This guestpost is by RhetoricWatch. Though operating under a pseudonym here, RhetoricWatch is a professional in the field of Jewish journalism.
Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear: The Tea Party is not a terrorist organization.
I don’t agree with its ideas, tactics or policy suggestions, and I’m worried about its seemingly rising influence in this country, which seems anti-intellectual, simplistic and detached from reality. Moreover, its rhetoric–which at times seems nativist and racist–is feeding a current of hatred and fear in this country that troubles me.
But none of this makes the Tea party comparable to Hezbollah. Not even close.
Which is why these couple sentences from Tom Friedman’s recent article on Norway–buried near the bottom of the page–surprised me:
Alas, that is the Tea Party… If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the G.O.P. on a suicide mission.
Remember, Friedman is referring to the same Hezbollah that has launched many deadly attacks on Israel, that calls for Israel’s destruction as a state, that advocates extremist Muslim rule in the Middle East and that openly praised the killing of 200 US Marines in 1983. The Tea Party’s rhetoric may be bad, but it’s nowhere near that bad.
It surprises me all the more that it’s Friedman writing this. Friedman, who made a name for himself covering the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. Friedman, who writes about Israel and its terrorist enemies frequently and who focuses his columns on trying to avoid the extreme positions that some in Israel and the Middle East take. He should know better.
It’s not even a good analogy. Unlike the Tea Party, which is (as Friedman noted) a faction within the Republican party – and a small one at that – Hezbollah is a major political party in Lebanon. It is a faction in the ruling coalition, but it has representation in parliament and seats in the cabinet. Oh, and it’s also a violent terrorist organization – if I forgot to mention that before.
A better analogy, I think, would be to Yisrael Beiteinu, a hard-right – and nonviolent – political party. It is also independent, unlike the Tea Party, but like the Tea Party it advocates anti-democratic and counterproductive policy in Israel – combined with extremist rhetoric.
One major and consistent complaint that the left in the US has had against the Tea Party is that it cheapens tragic events like the Holocaust by making outlandish comparisons. This is a valid concern, and one worth caring about. But if we’re going to harshly criticize right-wing pundits for such comparisons, we need to call out left-wing pundits for bad comparisons as well.
Tom Friedman can and should criticize the Tea Party. He shouldn’t compare it to Hezbollah.