Follow by Email

Friday, June 11, 2010

Roger Cohen's "Modern Folly, Ancient Wisdom"

After a comment that I recently submitted in response to a Maureen Dowd op-ed was not posted by the NYT's "moderators" (see: and, I was told by a senior editor of the Times that although he would have posted this comment, it "reads to me more like an insult than anything else," and further stated:

"By the way, I deeply resent your casual use of the word censored. If we do not post a comment we are not committing censorship. A newspaper chooses every day what to print and what not to print. It is not censorship by any definition I have ever seen. We do not pretend or intend to publish every comment we get on any article we get on every article we publish.

* * * *

But I return to my earlier point, which is that we have never said that we were giving our readers unrestricted access to our website. Quite the contrary."

My response in relevant part:

"Obviously, if the policy of the Times is to pick and choose freely according to the whim of your 'moderators', I agree: this is not censorship. If you state that comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, yet your 'moderators' do not abide by this policy and are prone - at least from what I have seen - to reject dissenting opinion, I believe this is indeed a form of censorship, but I have no problem calling this 'rejection'."

"Censorship" or "rejection"? Honestly, I couldn't care less. However, whereas the senior editor "resented" my use of the word "censor", I am deeply offended by the ongoing posting of anti-Semitic comments, purportedly "moderated", in response to New York Times editorials, op-eds and articles (see: ).

Moreover, I am distressed by that fact that the Times editorial pages have completely ignored the recent outburst of anti-Semitism from Helen Thomas. Although the pundits of the Times are quick to jump on anything of this kind directly at other minorities, for whatever reason there has been a deafening silence from the Times concerning Thomas.

In an op-ed in today's online Times entitled "Modern Folly, Ancient Wisdom" (, Roger Cohen takes the position that the real threat Israel faces today is not destruction but de-legitimization. My comment in response to Cohen's op-ed, if the Times "moderators" deign to post it:

Cohen writes, "Several factors have nudged the country rightward: religious-settler extremism; obliviousness to the Palestinian plight now concealed behind walls; Russian-imported strands of Arab-baiting intolerance." Absent from Cohen's list are suicide bombings that have claimed the lives of some 1,000 Israeli civilians; more than 10,000 mortar rockets, missiles and mortar shells fired at civilian targets by Hamas in recent years; and some 40,000 missiles, including highly accurate M-600s, sent to Hezbollah by Iran and Syria subsequent to 2006 and aimed at Israel's cities.

Cohen further states, "What Israel in turn must realize — before it is too late — is that the real threat it faces today is not one of destruction but of de-legitimization." Here, Cohen again ignores the missile threat from Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, posing an existential threat to Israel greater than that which existed in 1967 or 1973, and the calls for Israel's elimination by Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Will Israel ever be "legitimate" in the eyes of the world, even within the 1967 borders, as offered by Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert? Probably not. As recently observed by Burak Bekdil in an article entitled "Why is Palestine ‘a second Cyprus’ for Turks?" in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, Turks did not protest the deaths of 300,000 Muslims in Darfur and did not care when Chinese police were using disproportionate force against their ethnic kin, the Uighurs. Mr. Burak further asked: "How many Turks protested when there was civil war in Algeria? How many volunteered for humanitarian aid missions for Sudan? Why were the protests too thin during the Serbian atrocities against Muslim Bosnians? What makes nine Gaza martyrs more sacred than all the other martyrs?" He concluded: "Subconsciously (and sadly) the Muslim-Turkish thinking tolerates it if Muslims kill Muslims; does not tolerate it but does not turn the world upside down when Christians kill Muslims; pragmatically ignores it when too-powerful Christians kill Muslims; but is programmed to turn the world upside down when Jews kill Muslims."

In the U.S., Helen Thomas recently declared that Israel's Jews should go "home" to Germany and Poland. (She did not suggest that they go "home" to Morocco, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, from where a majority of Israel's Jews were forcefully evicted without their belongings.) But notwithstanding the headlines generated by this outburst of blind hatred, why was this not also addressed by Cohen's op-ed of today's date? Why has it been studiously ignored by Friedman, Krugman, Rich and Brooks? If the reemergence of anti-Semitism throughout the world cannot be forthrightly addressed on the editorial page of The New York Times, I have doubts whether Israel in whatever shape or form can ever realize "legitimization" in the eyes of a hateful world.


  1. "...Russian-imported strands of Arab-baiting intolerance..." Cohen found new enemy: Jews from Russia.
    I always felt bad about Cohen as a person and a journalist. It turns out, he has particularly bad feelings toward the whole group of people, where I belong. Talking about "Russian-imported strands" he hints that we are almost spreading desease. It reminds me classical anti-semitism, of course. As a refined self-hating Jew, he does not fault all Jews, just a particular class of Jews, where he personally does not belong.

    Something is very interesting here: this is the first time I saw a publicly expressed disgust for Russian Jews in the USA. It seems, Arab- and- Persian-loving American Jews do not like us. What a disappointment.

  2. Excellent response to Roger Cohen's string of words today. Comments are closed, but still being approved as I type, now up to 64. Many of the comments challenge Cohen's narrative. (44.William J Haboush is very good on the Mizrahi)

    Even though the NYT remains in denial about Turkey today and Hamas in Gaza, it seems more readers are not.

  3. Once again, my comment was censo . . . whoops, I mean "rejected". "Abusive" or "not on topic"?

    Marina, I am indeed saddened by Cohen's abusive commentary directed against Jews from Russia.

  4. JG: I suppose you can take some comfort in the large number of approved comments that include your points in your first two paragraphs.

    I was pleasantly stunned to read this NYT Op-ED today (with nary a mention of Israel!) openly calling for "...the international community must move swiftly to derecognize the worst-performing African states ...For many Africans, 50 years of sovereignty has been an abject failure, reproducing the horrors of colonial-era domination under the guise of freedom. International derecognition of abusive states would be a first step toward real liberation."

    And, thank you for your open letter about "Cohen's abusive commentary directed against Jews from Russia." The same disgust with Avigdor Lieberman (and by default, Israelis from the former Soviet Union) is what drives the whole nauseating "Liberal American Zionism" critique of Israel, personified by the former South African Jew, Peter Beinart. That, and revulsion of the ultra-Orthodox.
    No one seems to blink that such criticism is not just 'politically incorrect', but an indirect call to "cleanse" the Israeli electorate of at least 25%.

    A. Lieberman needs to hire Hamas' public relations advisors :) Even though I agree with him, Israel might be better served by a foreign minister with better command of diplomatic nuance, like Michael Oren, although I guess all ministers must also be MKs.

    Whatever will Roger Cohen do when the French and Canadian Jews making aliyah start making an impact in Israel's governing coalition, shifting it even more to the right?


  5. Thanks, K2K.

    PR has always been a problem for Israel, at least as long as I can remember. Mike Oren is excellent, but he is the exception, appointed from on high because of his capability, without politics.

    Ministers need not be Knesset members.