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July 28, 1989 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-07-28

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Dissillusionment

CLOSE-UP

Continued from preceding page

Friedman applied for it. Leon Daniel
remembers that there "was a lot of ap-
prehension in UPI about sending Ibm to
Beirut. 'You can't send a Jew to Beirut,'
everyone said. But Tom wanted the assign-
ment and he had earned it. He was also the
kind of guy who I believed could hit the
ground running and report as soon as he
landed. And he did."
Friedman not only ran. He excelled.
After two years for UPI in Beirut, he was
asked to join the New York Times. The
Paper of Record shipped him to New York
for a year to learn its "mysterious ways,"
as Friedman writes, then sent him back to
an even more mysterious place — Beirut.
Beirut was even more incendiary than
when Friedman had been there before.
With street battles raging everywhere, he
came up with the second of his Five Rules
of Middle Eastern Reporting:
In Lebanon, never leave a story on a
cease-fire. It will be over by the morning.
Soon, the U.S. Marines landed in Beirut
— and were easy marks for the ruling
Christian Phalangists and for a terrorist
who rammed his truck crammed with
12,000 pounds of TNT into the Marines'
barracks. Israel invaded Lebanon — and
got bogged down in a three-year occupa-
tion of the southern half of the country.
And worst of all, for Friedman personal-
ly, Israeli troops sealed off two Palestinian
refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut
and let Lebanese "search and mop up" the
camps. Friedman's "hour-by-hour recon-
struction of the massacre" was splashed
across four pages of the Times and won
him the first of his two Pulitzers. But the
prize had a price: Sabra and Shatilla
destroyed "every illusion [Friedman] ever
held about the Jewish state."
A week after the massacre, Friedman
had the only interview granted a western
journalist with Major General Amir Drori,
the commander of Israeli troops in Leba-
non. Friedman was "not professionally
detached" during the interview:
"I banged the table with my fist and
shouted at Drori, 'How could you do this?
How could you not see? How could you not
know?' But what I was really saying, in a
very selfish way, was 'How could you do
this to me, you bastards? I always thought
you were different. I always thought we
were different. I'm the only Jew in West
Beirut. What do I tell people now? What
do I tell myself?"
What Friedman ended up telling himself
was Rule No. 3 of his five-point Rules of
Middle Eastern Reporting:
There are no good guys here. There are
only bad guys and civilians. The minute
you start thinking that one side is all white
and the others are all black, it's time to go
home.
Gone, for Friedman, were the Israelis of
mythic proportions he had imagined back
in Minneapolis. Vanished were the Jews of
Zion as the tillers of the soil and the vir-

24,

FRIDAY, JULY 28, 1989

tuous keepers of the peace. Israel may not
have sunk as low in his estimation as the
Arab states, but it was not the Zionist
dream fulfilled, either.
"Israel is not Syria," he said. "It is not
Qatar. It is not Iraq. It is still a society of
values that the others don't possess. I
came to see Israelis as a bit more human
in terms of the original illusions I had
about them and was raised on. I'm not
comparing Israel to the Arabs, but I am
comparing it to the illusions that I had and
to Israel, the reality?'
Friedman is convinced that the tarnish-
ing of Israel's image that he witnessed
placed him in a unique situation. "I was

Now the Times'
diplomatic
correspondent,
Friedman hasn't kicked
his addiction to the
Middle East.

writing about things which shaped peo-
ple's views," he said. "At the same time, I
was the subject of them myself. I was
changing. Others were changing. What I
do in the book is reflect that change."
Israel had come to Friedman, the Israel-
ophile, in Beirut. If there had been no
Sabra, no Shatilla, if some lasting good
had come out of the Israeli invasion, Fried-
man may have felt less abused by the
Israelis, less resentful of how they had
turned his Jewish utopia into a nation like
any other. As his stories regarding Israelis'
behavior in Lebanon became more critical,
he came under increasing criticism from
American Jews that his reportage was a
betrayal.
"I make it clear," stated Friedman, "that
my responsibility is not Israel's image. Or
the PLO's image. My responsibility is
Israel's reality and the PLO's reality."
And as Friedman writes in his book, "A
Jew who wants to make a career working
in or studying about the Middle East will
always be a lonely man: He will never be
fully accepted or trusted by the Arabs, and
he will never be fully accepted or trusted
by the Jews."

Tarnished Luster
On June 1, 1984, Friedman drove from
Beirut to Jerusalem. The Times had ap-
pointed him chief of its Jerusalem bureau.
It was an historic move. It broke the
paper's long-standing taboo against send-
ing a Jew to cover Israel. And, said Joseph
Lelyveld, the Times' foreign editor, it also
let the paper have in Israel "probably the
best prepared correspondent any paper
had ever sent there. By being in Beirut, he
had lived, in effect, on the other side of the
war. He brought with him an enormous

range of experiences and studies."
In From Beirut to Jerusalem, Friedman
writes that when he entered Israel, he
entered a country that was similar to
Lebanon in at least one respect: It had
"been forced to answer anew the most
fundamental question: What kind of state
do we want to have — with what boun-
daries, what system of power sharing, and
what values?"
In Lebanon, for the most part, Friedman
was a witness, an observer. Though fright-
ened or just plain disgusted by much of
what he saw, he had no great emotional in-
vestment in the outcome, other than the
saving of as many lives as possible. Then
the Israelis came into Lebanon, and along-
side journalistic objectivity came another
element, that of a saddened, angry and
maybe bitter Jew.
Friedman is "sure" that the shift in his
perception of Israel affected the way he
covered the Middle East, but he "can't
point to anything specific. Our perceptions
are a prism of our attitudes. If my percep-
tions changed, then the prism through
which I looked at the world changed."
His ultimate criterion for determining
the truth of a situation remained, he said,
"credulity. How much do you believe what
one person was telling you? How much do
you believe what another person was tell-
ing you? Once burned, twice shy."
No one accuses Friedman of being shy,
not after 10 years in the Middle East and
being burned many a time. This is a guy
so burned that his Fourth Rule of Middle
Eastern Reporting advises:
Never take a concession from the mouth
of the person doing the conceding. What
people tell you in private is irrelevant. All
that counts is what they'll say in public.
Friedman has been accused of being "ar-
rogant" or "aloof" or maybe uncertain how
to handle his quasi-celebrity status as the
reigning reporter of the globe's most vola-
tile region. But shy he is not, and he is cer-
tainly not shy about lambasting what he
found awaiting him in Israel five years ago.

He is harsh about Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir, whose insistence on more
settlements on the West Bank equalled, to
Friedman, Yassir Arafat's rejection of
United Nation's Security Council Resolu-
tion 242 calling for Israeli withdrawal from
territories in exchange for Arab recogni-
tion of Israel's right to live in "secure and
recognized borders." Harsh on the Israeli
Labor Party of 1968, one of whose govern-
ment ministers, Yigal Allon, covertly
engineered the first of the West Bank set-
tlements. Harsh on the Labor Party of to-
day, which ignores the settlements' "per-
version of the secular, socialist and
humanistic ethics at the core of Labor's
ideology?'
Maybe because Friedman sees today's
Israel as driven more by materialism than
ethics, he repeatedly uses marketing
metaphors in From Beirut to Jerusalem

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