Thomas Friedman has been donating sizable sums to pro-Israel organizations for many years, but has managed to keep his benevolence under wraps – until now.
by Philip Weiss and James North, reposted from Mondoweiss, April 28, 2021
It’s not news to anyone who follows the Israel/Palestine issue that the top foreign policy columnist at the New York Times takes a side. “Israel had me at hello,” Tom Friedman said in September 2019 at a New York temple. He said he’s worried that the next generation of Times columnists won’t be as reflexively pro-Israel as he is– and confessed he’s on a “personal crusade” to change the Arab world.
Just as 18 years ago Friedman said that he wanted to “smash” something in the Arab world as a response to such acts as suicide bombings in Israel, and that’s why he supported the Iraq war.
What may be a surprise is how much the foundation that Friedman formed with his wife, the Ann B. and Thomas L. Friedman Family Foundation, has given to pro-Israel causes. The foundation has been contributing to pro-Israel causes for about 15 years now, according to federal filings for tax-exemption for charities (Form 990).
And while it’s plain that Friedman is putting his money where his mouth is — these causes are ones that Friedman also espouses in his columns — he does not disclose the gifts in the newspaper. Try to imagine a Palestinian or Arab-American columnist at a mainstream publication giving money to pro-Palestinian lobbying organizations without disclosing as much. That person would be pilloried for supporting such causes. There would be calls for the columnist to resign.
In Thomas Friedman’s case, and the New York Times, it’s just business as usual.
Here are some of the pro-Israel and Israeli causes Friedman has given to between 2007 and 2019.
New Israel Fund, $15,000
Jewish Federations of Greater Washington, $45,000
Anti Defamation League $20,000
Shalom Hartman Institute, $15,000
American Friends of Hebrew University, $30,000
The 2018 contribution to MEMRI — the Middle East Media Research Institute — is egregious because MEMRI is an Israel “propaganda” outlet that has a long record of Islamophobia. Writes the Council on American-Islamic Relations:
MEMRI has an established reputation for distributing highly selective, distorted, and inaccurate translations of Arabic and Persian media. Through these selections the organization attempts to portray Muslims and Arabs as being inherently irrational and violent.
The Middle East Media Research Institute is part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network.
In 2012 Friedman gave MEMRI an encomium: “What I respect about Memri is that it translates not only the ugly stuff but the courageous liberal, reformist Arab commentators as well.”
As for other grantees, the Shalom Hartman Institute is an Israel lobby group in the U.S. with a centrist-liberal Zionist orientation.
The Jewish Federations of Greater Washington is a charity organization aimed at strengthening the Jewish community, and it does strong pro-Israel programming.
The Anti-Defamation League’s chief portfolio is antisemitism in America. But it is also a pro-Israel organization that seeks to cast anti-Zionist statements and organizing as antisemitic.
New Israel Fund is a liberal Zionist organization that supports dissident groups inside Israel.
We sent questions to Tom Friedman about his advocacy and gifts via the Times website on April 27. He has not responded.
Friedman’s foundation activities were brought to our attention by Michael Petrelis, a Bay Area open government and media accountability activist and New York Times shareholder who has researched the many times that Friedman has quoted executives at organizations to which he gave money.
Petrelis is seeking to pressure the New York Times to disclose these gifts. The Times has its annual shareholders’ meeting today at noon, and Petrelis hopes to raise the issue there. “I want accountability and transparency from [Friedman] and the Times,” he told us.
Petrelis put up a complete list of Friedman’s sources to whom he has given money on Facebook and wrote:
Columnist Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has donated over $13,000,000 since 2006 to charities he has favorably used as sources, and not once has he disclosed his donations.
I pored over the IRS 990 filings from the Friedman Family Foundation he operates with his wife Ann, to cull the donations. Then I searched his columns in The Times and never found a disclosure from him about funding his sources….[I]f any NYT reporter or columnist is giving millions to his sources, readers should know that.”
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.
James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.
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