Church of the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem Lithograph by Louis Haghe from an original by David Roberts.
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When New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman travels to the Middle East, he brings with him a deep devotion to the state of Israel, and a longing for what he thinks ought to be.
In a recent column he addresses that longing in these opening paragraphs:
"At the Syrian Border, Golan Heights -- Who knew that the future of warfare would present itself with such serene beauty -- like one of those warm 19th-century David Roberts landscapes of the Middle East.
"How so? I'm traveling along the Israeli border road at the intersection of Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and off in the distance there's a freshly snow-capped Mount Hermon, begging for skiers. It's framed by Lebanese and Syrian villages nestled into terraced hillsides, crowned by minarets and crosses. The only sound you hear is the occasional rifle burst from Lebanese hunters."
With his quiet opening of what ought to be, Friedman sets a mood designed to lure his readers into a quiet David Roberts painting. As frequent travelers know, Roberts was the Englishman who captures a tranquility from the 1800s, a tranquility which Friedman quickly dispatches:
"But this is no Roberts painting. It's actually the second-most-dangerous spot on the planet -- after the Korean Peninsula -- and it's the idyllic backdrop to what 21st-century warfare looks like.
"Because hidden in these villages, hillsides and pine forests you can find a state -- Israel -- trying to navigate a battlefield with a rival state's army (Syria), a rival regional superpower (Iran), a global superpower (Russia), super-empowered mercenaries and maniacs (Hezbollah and ISIS) and local tribes and sects (Druse and Christians)."
Hold up there, Brother Thomas, do you expect us to buy this one-sided Friedman word-portrait that describes the state of Israel as a peaceful neighbor forced to live in "a tough neighborhood," a favorite Friedman phrase?
Parse that "hidden in these villages..." paragraph. View it "realistically," as Reinhold Niebuhr should have done when he was alive.
The "battlefield" Friedman describes is filled with a "rival states's army (Syria), [and] a rival regional superpower (Iran)," two "rivals" that were established as states within borders drawn by the British. They were there long before invading Zionist colonialists arrived in the neighborhood and moved in with their peaceful Jewish villagers..
Friedman sounds like Donald Trump when he identifies Hezbollah and ISIS as "super-empowered mercenaries and maniacs." As for the Druse and Christians, they are tossed aside as "local tribes and sects."
Come now, Thomas, "tribes and sects"?
I have labored under the impression that the Christian community has a pretty strong religious claim on land where Jesus was born, lived, died and was raised from the dead, to save the world.
Christians of the world provide Israel with tourist profits, and many of them deplore the treatment of Christians in Palestine by Israel's occupation army.