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New York Times Op-Ed Compares Middle East Muslims to Insects

Comparisons of Muslim nations and people to wasps, caterpillars, and spiders make up much of Thomas Friedman’s Feb. 2 opinion piece in the New York Times, “Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom.”

After some brief opining on the future of the region, Friedman writes that he sometimes prefers “to think about the complex relations between these parties with analogies from the natural world.”

Which analogies are used by Friedman (who has said some reasonable things about the conflict)?

“The U.S. is like an old lion. We are still the king of the Middle East jungle.” What other creatures inhabit this “jungle”?

“Iran is to geopolitics what a recently discovered species of parasitic wasp is to nature.” This wasp injects its eggs into caterpillars, to which Friedman likens Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, while equating the Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Kataib Hezbollah to the eggs themselves.

“We have no counterstrategy that safely and efficiently kills the wasp without setting fire to the whole jungle,” he acknowledges.

What of Hamas? It is “like the trap-door spider.”

And Israel’s Prime Minister? “Netanyahu is like the sifaka lemur.”

What does it say about Friedman that he compares the U.S. and Israel to mammals, while likening every Muslim nation or group that he mentions to arthropods?