Oren slams Friedman lobby jibe as ‘dangerous’

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel’s U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren said New York Times columnist Tom Friedman "strengthened a dangerous myth" when he said Congress was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

"This allegation is profoundly disturbing," Oren told JTA. "The term ‘Israel lobby’ implies the existence of a Zionist cabal wielding inordinate economic and political power. Unintentionally, perhaps, Friedman has strengthened a dangerous myth."

Friedman’s Dec. 13 column outlined concerns he said he shares with other American Jews about Israel’s direction.

He listed a number of anti-democratic indicators, but it was an aside in which he warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to take seriously standing ovations he enjoyed during his address to Congress last May, saying the applause "was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby," that sparked outrage.

A number of Congress members decried Friedman’s allegation, and Oren said Friedman missed the real admiration Israel has in the body.

"The 29 standing ovations that Prime Minister Netanyahu received from both houses of Congress, and from representatives of both parties, reflected the deep support of the American people for the State of Israel," Oren said. "That commitment is not — and never has to be — purchased."

Oren, who called Friedman "an internationally acclaimed columnist who frequently writes about Israel and is often critical of its policies," said the Netanyahu government was "sensitive for the concerns of American Jews" and is "committed to maintaining the strongest possible connection between the Jewish state and the Jewish communities in the U.S. and around the world."

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