Friedman responds to criticism over ‘bought and paid for’ jab at Congress

WASHINGTON (JTA) — New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said that he should have used a more "precise term" when he wrote that congressional ovations for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

"In retrospect I probably should have used a more precise term like ‘engineered’ by the Israel lobby — a term that does not suggest grand conspiracy theories that I don’t subscribe to,” Friedman told The New York Jewish Week on Tuesday.

In a column last week about what he said were concerns that American Jews had with Israel’s direction, Friedman sparked outrage when he wrote that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should not overly invest in applause he garnered when he addressed Congress in May.

"That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby," Friedman wrote.

Among the rebukes was one from Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington.  

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

Friedman told The Jewish Week that he stood by his overall argument that American Jews are deeply worried about where Israel is going today.

"It would have helped people focus on my argument, which I stand by 100 percent,” he said.

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