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Friedman, Thomas L.

FRIEDMAN, THOMAS L.

FRIEDMAN, THOMAS L. (1953– ), U.S. journalist. Born in Minneapolis, Minn., Friedman earned a bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Brandeis University with a specialty in Mediterranean studies, which helped prepare him for a career in writing and reporting on foreign affairs. He became known for advocating a compromise peace between Israel and the Palestinians, for modernization of the Arab world, and for globalization and laissez-faire capitalism.

During his undergraduate years, Friedman spent semesters abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the American University in Cairo. He then attended St. Antony's College, Oxford University, on a Marshall scholarship and received a master's degree in modern Middle East studies. He joined the London bureau of United Press International and spent a year there as a general assignment reporter before being assigned to Beirut. He reported from Beirut from 1979 to 1981, and then was hired by the New York Times, which sent him to Beirut as bureau chief in 1982, six weeks before the Israeli invasion. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, he reported extensively on the war and won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, particularly for his articles on the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. In June 1984 Friedman became the Times's bureau chief in Israel, the first Jew to serve in that position, and worked in Jerusalem until 1988. He won another Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of the first Palestinian Intifada. He chronicled his assignment in the Middle East in the book From Beirut to Jerusalem, published in 1989. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly 12 months and won the National Book Award for nonfiction and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Book on Foreign Policy. The book has been published in 10 languages, including Japanese and Chinese, and is used as a basic textbook on the Middle East in many high schools and universities. Friedman has been attacked by right-wing Jewish organzations and individuals for his reporting from Beirut and for his support of a two-state solution a decade before the Oslo agreements. Given his background and his manifest commitments to Judaism and to Israel, they had considerable difficulty portraying him as a self-hating Jew, however much they tried.

In January 1989 Friedman was posted to Washington as the Times's chief diplomatic correspondent. For the next four years he traveled 500,000 miles, covering Secretary of State James A. Baker and the end of the Cold War. When Bill Clinton became president, he was named White House correspondent and in 1994 his assignment became the intersection of foreign policy and economics. In 1995 he became a foreign affairs columnist for The Times.

Initially, Friedman focused on the intersection of globalization and finance, and summarized his views in The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999). It, too, became a bestseller. The two objects in the title symbolized the interaction between globalization and local tradition. The book also discussed the role of new technology in reshaping global politics and argued that nations must sacrifice a degree of economic sovereignty to institutions like the International Monetary Fund to achieve Western-style prosperity. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Friedman's columns concentrated on the threat of terrorism, and he won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, although he had grave misgivings about the way the Bush administration waged it. Friedman also wrote Longitudes and Attitudes (2002) and The World is Flat (2005).

When the Times developed a television channel, it engaged Friedman to draw on his extensive contacts to report and write documentaries about the Middle East and other parts of the world. As such, he became a familiar figure in American homes. He also appeared frequently on television panels and spoke often at colleges and public forums. He was a member of the board of trustees of Brandeis and of the advisory board of the Marshall Scholarship Commission.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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