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A Reply to “What Is Happening to Our World: The Israel-Hamas War Was Not Inevitable”

How Thomas Friedman Rationalizes U.S.-Backed Israeli Genocide... and Peddles Imperialist-Minded Idiocy

Over the past 3½ months, Israel has murdered more than 23,000 people in Gaza, including 10,000 children. Israel has destroyed over 80 percent of the housing in Gaza, forcing people into the streets. Gaza’s population is starving on a level seen nowhere else in the world today; disease spreads everywhere as its people are denied even the most basic sanitary facilities, and people—including children—now must undergo medical procedures including amputation made necessary by Israeli bombing without even anesthesia. The United States has funded all this and provided Israel crucial political and diplomatic support.

And who’s to blame? According to Thomas Friedman, the influential foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, it is not Israel with its horrific bombing, blockade and military invasion... not the United States with its huge financial, military, political and diplomatic support of Israel... but the people of Gaza!

The cause of it all, according to this murderous mouthpiece for U.S. imperialism, is said to be the “bad choices” made by the ruling party of Gaza, Hamas.

Friedman’s December 29 “What Is Happening to Our World” column in the Times, subtitled “The Israel-Hamas War Was Not Inevitable,” is a laundry list of distortions and obscene rationalizations for Zionist occupation and apartheid. Friedman would have his readers believe that everything that has happened to the Palestinian people, at least since 2005—and not least, Israel’s genocidal onslaught of the last three months—is the result of those “bad choices” made by bad Palestinian actors.

Friedman turns reality upside down. For 18 years, Israel has trapped the people of Gaza in what is effectively the world’s largest open-air prison—restricting free movement and controlling critical aspects of life and survival of over two million Palestinians. In fact, this “prestigious journalist” is nothing but a vicious choir-singer for imperialism.

A Fairy Tale of “Choice”

Friedman tells a poisonous fairy tale designed to blame the victim, the Palestinian people, for Israel’s decimation of Gaza. He starts this story in the middle—in 2005, when Israel pulled out of Gaza and “allowed” Palestinians to have elections under brutal conditions of confinement and control. Friedman says, “Palestinians were left, for the first time ever, with total control over a piece of land.... [I]t was theirs to build anything they wanted.” (Emphasis added.)

Friedman argues that if Hamas had not rejected the “peace agreement” that the U.S. and Western imperialists sought to impose on the Palestinians—a proposed “two-state” arrangement in which a bogus Palestinian state would be surrounded and dominated by Israel and ruled by a puppet-like Palestinian authority—then Palestine could have “chosen to build its own Dubai... [that] the world would have lined up to aid and invest in.” (Dubai is the wealthy commercial center of the United Arab Emirates.)

Let’s unpack his lies and nonsense.

The Absurd Comparison of Gaza with Dubai-United Arab Emirates

A) The geopolitical and economic reality of Dubai

Let’s start with Friedman’s love affair with Dubai. Dubai is an “emirate” ruled by a royal dynasty. It is part of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) that shares a border with Saudi Arabia and is on the coast of the Persian Gulf. The outward face of Dubai is a city awash in glittering wealth, including the world’s tallest building and a thriving tourist industry. Friedman is intoxicated, claiming that what made this all possible has been “the visionary leadership” of Dubai-UAE.

This is utter bullshit. In fact, Dubai-UAE is an example of militarism, environmentally destructive dependency on oil, the super-exploitation of migrants, and open blatant dictatorship—all under the domination of and in service to the USA.

*Militarism: The UAE is a military tool of the United States. It hosts U.S. military personnel and naval ships at UAE military and port facilities. It buys sophisticated U.S. military equipment. It plays an integral role in safeguarding U.S. control over shipping lanes and combating Iran’s regional influence.

*Planet-destroying reliance on fossil fuelsDubai’s prosperity is tightly connected to the destructive dependency of the world economy on oil. The ruling classes in this region of the Middle East benefit from ownership of the world’s largest oil and natural gas reserves, as well as lower production costs than other regions. The rulers of the UAE have been able to pour some of the vast earnings from global oil sales into “modernizing” the economy—building up some industry, real estate, and banking. Dubai’s economy is not based on oil—but its bloated and parasitic development is inseparable from oil production and finance.

*Super-exploitation: Dubai’s supposed economic “miracle” rests on the super-exploitation of migrant labor. Dubai’s workforce is mainly from South Asia and parts of Africa. Ninety percent of the UAE’s population is made up of foreign nationals, most of them low-wage, super-exploited workers. They face cruel conditions of employment: many have been trafficked into forced labor; construction workers toil in extreme heat in seven-day, 12-hour shifts; non-payment of wages is common. Commercial sex exploitation is widespread. Human rights organizations have condemned this situation as modern-day slavery.

Workers in Dubai


A security guard tries to restrain angry super-exploited immigrant construction workers who left the Dubai Airport after a wall collapsed at the site killing more than eight workers and injuring many more in 2004.    Photo: AP

*Blatant dictatorship: Dubai-United Arab Emirates is ruled with an iron political and religious fist. Political and cultural expression is closely monitored and censored; dissenters and protesters subject to arbitrary arrest and torture; same-sex relations are criminalized.

B) The Bloody Reality of Gaza

Gaza is a tiny strip of land that borders Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the most densely populated and impoverished spaces in the world. Again, Gaza is rightly described as “the world’s largest open-air prison.”

Israel-Gaza locator map


Gaza located in red rectangle.   

*Despite Hamas’s “rule,” Israel has actually controlled Gaza through military blockade, border control and periodic brutal wars. Israel seized Gaza from Egypt in 1967 and directly controlled Gaza until 2005, when Israel withdrew troops. Hamas won elections in 2006 and has formally governed Gaza since.

But Israel has retained control over the airspace and all land and sea borders (except for Gaza’s border with Egypt). Israel does not allow the free movement of people in and out of Gaza. It bans the import of certain technologies and essential materials. And since 2005, Israel has launched repeated military operations against Gaza that have destroyed infrastructure, housing, agricultural land and crops, educational centers, and health facilities.

Conditions of life in Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip, 2020.


November 25, 2020: Conditions of life in Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip.    Photo: AP

Before the latest genocidal onslaught, 65 percent of Gaza’s population was food insecure, 45 percent unemployed, 65 percent living in poverty, and 80 percent dependent on international aid. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development summarized conditions this way: “Gaza has experienced 16 years of de-development and suppressed human potential and the right to development.”

*The utter idiocy, dishonesty, and immorality of Friedman’s notion of Gaza becoming a new Dubai.There is no comparison between Gaza and Dubai-UAE. Gaza is not rich in oil. To even consider “replicating” Dubai would require the same kind of slavish commercial, financial, and military relations with the dominant imperialist powers, notably the U.S., that Dubai’s rulers have. If Friedman wants a Palestinian version of Dubai, he wants a super-exploited labor force and vicious repression.

And what in the fucking world does any of this have to do with liberation, emancipation, and saving the planet from environmental catastrophe?


Friedman’s Bullshit “Dubai Model” for Gaza Is Neither Possible nor Desirable!

The U.S. says it wants a “two-state solution” for Palestine. This “solution” is a formula that preserves the Zionist state and its strategic role as a nuclear-armed watchdog and attack dog for imperial interests in the Middle East with a feeble, sliced-up and dominated Palestine that would be a “state” in name only.

But according to Friedman, the “refusal” of Hamas to go for that solution in 2005 and chase after the mirage of becoming a “new Dubai” is somehow the cause of all the disasters that followed, including the current genocidal onslaught. Friedman blames Hamas and, in fact, all those Palestinians who reject Zionist domination. In reality the responsibility for this genocide is clearly on Israel, which must be held fully accountable for this—along with its imperialist backers, above all the U.S. ruling class.

The False Equation of the Vietnamese Liberation Struggle with Hamas

Friedman says that Hamas “chose” Hanoi in 1968 over Dubai in 2023. Let’s return to this “Hanoi” part of his argument. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. In 1968, the Vietnamese people were waging a righteous national liberation struggle against the U.S. genocidal attempt of 1960-75 to crush liberation.

The U.S. deployed 500,000 U.S. troops to murder and terrorize; the U.S. dropped the greatest tonnage of bombs on Vietnam of any country in history; napalm and chemical warfare laid waste to Vietnamese villages and farmland. The ultimate death toll was three million Vietnamese.

Tunnel warfare was an integral part of a genuine national liberation struggle that mobilized millions of Vietnamese, with women playing a vital role, and which finally, after 15 years, defeated the U.S. By contrast, Hamas is not a force for liberation. Its program is theocratic and patriarchal, and its methods of struggle targeting innocent civilians have nothing to do with real revolution. But Hamas’s terror does not come anywhere close to Israel’s genocidal terror, occupation, and military operations.

The only real comparison to Vietnam in 1968 is between the “choice” made by the U.S. to wage genocidal war on the oppressed people of Vietnam and the equally genocidal war that Israel has chosen to wage against the oppressed Palestinians! 

Villagers massacred by U.S. Army troops at My Lai in Vietnam, March 16, 1968.

Villagers massacred by U.S. Army troops at My Lai in Vietnam, March 16, 1968.   

U.S. slaughter of Vietnamese, 1968
November 3, 2023 Israeli airstrike outside al-Shifa hospital killed and injured many Palestinians.

November 3, 2023 Israeli airstrike outside Al-Shifa hospital killed and injured many Palestinians.    Photo: AP

U.S.-Israeli Slaughter of Palestinians, 2023
BAsics 1:6 tall


The Real Choice, the Only Real Solution

What is today Israel, the West Bank (the territory west of the Jordan River) occupied by Israel, and Gaza—taken together—constitute the historic homeland of Palestine. Some 80 percent of the Arab-Palestinian population of what would become Israel were expelled by the Zionists or fled in 1948—and the Zionists have repeatedly displaced, policed, and mass murdered Palestinians over the last 75 years. Now high-ranking figures in the Israeli government are calling for “voluntary migration” of Palestinians from Gaza—code for permanent dispossession and “ethnic cleansing.”

The only just and viable solution to the historic injustice done to and unremitting suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people is a revolutionary, secular Palestine of Palestinians and Jews.

It is NOT the case that the only choices before humanity are between retrograde Islamic and other religious fundamentalism, or the “modern” exploitation and oppressive rule of imperialism.

There is another way: an all-the-way revolution guided by the new communism developed by Bob Avakian. A revolution to free humanity from all oppression... in which economic development serves the all-round needs of people... in which the liberation of women is a touchstone... where intellectual and cultural life and dissent flourish... a liberatory socialist society that protects, not plunders, the planet.

This revolution is urgently needed and possible. And THIS is the choice that people all over the planet need to make.

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From the genocide in Gaza, to the growing threat of world war between nuclear powers, to escalating environmental devastation… the capitalist-imperialist system ruling over us is a horror for billions around the world and is tearing up the fabric of life on earth. Now the all-out battle within the U.S. ruling class, between fascist Republicans and war criminal Democrats, is coming to a head—likely during, or before, the coming elections—ripping society apart unlike anything since the Civil War. 

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