Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist and Top Global Thinker, has never been particularly associated with human empathy.
Whether he’s “allegedly being a total asshole to some poor Amtrak employee,” as Wonkette put it, or inviting Iraqis to “Suck. On. This,” he’s just not your go-to guy on compassion.
He does, however, regularly feel moved to put himself in Israeli shoes. For example, after the Israeli military slaughtered almost 1,200 people — most of them civilians — in Lebanon in 2006, he offered the assessment: “It was not pretty, but it was logical.” He advised the Israelis to pursue the same logic in the Gaza Strip.
This week, Friedman took it upon himself to occupy three different sets of Israeli shoes. His August 12 op-ed, titled “If I Were an Israeli Looking at the Iran Deal,” begins: “With the U.S. and Israel openly arguing over the Iran nuclear deal, I’ve asked myself this: How would I look at this deal if I were an Israeli grocer, an Israeli general or the Israeli prime minister?”
Leaving aside the military and prime ministerial footwear for the moment, let’s focus on the first option — and specifically the question: Why an Israeli grocer? Why not an Israeli hotel clerk, janitor, taxi driver?
Those blissfully unacquainted with the minutiae of the Friedman oeuvre might not know that he has long had a thing for grocers. In his very first book From Beirut to Jerusalem, originally published in 1989, he determines that America must play four simultaneous diplomatic roles in the Middle East: obstetrician, friend, grocer, and real son-of-a-bitch. Read more at Jacobin.