The youth of Tahrir Square won a mere 1.5 percent of the votes in the Egyptian parliamentary elections, as opposed to the 72 percent that went to Islamist parties. These results are important on a number of levels, including that of the media. A year ago, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published a "Letter from Cairo," in which he lashed out at Israel for being short-sighted in its refusal to cooperate with the Egyptian opposition. Among other things, Friedman wrote: "For anyone who spent time in Tahrir Square these last three weeks, one thing was very obvious: Israel was not part of this story at all. This was about Egypt and about the longing of Egyptians for the most basic human rights, which were described to me by opposition Egyptian newspaper editor Ibrahim Essa as 'freedom, dignity and justice.' It doesn’t get any more primal than that. And when young Egyptians looked around the region and asked, ‘Who is with us in this quest and who is not?’ the two big countries they knew were against them were Israel and Saudi Arabia. Sad. The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh, right to the very end."
Friedman wrote that Israel's request that the White House not abandon former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "disgusted" the Americans. He ridiculed Israel's claim of being the only stable, democratic country in the region. "Rather than even listening to what the youth in Tahrir Square were saying and then trying to digest what it meant, this Israeli government took two approaches during the last three weeks: frantically calling the White House and telling the president he must not abandon Pharaoh -- to the point where the White House was thoroughly disgusted with its Israeli interlocutors -- and using the opportunity to score propaganda points: 'Look at us! Look at us! We told you so! We are the only stable country in the region, because we are the only democracy.'’’
He added: "I am more worried today about Israel’s future than I have ever been, because I think that at a time of great change in this region -- and we have just seen the beginnings of it -- Israel today has the most out of touch, inbred, unimaginative and cliche-driven cabinet it has ever had."
Is it possible that the "most important journalist in the world" does not understand the reality on which he is reporting? Or, in gentler terms, is he simply messing with the minds of his minions? In light of (or perhaps in the shadow of) the recent election results in Egypt, who was actually driven by cliches and peddled an idealism disconnected from reality?
I am writing about Friedman once again because his conduct serves as a cautionary tale about global liberals' good intentions (including those of the Israeli Left). They are sometimes exposed as irresponsible and disconnected from a deeper understanding of reality. We all strive to be humanitarian, but this can't apply only to the short term, and then leave behind a path of destruction. It's easy to garner praise from naive idealists and then let others clean up after you. This humanitarianism has caused a great deal of damage on more than one occasion.
Is this an example of the deep wisdom of our sages, who warned that those who are cruel to the merciful will end up being merciful to the cruel? We must be careful of idealistic intentions that don't take into account the ever-changing circumstances in different parts of the world, and mainly the differences between Western and Middle Eastern mentalities.
Reality has its own ways of humbly putting us in our place.