December 11, 2019

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  • Arab in NYC: Thomas Friedman spoofed

    A typical Cairo taxi.


    I was on my way from Tahrir Square — where I was searching for the Egyptian Nelson Mandela — to catch the next flight to JFK, when I suddenly realized I’d left my new iPhone5 behind in my luxury suite at the Nile Hotel.

    Normally, this would not have disturbed me in the least, since the NY Times buys me these iPhones like they’re going out of style, not to mention the sleek American Express Black Card I use to pay for my outrageous international roaming charges. But this particular iPhone was a special one given to me by a good friend in NY, congressman Peter T. King, who is the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. King had of course pretended the gift was symbolic of our deep and enduring friendship, but we both knew that what he really wanted was better pub in the Times, or else.

    The beauty of that particular iPhone was that it included a special DHS-sponsored social media app called HajeeFinder, which immediately identifies the location of any potential anti-Semitic activity anywhere in NYC. Don’t ask me how this thing works, but I understand it was developed by the Israelis, who certainly know a thing or two about cyberwar: just ask President Ahmadinejad, or better yet, his personal photographer, whom I was hoping to interview over lunch at the Pierre later this week.

    Now the real hassle was that I had planned to use HajeeFinder to locate the Russell Tribunal on Palestine session in Manhattan, since there wasn’t any mention of this game-changing event in America’s newspaper of record, unfortunately, and I had of course forgotten where it was being held, given how intensely busy I usually am — traveling around the Arab world all the time, as I do, and writing whatever specious, connect-the-dots rambling nonsense I can think of to fill my pretentious column. I was going to have to improvise, the way resourceful journalists do in situations like this.

    But first, I had to take care of my little iPhone problem.

    So I got on the horn with my good friend ambassador Anne W. Patterson (who’s probably not going to be stationed in Cairo much longer, I’m afraid), using one of my other iPhones, and asked her to help me out. Naturally, she was extremely diplomatic about my screw-up, and said she would immediately send Abdou, her reliable personal farash, to find it, as soon as he had cleaned up the trash from all the rioting, wall-climbing and flag burning of the past week at the embassy.

    What a relief!

    My taxi driver to Cairo International Airport turned out to be an Egyptian, which did not surprise me in the least. I noticed he was glancing at me in the rear view mirror, while we were stuck in a traffic jam around Mubarak’s old place in Heliopolis, when he turned around and said: “Are you Thomas Friedman, the famous, deep-thinking Jewish liberal New York Times columnist who has all the solutions to the problems of the Middle East?”


    “Which elitist and completely meaningless global conference are you going to this time? The World Economic Forum in Davos?”

    “No. Nothing like that.”

    “The LennonOno Peace Award ceremonies in Reykjavik, Iceland?

    “Not even close.”

    “What then?”

    “The Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York,” I confessed, sheepishly.

    “Why are you going to this useless, kangaroo court tribunal? First, it has no teeth. And you already know exactly what they are going to say.”

    “Do you?”

    “Of course. They will discuss Bishop Tutu’s latest thoughts on apartheid. And Chomsky will breathe fire and brimstone about the long-term prospects for Israel. “

    “How true.”

    “Then some aging French economist will reminisce about the good old days in ’67, when Sartre and Russell held the first tribunal against the Vietnam war. Someone else will say Bibi Nittin’ should be dragged before the ICC. And Angela Davis will mention in elegant French that we need to develop a coherent resistance strategy.”

    “Right on. Anything else?”

    “David Wildman will say what he always does, that the Christian Right in the US will support till doomsday Israel’s colonial-settler ideology, no matter what, because of the coming Rapture. There will be some academic theorizing by a token Palestinian, no doubt Saleh Abd Al-Jawad, as to whether the term ‘sociocide’ has legal meaning and can be rooted to existing international law. And he’ll movingly insist that his real name is not Saleh Abd Al-Jawad, which is one given to him by the Zionist occupiers.”

    I was almost in tears at this point. But he persisted, despite the pain and suffering caused by his cruel and harsh, but not off-the-mark rant.

    “Finally they’ll wrap things up with much hemming and hawing about transforming discourse into public, non-violent action and resolve to maybe one day, sometime soon, try to ratchet up the BDS movement. And none of this in the end will do a damn thing to help the Palestinians regain their lands in the West Bank, or anywhere else.”

    “So what do you propose be done?”

    “I don’t propose anything, ya khawaga basha. I am just an Egyptian taxi driver.”

    He paused for a moment.

    “But I will tell you this. The Palestinians have a proverb: your close neighbor is better than your faraway brother. I think Chomsky is right, and the Israelis should realize that it is in their long term interest to be part of the Middle East, not perpetually at war against it. That is all I have to say.”

    “My God,” I said, looking at him with complete and utter astonishment. “I think I have finally found the Egyptian Nelson Mandela.”

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