The age of Twitter: Rothman slams Friedman, gets (unfairly) slammed within minutes


Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) just released a statement calling on New York Times columnist Tom Friedman to apologize for saying lawmakers who last May applauded Benjamin Netanyahu are "bought and paid for":

Washington, DC — Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) released the following statement on Thomas Friedman’s column where he wrote that the "standing ovation [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby" in The New York Times this morning:

"Thomas Friedman’s defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish State of Israel, in his New York Times opinion piece today, is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the US. Mr. Friedman is not only wrong, but he’s aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the US-Israel relationship and its American supporters.

"I gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a standing ovation, not because of any nefarious lobby, but because it is in America’s vital national security interests to support the Jewish State of Israel and it is right for Congress to give a warm welcome to the leader of such a dear and essential ally. Mr. Friedman owes us all an apology.

The Twittersphere is having a right old time with this. Or perhaps a "new" time; — Rothman got slammed within minutes of the release. (In my day it took hours to dump on yer enemies, ya little snipes!)  

Michelle Goldberg and MJ Rosenberg both say this proves Friedman’s point somehow. Glenn Greenwald, channeling Beavis and Butthead, snorts that it’s "hilarious."

It’s Rothman who has a point, or part of one.


This is where he’s off point: Friedman is not "defaming" "the vast majority of American Jews who support the Jewish State of Israel;" in fact, Friedman claims to be speaking for them in his criticism of Netanyahu’s government (and not Israel per se).

But Rothman is absolutely right to score Friedman for insinuating that the applause Netanyahu garnered was "bought and paid for."

It’s a fundament of civil discourse that if you accuse someone of insincerity or dishonesty, you present evidence. In the realm of how lawmakers exercise their political prerogatives, simply declaring that they must be dishonest because their politics are wrong just does not cut it.

Rothman has been advocating for Israel forever, as have many of those who were applauding. Absent evidence that they disagree with Netanyahu, suggesting otherwise is a calumny.

There occasionally has been evidence of lawmakers turned because they feared pro-Israel donors (Jesse Helms is a good example.) But for the most part, as I pointed out in my previous post, support for Israel (and for Netanyahu) in Congress is acquired through the most natural means — belief systems. It is, yes, reinforced by donors — but in the same way that a parent "reinforces" a child’s love for baseball or for math and "downplays" his love for video games. You feed the natural impulses you see as beneficial.

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