Friedman: The Right is Going Dangerously Crazy

Thomas Friedman draws some disturbing parallels between present day America, with a right wing going absolutely nuts, and Israel in the administration of Yitzhak Rabin: Where Did ‘We’ Go?

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

UPDATE at 9/30/09 11:52:17 am:

RNC chairman Michael Steele calls Thomas Friedman a ‘nut job’. And this is why things are getting so dangerous.

Friedman wrote: “[Yitzhak’s] political opponents winked at it all.”

Steele is actually reinforcing this point, by lashing out at Friedman instead of acknowledging the existence of the problem.

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