Friedman: Settlers = Shiite butchers

NY Times’ Tom Friedman today:

Question: What do the Shiite extremist leader Moktada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army have in common with the extremist Jewish settlers in Israel? Answer: More than you’d think. Both movements combine religious messianism, and a willingness to sacrifice their followers and others for absolutist visions, along with a certain disdain for man-made laws, as opposed to those from God. The big question in both Iraq and Israel today is also similar: Will the silent majorities in both countries finally turn against these extremist minorities to save their future?

Friedman has long drawn outrageous comparisons between Israeli settlers and Palestinian terrorists, but he breaks new ground by bringing American victims into his twisted equation.

Al-Sadr leads an armed movement attempting to drive Americans from Iraq by killing as many US soldiers as possible; the settler community has never been characterized by violence (let alone ‘sacrificing themselves’), large sections of that community are not following a messianic vision, and even the messianists have demonstrated a willingness to succomb to the Israeli majority should it come to that.

Friedman goes on to quote a highly disingenuous column by Haaretz’s Ari Shavit:

The young guys of Givati [an Israeli army unit] who were blown up with their armored personnel carrier on Tuesday in Gaza differ from all of their comrades who have been killed there since September 2000. They differ, because they are no longer the victims of extremist Islam. They are no longer the victims of Arafat’s insanity. They are the victims of the settlement enterprise.

Whatever one’s opinion on the ‘settlement enterprise’, last week’s deaths cannot possibly be attributed to it. Even under Sharon’s disengagement plan, the IDF would still act against terrorist cells in Gaza — the sort of missions that both groups of fallen soldiers from last week were taking part in.

Comments to: letters@nytimes.com

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