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Monday, December 5, 2011

Roger Cohen, "Come Home to Israel": More Unbalanced Self-Hatred

The onslaught against tiny Israel on the op-ed page of The New York Times continues. On November 18, in "The Voice of a Woman" (http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/18/the-voice-of-a-woman/), Shmuel Rosner highlighted instances where ultra-Orthodox Israei soldiers have walked out of performances when women began to sing. On November 22, Sarah Schulman wrote an inane piece entitled "Israel and 'Pinkwashing'" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/Sarah%20Schulman), claiming that Israel was promoting gay rights in order to disguise oppression of Palestinians. Today, Roger Cohen feeds his anti-Israel obsession in "Come Home to Israel" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/opinion/cohen-come-home-to-israel.html?hp), in which he complains about a short-lived advertising campaign intended to persuade Israelis living in the US to return to Israel. Cohen begins by stating:

"I have several reactions to this little saga. The first is that I know several Israeli expatriates or would-be expatriates and their feelings are consistent. They are troubled by the illiberal drift of Israeli politics, the growth of a harsh nationalism, the increasing influence of the ultrareligious, the endlessness of the 'situation,' and the tension inherent in a status quo that will one day threaten either Israel’s Jewishness or its democracy.

They have left or seek to leave because they don’t want all that and no longer believe there is going to be significant change. The ads play to Israeli patriotism, but it’s not patriotism that expatriates lack. It’s hope that their Israel can be salvaged and a two-state peace achieved."

Cohen knows several Israeli expatriates or would-be expatriates? Fascinating. I know seven million Israelis who would not consider leaving, including many, like myself, who favor a two-state solution, hope that one day there will be a Palestinian entity willing to accept a Jewish state, and oppose any attempts by Israel's ultra-religious minority to limit their freedoms.

Cohen continues:

"My second reaction is that if Netanyahu could show a fraction of the nimbleness evident when American Jews are offended in instances where Turks are offended (by the killing of their citizens in international waters), or where President Barack Obama is offended (by ongoing settlement expansion in the West Bank against his express request), or where Egyptians are offended (by Israel’s dismissal of their democratic aspirations), then Israel would be in a better, less isolated place today."

Of course, no mention that the UN's Palmer Commission determined that Israel's interception of the Mavi Marmara in international waters was lawful, although excessive force was said to have been used (see: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=236380). Regarding ongoing settlement expansion in the West Bank which purportedly offended Obama's sensitivities, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat acknowledged, based on aerial photography, that settlements cover only 1.1 percent of the West Bank (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/11/17/settlements-obstacle-to-peace/).

With respect to Israel's "dismissal" of Egypt's "democratic aspirations," the results of Egypt's recent elections, in which the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist Salafis received an overwhelming majority of the ballots cast (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/egypt-stripping-away-democratic-veil.html), speak volumes. In fact, the results of Egypt's elections should come as no surprise, given that more than three-quarters of Egyptian Muslims favor the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim faith (see: http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/). Forgive me, if I, too, dismiss Egypt's "democratic aspirations."

Cohen's op-ed comes at a time when a scandal has arisen involving a speech by Howard Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, blaming Israel for anti-Semitism (see Jonathan Tobin's excellent analysis in Commentary: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/12/05/gutman-anti-semtism-obam-administration/), and shortly after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blamed Israel, as did Cohen, for its isolation (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/03/world/middleeast/panetta-says-israel-must-mend-ties-with-arab-neighbors.html?_r=1&hp).

Are there problems in Israel involving racism, discrimination and inequality? Absolutely. However, Israel is a vibrant young democracy in which an independent legal system addresses these and other problems with which I have personally had to contend in Israeli courts.

Is Israel isolating itself? My answer is that no matter what concessions Israel should and ultimately will make in order to achieve peace, if and when there is finally a Palestinian counterparty able to accept Israel's existence, Israel, as a homeland to the Jews in the Middle East, will always be isolated, and there is no concession that Israel can make, other than national disbandment, i.e. suicide, that will satisfy al-Qaeda, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Salafis in Egypt, or the mullahs in Iran.

1 comment:

  1. Jeffrey, I can't even read Cohen and Friedman - it's too painful in many ways. The sheer repulsive indecency of these overprivileged, overfed and overprimitive ... (can't find a printable word) and thoughts that not so long ago wonderful, decent human beings (including my father's family) perished in the most horrific way while ... Too painful to continue.

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