a Pulitzer Prize winner who is known for his “clear and compelling language.”

I, for one, find Friedman’s language about Jews controlling Congress less than compelling. Not to mention the vile slurs that he included in his book From Beirut to Jerusalem. There he mocked Israel as “Yad Vashem with an air force.” He claimed Israel’s leaders —both Labor and Likud– had “encouraged” what he called “the ‘Holocausting’ of the Israeli psyche.” He wrote: “Today –unfortunately– the teaching of the Holocaust is an essential element of Israeli high-school education and in the Israeli army officers’ course.” [Pages 280-282]

Think about the last sentence. Every Jew I know regards Holocaust education as vital. I’m sure the good men and women of Temple Emanu-El do, too. Yet they are giving a platform to someone who mocks and derides Holocaust education.

America is a free country, and a synagogue can invite any speaker it chooses, even one who says Jews pay off Congress, or slanders Israel. But the synagogue’s members, and the Jewish public, have a right to know the truth about who the speaker is, and what he has said and written about Jews and Israel.

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