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Does Richard Cohen Really Believe This?:

A few weeks back, I noted that Richard Cohen was unfairly lumped in with a group of hard-core Israel-hating leftist Jews. I also noted in that post that critics of Israel are too quick to imply or assert that friends of Israel are hysterics who leap to condemn any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, and by doing so, they are in effect trying to silence the pro-Israel side of the debate. As it turns out, an example of this disposition comes from none other than Cohen:

Anyone who reads the Israeli press knows that Israel's national sport is self-criticism, often in the most vitriolic and personal terms. On the day I am writing this, for example, I found a reference to a remark made by an Israeli judge. He suggested Israel is becoming as corrupt as Sicily.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that observation, but I can say that several of the country's top politicians, including the prime minister, are under investigation. I can also say - not withstanding the facts - that if a non-Israeli had made such a colorful comparison (Sicily! the Mafia! Goyim gone wild!), he would have been instantly accused of anti-Semitism or, if Jewish himself, of aiding and abetting anti-Semitism.

What an absurd assertion! Comparing corruption in Israel to corruption in Sicily is exactly the type of criticism that one would expect if Israel was treated as a normal country. Instead, critics tend to equate Israel with Nazi Germany and South Africa, and question whether all six million Jews in Israel should be either shipped back to where their anscestors came from or forced to live as a dhimmi minority in a Palestinan Muslim state.

I'm not an expert on the subject, but I'm perfectly willing to say that from what I can discern, corruption in Israel is a major problem. Forget investigations of the Prime Minister and whatnot; it's widely known among Israelis that one can avoid certain unpleasant military assignments if one has the right connections (as a relative of mine in Israel did), and that contractors often violate building rules willy-nilly because of "protexia" (connections) and bribery. While I'm sorry to report this is a real problem, I guarantee that I won't get an emails accusing me of aiding and abetting anti-Semitism. [Nor, would I get, as Cohen should, grief for stereotyping Jews with his gratuitous "goyim gone wild" remark.]

I'm sure, indeed, that Israelis and most friends of Israel would actually be overjoyed if stories and commentary about Israel focused on the real warts and strengths of the society, without the persistent demonization of the country and its people that you can find, e.g., in any comment threat at Kos or the Huffington post that deals with Israel. To take one telling example, every Israeli I have ever met hates reserve duty, most hated their army service, and, if they are are parents, have as their biggest fear that their sons will be sent to war someday. Many, indeed, contemplate emigration for just these reasons. Yet, Israel is consistently portrayed in the U.S. (and worse in the rest of the world) as a "militaristic" society. Of course, it would help if U.S. and other media correspondents in Israel ACTUALLY SPOKE HEBREW, so they could talk to people other than extreme-right-wing immigrants from the U.S. who live in the West Bank, and leftist university professors. Both groups, for different reasons, will create the "militaristic" stereotype to naive American reporters.

UPDATE: Of course, if the criticism of Israel as corrupt came from, say, a writer who has overlooked corruption in every other country he has written about, including countries that are far more corrupt than Israel, and, when writing on Israel, only reports such negative stories, than one has a right to question the writer's agenda. Context matters.

FURTHER UPDATE: To support my point, here is a posting at the pro-Israel "Israel Hasbarah" website discussing corruption in Israel. And here's another one by Leonard Fein in the Jewish Forward. And here's an ever worse example than Cohen.

John (mail):
"...and question whether all six million Jews in Israel should be ... shipped back to where their anscestors came from..."

I think that's where they are now.
2.26.2007 1:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Good point, John!
2.26.2007 1:47pm
Michael B (mail):
"Anyone who reads the Israeli press knows that Israel's national sport is self-criticism, often in the most vitriolic and personal terms." Cohen

Indeed, and for a study in contrasts one need only compare such self-criticism and dissent with the repression of any and all dissent in Gaza and the West Bank, as ruled by the PA, Hamas, etc., where serious dissent is simply not allowed and on those rare occasions where it has occurred, ad hoc, summary executions and other, similar forms of internal "enforcement" have been resulted. In fact there's a long lineage of such enforcements, dating back at least to the 30's and the era of Amin el-Husseini, Arafat's own mentor. (Now there's a name to google.)
2.26.2007 2:26pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
What is even more disturbing, I think, is that it can't have been lost on critics of Israel that the most likely outcome of the destruction of Israel would be a third alternative: genocide. That is, after all, the explicit goal of many Arab countries and organizations. When they speak of "sweeping the Jews into the sea" they aren't talking about putting us on boats.

As for critics' ideas of where Israeli Jews come from, I think that it is necessary to understand how deeply engrained in the Arab world is the lie that Jews are of European origin and have no historical connection to Israel. This is not a belief limited to extremists or used merely for propaganda purposes by people who know better. To take one example, I have an Iraqi friend who, at a personal level, is certainly not an anti-Semite. I met him when he was staying in my parents' house. They were away. I let myself in. He came out of the kitchen and offered me a beer and a ham sandwich! Not exactly a fundamentalist. He is a western educated physician who has lived for years in the United States and Britain. Nonetheless, he insists that Jews have no historical connection to Israel. He is unable to respond when I ask him about the references to Jews in the Qur'an or about the close relationship between Hebrew and Arabic. This bizarre belief is widespread among Arabs and seems to be tacitly accepted, in spite of their awareness of contrary evidence, by many non-Arab critics of Israel.
2.26.2007 2:37pm
neurodoc:
DB, alluding to the Rosenfeld essay, you say, "...Richard Cohen was unfairly lumped in with a group of hard-core Israel-hating leftist Jews." Exactly how was Rosenfeld to the columnist?

Rosenfeld identified Cohen as "a Washington Post jounalist who in the middle of the Second Lebanon War pronounced the creation of Israel to be a 'mistake' that has 'produced a century of warfare and terrorism. Cohen is right about the never-ending violence, but wrong about its causes. Instead of placing the responsibility for terrorism squarely where it belongs, he dodges the issue, saying, 'There is no point in condemning Hezbollah.' Instead, he blames the agents of an abstract and errant 'history' for having brought the Jewish state into being in the first place. His conclusion: 'The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel is itself a mistake.'" That was the sum total of what Rosenfeld said in the course of a 30-page essay, "'Progressive' Jewish Thought And The New Anti-Semitism."

Richard Cohen may object to Rosenfeld's reference to him and his July 18, 2006 column, but Rosenfeld did not label him an antisemite. What Rosenfeld did was cite Richard Cohen, quite correctly, as a Jew who called into question the legitimacy of the Jewish state by saying it's creation was a "mistake" that had "produced a century of warfare and terrorism," before moving on to those Jews for whom "Israel is less a mistake than a crime," among them "people with conspicuously Jewish names like Cohen," that Cohen being Ahron Cohen, author of "Israel Has No Right To Exist.

In view of the above, and given Richard Cohen's most recent utterances, do you want to reconsider your previous judgment that he was treated so unfairly by Rosenfeld? (Shulamit Reinharz was too sweeping in charging that everyone mentioned in the Rosenfeld piece should be counted as an antisemite.) And given additional developments and evidence that has come to light since you last looked at Jimmy Carter, perhaps you should reconsider your judgment about him.

[BTW, Leonard Fein is a Leftie or "progressive" critic of Israel who has been at this sort of thing for a very long time.]
2.26.2007 2:41pm
talboito (mail) (www):
I had been under the impression that my ashkenazi ancestors hailed from somewhere in the Caucuses.
2.26.2007 2:42pm
Hoosier:
Bill Poser:

Don't you know that Hebrew was invented by Polish-Jew Zionists in the latter half of the 1800's? And that the Jews refered to in the Koran are not the fake "Jews" who now are dispossessing the Palestinians? And that Herzl was on the grassy knoll with Ward Churchill when Kennedy was murdered by the Illuminati?

It's all proved in the "Protocols." And all of it, even the stuff that I recently made up, can be documented.
2.26.2007 2:55pm
Justin (mail):
I think critics of Israel would argue that they do not treat Israel different than any other country that has certain charateristics (generally, a responsive democracy that is engaging in what they see as "bad" behavior), but that the response is cries of antisemitism.

I think this argument has at least *SOME* merit (think about the number of commenters here who were of the mistaken impression that HRW and AI didn't protest or make fuss about the human rights abuses of Arab countries, including Iraq?), though is not *fully* accurate. I do think that many liberals are reflexively anti-Israel, and won't admit that.

But just because they are reflexively anti-Israel, does not mean they are anti-Semetic. Most of their reflexively anti-Israel animus comes from reasons having *nothing* to do with religion, and these people seem to generally have *zero* problem with liberal jews who support their politics - a group that tends to make up a substantial portion of anti-Israeli activists in the United States (less so in Europe).
2.26.2007 2:56pm
Hoosier:
Justin--

I think you are probably correct in saying that there are "reflexively anti-Israel" writers who are not motivated by anti-semitism. But what, then, cases them to single out Israel, and to treat it with such vitriol, when so many nations--including all of Israel's neighbors--behave in a rather worse manner?

Perhaps I just don't want to impute anti-semitism to many, many of my academic colleagues, who very definitely are knee-jerk on blaming Israel. But I doubt that they are anti-semites. I am lost, however, as to the reason that they think as they do. And I can't blame Jews for suspecting anti-semitic motivations, given the history of the previous century. (Full disclosure: I am a Catholic, so I have no dog in this fight--other than the fact that I find actual anti-semitism reprehensible, and thus want to keep the definition clear.)
2.26.2007 3:07pm
ed o:
they probably are not anti-semites. why, undoubtedly some of their best friends are jews (not those pushy ones like they have in Israel, though. or those religious ones who wear the headgear.) at the end of the day, it seems that those non anti-semites sure are a lot like the real thing.
2.26.2007 3:22pm
Justin (mail):
Hoosier (and ed, though ed's point does not seem to be looking for a real answer),

there are plenty of reasons why someone whould be reflexively anti-Israel.

Some of it goes to knowing palenstinians and others who they believe have suffered - rightly or wrongly - at the hands of Israel.

Some of it goes to the same thing as Bush/Clinton/GOP/Democratic "derangment syndrome" - once you've decided a particular institution is doing bad, you tend to repeat that finding instinctively with a new set of facts, psychologically.

Some of it goes to oversimplification - certain people start focusing only on Israel's actions, because as a Democracy they find it more likely to be accountable or
mendable. However, they then fail to account for the practical obsticles that even democracies have to imposing change, particularly given the hostile borders.

Some of this goes to the "core wrong" idea - they believe (wrongly, in my view) that Israel simply never had a right to exist (in the sense that they never had the right to lands occupied by Arabs, not that they couldn't start up a country called Israel on lands properly purchased and unoccupied), and while they've either given that argument up, fail to announce it in a particular argument, or think that changing circumstances have provided Israel's reason to continue existing, they still feel that Israel is inherently a "wrong" concept - but that has nothing to do with whether Israel is a country of Jews or not.

Finally, some of it (and this is a tangled question), go to the idea that regardless of religion, they do not believe in a state that is subject to "religious" identity politics - that is, that states that exist because of a "religious" foundation are wrong at their core. These people believe Israel has a right to exist, but only as a majoritarian democracy. While I find this view fundamentally misguided (mainly because it ignores the problem of Israel being "invaded and destroyed" via immigration), it is not, at its core, antisemetic, unless one supports it BECAUSE OF, and not DESPITE, the practical outcome.

None of these reasonings are all that valid as a ground for opposing Israel in my view, but there are reasons for opposing Israel, even reflexively and unfairly, that are not antisemetic.

(Full disclosure: I am a moderately pro-Israeli American Jew who has, in the past, dated someone (not Jewish) that I felt was reflexively (and unfairly) anti-Israel.)
2.26.2007 3:53pm
neurodoc:
Justin, among the "reasons why someone whould be reflexively anti-Israel," you failed to mention that being reflexively anti-Israel is part of the "Progressive" package. Facts be damned, Israel has been demonized by these Lefties as a "colonialist enterprise," America's surrogate, a projection of the West, etc. (I am speaking here of the more "moderate" among them, not the ones who liken Israel to the Nazis or South Africa or actually sing the praises of Arafat, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorists and tyrannical regimes.) Telling themselves that they are "anti-Zionist" but not "antisemitic," these people believe they are the truly enlightened, selfless and noble champions of the "oppressed."

If you want to go deeper into this, especially if the more extreme are included, then I really do believe it necessary to discuss psychopathology, especially in the cases of many anti-Israel Jews, e.g., a Finkelstein.
2.26.2007 4:32pm
ed o:
sorry-it just seems to me that the constant hand wringing and looking for reasons that one nation, out of all of the nations on the face of the earth, doesn't deserve to exist ignores the real reason. the muslim world doesn't want it to exist because the muslim world hates jews. a large number of the western academics who don't want it to exist hate jews but slather on a coat of "anti-zionism" to sugar coat it. Europe-you think they want the jews back? not likely. it is argued above that some of the "solutions" offered are not at their core anti-semitic. these solutions in practice, however, will result in the destruction of Israel and the death of jews. please explain how I can distinguish them from those nasty solutions, impure in thought and not driven by noble anti-zionism, that will result in the destruction of Israel and the deaths of jews. if the end result of destruction and death is the same, why should any thinking person waste time excusing the motivations of the party offering the solution.
2.26.2007 4:35pm
Justin (mail):
neuro, to the degree your point isn't derogatory, and in some ways self-contradictory, hyperbole, its addressed by my second point.
2.26.2007 4:39pm
Justin (mail):
"if the end result of destruction and death is the same, why should any thinking person waste time excusing the motivations of the party offering the solution."

Because George W. Bush doesn't hate Arabs - nor do opponents of affirmative action hate black people - nor do people who oppose abortion hate women, etc., etc., etc.
2.26.2007 4:40pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Cohen may be engaging in hyperbole but his point seems to be largely correct.

Yes, criticism of israel SHOULD be treated like criticism of any other country but often it is not. Because so many people single out israel for anti-Semitic reasons many people are primed to accuse anyone who criticizes israel of such bias. It's not a good practice but it's just human nature. Once people get defensive about a particular subject they become much less open to even valid criticism on the matter.

I mean this is just the way that someone who was teased as a child for being fat is more likely to react negatively to a friend's helpful suggestion that they may want to tag along to the gym than someone who wasn't teased as a child for being fat. It would require superhuman self-control for Jews not to be quicker to blame criticism they see as obviously wrong headed on anti-semitism than Italians would to blame similar criticism on anti-Italian sentiment.

Anyway I don't see what you are criticizing Cohen for. It seems he is just observing that indeed some people are too quick to label critics of israel as anti-semetic. A position you yourself agree with.
2.26.2007 5:36pm
MDJD2B (mail):
I had been under the impression that my ashkenazi ancestors hailed from somewhere in the Caucuses.

Arthur Koestler wrote a book that proposed that Ashkenazi jews were descended from the Khazars, a nation (now extinct) in the Caucasus. Gneetic marker studeis have disproven this. There is a Y chromosome marker in Kohenim that is common to all Jews who are Kohenim in all communities (about hald of self-identifying Kohenim). The breast/ovarian cancer genes that are found in Ashkenazis are found in Sephardic Jews as well.
2.26.2007 5:36pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Also I think you miss the point when you make this claim


I'm sure, indeed, that Israelis and most friends of Israel would actually be overjoyed if stories and commentary about Israel focused on the real warts and strengths of the society, without the persistent demonization of the country and its people that you can find, e.g., in any comment threat at Kos or the Huffington post that deals with Israel.


The problem here is the world real. Most people are convinced that their view of the world is obviously the correct one. Views which are ideologically opposite what you yourself believe often seem absurd and ridiculous not valid criticism.

Suppose you are a hawkish Israeli who strongly believes that settlements and an aggressive defense policy are necessary for security. How do you react when someone criticizes Israel's military/settlement policy in exactly the same way they might criticize any other country? Surely your response won't be 'huh, that's right I guess that is a valid criticism.' Since you believe your position is obviously right you will grope for some other explanation to understand why someone might voice this criticism and anti-semitism is an easy fit.

Most people don't even think their ideological opponent's beliefs are even reasonable. This is why so many liberals believe the Iraq war is all about oil, the war is so obviously bad to them they can't even understand that others might have honestly thought it was a good way to help the Iraqi people. It is why so many conservatives accuse certain liberals of hating the US, they can't understand that these people genuinely think they are doing good by opposing the troops and protesting the government.

If conservatives in the US can think that liberal protesters hate the US how much easier is it for jews to think those non-jews they disagree with are anti-Semites?
2.26.2007 5:48pm
John Fee (mail):
Arguments of the hypothetical form stated by Richard Cohen are often overused and silly if the author actually intends them to be taken as evidence of something. (If I were to do X, then Group Y would respond in the following unfair or bigoted way, which we can assume would be their reaction because we already know how unfair or bigoted group Y is, which serves to show even further how unfair or bigoted group Y is!) This is about as useful as saying "If I were drunken I'd be a drunken pirate, if I were a pirate."

I know that hypotheticals are often valuable for analytical or illustrative purposes, rather than evidentiary purposes, but I can't see what value Cohen's hypothetical prediction serves at all here, even if his premise and conclusion were accurate. It is often frustrating to see significant debates conducted around hypotheticals of this sort, what so-and-so would or wouldn't do under various conditions, and what this proves about the character or motivations of so-and-so.
2.26.2007 5:52pm
Michael B (mail):
"The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel is itself a mistake." Cohen

Cohen may believe himself to be well intentioned and no doubt he does so believe, but the above is an error on the most foundational of levels, at an archimedean point.

The state of Israel was created out of roughly 10% of the land designated as the Palestinian Mandate, coming out of the Ottoman Empire, post-WWI. It was the U.N., post-WWII that divided that Palestinian Mandate, apportioning 80% of it for the creation of the state of Jordan, 10% for the state of Israel and 10% for another Arab state still. In the broadest of brush strokes, that serves to form the historical backdrop, though it omits the incendiary importation of Hitlerian forms of anti-Semitism into the M.E. by Amin el-Husseini, among other, similar formative movements, most prominently reflected in the work of Qutb, Hassan al-Banna, who formed the Muslim Brotherhood, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, etc. (And all of that had its formative period, ideologically as well as in terms of praxis, prior to the creation of the state of Israel, not afterwards, though Israel has served as a coal miners' canary since its creation.)

But even on a psychological level, what nation or nation/state, or what individual is required to think of themselves as a "mistake"? To do so is to embed a type of self-defeating embolism or parasitic, eviscerating psychology within the very life of the nation/state or the individual. Not a prescription most "doctors," beyond some anemic souls who populate a few trans-nationalist orgs, would prescribe; and no doctor would prescribe such for himself or herself or for their own nation/state.

If the West were to deny Israel, whether in practical terms or in terms of various ideas forwarded, in a manner that only more slowly undermines Israel's qualitative sense of self, sense of being or sense of self, then the West would inherently be undermining its own sense of self as well in foundational terms.

There are no quick fixes. Minimally, at the level of formative ideas, at the level of ideology, this is an inter-generational effort and has real prospects for being a hundred-plus year effort. The work of Amin el-Husseini, al-Banna, al-Din al-Qassam, Qutb, along with their more recent emulators and epigones, needs to be faced for what it is. Israel is the West's coal miners' canary and the West should be thankful, not resentful, that Israel is very much on the frontlines of virtually all that needs to be faced.

Sovereignty and a sense of self, not "nationalism" (in fear and sneer quotes), is what is at issue and that is formative at the most basic level.
2.26.2007 6:09pm
Xmas (mail) (www):
that contractors often violate building rules willy-nilly because of "protexia" (connections) and bribery.

That video of a floor collapse during a wedding in Jerusalem pops into my head sometimes. It still freaks me out. (Link goes to story about the collapse, not the video.)
2.26.2007 6:26pm
Yankev (mail):
Perhaps I just don't want to impute anti-semitism to many, many of my academic colleagues, who very definitely are knee-jerk on blaming Israel. But I doubt that they are anti-semites. I am lost, however, as to the reason that they think as they do. And I can't blame Jews for suspecting anti-semitic motivations, given the history of the previous century. (Full disclosure: I am a Catholic, so I have no dog in this fight--other than the fact that I find actual anti-semitism reprehensible, and thus want to keep the definition clear.)

Hoosier, I wish I could enlighten you. 30 years ago as a student at U of MN Law School (and when I was still largely non-observant), I noticed that most of my non-Jeiwsh classmates welcomed me into bridge games, softball leagues, and informal partying and beer drinking, and seemd to have no issue with my being Jewish. I made no secret of being Jewish, it was simply not an issue -- until -- well, two examples.

-- Several of my classmates were actively hostile when a prof offered a makeup session to some of us who had missed his mandatory attendance classes on Rosh HaShannah.

-- Some of my softball friends were out and out offended when I stopped eating cheeseburgers, pork and other prohibited foods. I wasn't yet keeping kosher, I still ate with them at non-kosher eateries, and they were inconvenienced not in the least.

-- When I started going to Saturday morning services, one of my closest friends -- a Quaker, by the way -- took offense and started in on how the entire Jewish religion was pagan nonsense.

These guys acted like I had insulted them somehow by turning down their invitation, as it were, to be an honorary gentile of Scandinavian descent and culture. It was my first experience with tolerant non-Jews becoming offended if one of their friends starts getting "too Jewish."

The political Zionist movement for a Jewish political nation state (as opposed to the religious desire to return to Israel as a symbol of the Jewish people's relationship with G-d) began when secularized liberal (and often atheist) European Jews realized that they would never be accepted into European society. Perhaps liberal gentiles cannot accept that reminder of liberal Europe's failure to make good on its promises. Not being gentile, I can only guess.
2.26.2007 9:02pm
Yankev (mail):
Sorry, forgot to block quote. Here's what I meant to post:


Perhaps I just don't want to impute anti-semitism to many, many of my academic colleagues, who very definitely are knee-jerk on blaming Israel. But I doubt that they are anti-semites. I am lost, however, as to the reason that they think as they do. And I can't blame Jews for suspecting anti-semitic motivations, given the history of the previous century. (Full disclosure: I am a Catholic, so I have no dog in this fight--other than the fact that I find actual anti-semitism reprehensible, and thus want to keep the definition clear.)


Hoosier, I wish I could enlighten you. 30 years ago as a student at U of MN Law School (and when I was still largely non-observant), I noticed that most of my non-Jeiwsh classmates welcomed me into bridge games, softball leagues, and informal partying and beer drinking, and seemd to have no issue with my being Jewish. I made no secret of being Jewish, it was simply not an issue -- until -- well, two examples.

-- Several of my classmates were actively hostile when a prof offered a makeup session to some of us who had missed his mandatory attendance classes on Rosh HaShannah.

-- Some of my softball friends were out and out offended when I stopped eating cheeseburgers, pork and other prohibited foods. I wasn't yet keeping kosher, I still ate with them at non-kosher eateries, and they were inconvenienced not in the least.

-- When I started going to Saturday morning services, one of my closest friends -- a Quaker, by the way -- took offense and started in on how the entire Jewish religion was pagan nonsense.

These guys acted like I had insulted them somehow by turning down their invitation, as it were, to be an honorary gentile of Scandinavian descent and culture. It was my first experience with tolerant non-Jews becoming offended if one of their friends starts getting "too Jewish."

The political Zionist movement for a Jewish political nation state (as opposed to the religious desire to return to Israel as a symbol of the Jewish people's relationship with G-d) began when secularized liberal (and often atheist) European Jews realized that they would never be accepted into European society. Perhaps liberal gentiles cannot accept that reminder of liberal Europe's failure to make good on its promises. Not being gentile, I can only guess
2.26.2007 9:04pm
Dave B. (mail):
Criticism of Israel, and for that matter, general media saturation of the Israeli-Arab conflict, exists in part precisely because Israel is a democracy with a free press and other individual rights generally taken for granted in developed western countries. Reporters, commentators, authors, academics, think tanks, NGOs, and anyone else who has something to say are all able to travel to Israel freely and even to engage one-on-one with the key participants - interview Abbas one day, Olmert the next, a right wing settler from Brooklyn, then a Hamas bomb-maker - all with little risk to personal safety. In other words, outsiders can easily position themselves in the heart of the conflict and disseminate information/propaganda with the veneer of firsthand knowledge with relatively little personal risk, either from the "combatants" themselves or from the government. You can criticize the government without winding up in prison. Cf. Egypt vs. Blogs (Egypt wins).

I say "relatively" little risk because, although many places in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza are dangerous, any risk to an outsider attempting to position themselves in the heart of use the conflict is on a different order of magnitude than trying to do the same in, say, Darfur or Sri Lanka. Those places receive little news coverage in part because few westerners are able or willing to go to those places.

To put it less charitably, "progressives" can visit West Bank camps and Gaza slums and then write about the oppression of Israeli checkpoints, the brutality of the occupation, and the horrible injusticee of it all. And they can live to tell about it. So what better place to go to establish "street cred" in progressive circles these days? Try covering the genocide in Darfur, and you may very well end up dead. But the worst you'll face in the not-so-Occupied Territories is soldiers with rubber bullets followed by a gaggle of reporters and NGO monitors. And if you've got a name like Cohen, well, that's all the better because you're that much more courageous for standing up to big bad Zionist Establishment. (And make sure you have a story about getting death threats from the Zionists for your activities... although contrast that with Palestinians critical of Palestinian leadership, who seem more often to get the "death" part without the "threat" part...)

So, the large volume of books, articles, and whitepapers critical of Israel is partly explained by simple opportunism.
2.26.2007 9:21pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
David B.:

I agree with your comments about how Israel's democratic nature makes it easier to get information about her faults and to criticize her policies. I do think you are ignoring why so many "leftist" progressive types are so critical of Israel: in the struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Palestinians are seen as the underdogs. Many on the left reflexively support the "underdog" against the "powerful." Thus, while you might view the conflict with the Palestinians as part of a larger conflict between Israel and the entire Arab world, many on the left see it as a conflict between one of the most powerful militaries in the world, who is financed by the most powerful nation on earth, versus impoverished, landless people who live in refugee camps. That is why many leftists forgive, or at least do not wholly condemn, the Palestinians for their terrorism (they see it as the last resort of an oppressed, powerless people). Until we in the US can allow the supporters of Israel and the supporters of the Palestinians, see each other's perspective, I see no hope for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East of this problem.
2.26.2007 10:47pm
JohnAnnArbor:

Indeed, and for a study in contrasts one need only compare such self-criticism and dissent with the repression of any and all dissent in Gaza and the West Bank, as ruled by the PA, Hamas, etc., where serious dissent is simply not allowed and on those rare occasions where it has occurred, ad hoc, summary executions and other, similar forms of internal "enforcement" have been resulted.

Once, a Palestinian polling outfit asked Palestinians the question: would you accept monetary compensation rather than going back to their homes the abandoned in '47? The result was something like 80% "yes." The terrorists, of course, were NOT amused and tore up the offices of the polling outfit; I'm unsure if any people were hurt. You see, compromise--what the lefties claim is always possible--is not in the cards with Hamas, with Islamic Jihad, with Hezbollah. They want to kill Jews. And they will happily kill Arabs if they get in the way of killing Jews.
2.26.2007 11:26pm
neurodoc:
justin, forgive my obtuseness, but could you please explain how my point about the "Progressive" package including for many an anti-Israel component was "self-contradictory".
2.26.2007 11:40pm
Justin (mail):
In a post that's facially about how non-antisemetic leftists could be reflexively anti-Israel, you include being anti-semetic as an implicit(in some sense, the implicit) reason. I know the point of your post was just to bash leftists, but coherency is always useful.
2.27.2007 9:36am
Hoosier:
Yankev--

Thanks for the thoughtful, and disturbing, response. "Some of my best friends" are Nordic-types from Minnesota. I had always thought that the Sven's and Ollie's of the world were too "nice" to be bigots. Live and learn.

I grew up in North Suburban Chicago. My next-door neighbors to the west were Glicksbergs, to the east Steins, and behind us were Silberman's. So by the time I got to college and grad school, Jews weren't very "other" to anyone who grew up in my area. (The Jewish kids in school had always taken the High Holy Days off, and so I can't say that I would even have noticed that in college.)

For someone from Lake Wobegone, I suppose a Jew is like a Martian: You've read about them, and seen them on TV. But you never thought that you'd actually meet one. In any event, it sounds again like I'm trying to make excuses for anti-semitism. And I am not. Rather, what strikes me is that none of my colleagues at the university could have gotten where they are without significant contact with Jews. It's so much more surprising to me that they take this anti-Israeli position as a reflex reaction.
2.27.2007 10:30am
Yankev (mail):
Hoosier


I grew up in North Suburban Chicago. My next-door neighbors to the west were Glicksbergs, to the east Steins, and behind us were Silberman's.



Small world. I'm a Skokie boy myself -- the local wags called Skokie the garden city of America (there's a rose in bloom on every corner). My jr, high had an absentee rate of 70%+ on Yom Kippur, by high school was about 50/50, which came as a shock to some of the kids from the other elementary school districts.


For someone from Lake Wobegone, I suppose a Jew is like a Martian: You've read about them, and seen them on TV. But you never thought that you'd actually meet one.


In fact, one of my classmates who grew up in a Mpls suburb refused to believe that only 10% of the law school enrollment was Jewish. Her reason? "Before I started law school I never met anyone who was Jewish; now I'm meeint them all the time."


In any event, it sounds again like I'm trying to make excuses for anti-semitism.


No, it din't sound that way to me. What amazed me, though, was the difference between some of these folks and anti-Semites I had met in grade school and high shcool. The ones I met in the Chicago area wanted nothing to do with you, period, and nothing you could do would change that. ANY contact with Jews -- other than harassment and physical violence -- was offensive to these guys. At law school, by contrast, I met plenty of people who were willing to be friends with Jews so long as the Jew did not get too Jewish for them. It was as though they were insulted that you were somehow rejecting them by not taking advantage of the offer to be just like them. (Not that there weren't some of the first kind in Mpls, and even on campus, but if there were any in the law school I'm not aware of it.) In some ways that was harder to deal with -- at least with the out-and-out anti-Semitten you knew where you stood.
2.27.2007 12:53pm
neurodoc:
Ah Justin, your remarkable powers of discernment allowed you to get past the "facial" to what is "implicit" in my post. Wow! I didn't specify whether those "Progressives" are all antisemites, non-antisemites, or some combination thereof, though it was my intent (explicit) to account for some anti-Israel bashing as exemplary of Leftist group-think. I did think my point was coherently made, and it seems that it was sufficiently coherent for you to derive some meaning from it, which honestly is more than I could do from your response. As for "bash(ing) leftists," if I am well wide of the mark, that is there is nothing of the sort on the Left or it accurately characterizes only a very small number of anti-Israel bashers, then it might be seen as just "bashing leftists;" if, however, it is reasonably on target, then it may be regard as explanation for this phenomenon.
2.27.2007 2:10pm
Hoosier:
Yankev,

That's funny; I had never heard the Garden City joke. I know that we had jokes about Skokie. But it's been too long, and I just can't remember.

My best friend is from Skokie (so obviously he's a Jew, though his parents didn't own a men's clothing store OR a deli! Shocking, I know . . .) and a Maine South grad. As you can tell from my phenomenal intellect and erudition, I went to THE high school. You know. The one in Winnetka. (And I find myself embarrased every time the place comes up in the news.)

I've only been to the Twin Cities once. I had always assumed that they had a fairly good-sized Jewish population. Shows what I know.
2.27.2007 2:17pm
neurodoc:
I've only been to the Twin Cities once. I had always assumed that they had a fairly good-sized Jewish population. Shows what I know.

Right, Norm Coleman, a transplanted NYer. And before him, Paul Wellstone.
2.27.2007 2:22pm
Yankev (mail):

Right, Norm Coleman, a transplanted NYer. And before him, Paul Wellstone.

And former Senator Rudy Boschwitz. And (until he was wooed away to Atlanta), nationally known Rabbi Arnold Goodman, past president of the Rabbinic Assembly of the United Synagogue of America. And a sizable Chabad/Lubavich community, including nationally known leaders Rabbi Moshe Feller, Rabbi Asher Zweillingold, and Rabbi (and author) Manis Friedman. And solly Robins, founder of the Robins &Ciresi (fka Robins, Davis and Lyons) law firm, that established strict liablity in tort for dangerously defective consumer products as the law of Minnesota.

Pre-war Poland had a pretty good-sized Jewish population too.


Hoosier, I had cousins at THE high school -- if you mean the one that has the same first name as the Republican who was speaker of the house during the Contract with America.

There was an urban legend at the Nles Twp. high schools that the day after Egypt surrendered at the end of the Six Day War, a banner appeared in the corridor at THE high school, reading "Today Cairo, Tomorrow Kenilworth." True story?
2.27.2007 3:27pm
Justin (mail):
Okay, hotshot, tell me exactly what you meant by the following bolded phrases of your rant:

Telling themselves that they are "anti-Zionist" but not "antisemitic," these people believe they are the truly enlightened, selfless and noble champions of the "oppressed."

The plain reading of this sentence is that "these people" are "antisemetic," even though they deny it to themselves, and are not "the truly enlightened, selfless, and noble champions of the 'oppressed,' even though they believe that they are.

But if my English is off, feel free to explain what you meant, exactly.

Your latest incoherent rambling also simultaneously disagrees with my interpretation while not denying it, and possibly (I cannot tell) confirming that - and then you disagree with my characterization of you "bashing leftists" by claiming the argument is correct, which is irrelevant to the characteristic (it also happens to be a claim that I disagree with, obviously). Talk about trying to dig yourself out of a hole.
2.27.2007 5:34pm
neurodoc:
Justin, I prefer to engage with ideas rather than snarkiness. If that is your preference too, then let's do it that way after this; if not, I'll try to ignore you, and you can tell yourself that you vanquished me with overpowering arguments. (The ad hominem thing seems to be your hallmark. Perhaps I am wrong, but haven't you made clear your contempt for Professor Bernstein in threads like this one about Israel?)
2.27.2007 6:32pm
Justin (mail):
I'll take the nonresponse as an admission.

There's also the possibility that your reference to "with ideas rather than snarkiness" may be seen as hypocrisy, given the fact that your first post was a wandering and nonsensical attack on the left, and your third post was simply a string of insults, over-the-top sarcasm, and slights at my intellect.
2.27.2007 6:38pm
neurodoc:
Yankev, yes, I did forget that Rudy Boschwitz held the Senate seat before, alas, losing it to Wellstone. As for the eminent rabbis and Jewish lawyers, I was aware of some, not others. (I think highly of Rabbi Green of Chabad in Rochester, who was very helpful when we were at the Mayo Clinic a decade ago.) Now beyond Jewish politicians, rabbis, and lawyers from those parts (I'll skip the physicians), wasn't there a great Minnesota Twin who married a Jewish woman and converted? (Blocking on his name, but he was supposed to be particularly quick getting around on pitches and hit for many singles and a very good average.)

Now, if someone were returning from Israel carrying kosher wine with them, do you think an MSP cabdriver should be allowed to refuse to give them a ride? Whose religious principles should trump? (Just kidding.)
2.27.2007 6:46pm
neurodoc:
Well, Justin, I see that the latter of those two options is your preference. And I did tell you that in that case "you can tell yourself that you vanquished me with overpowering arguments." So construe what I have said to date however you wish ("I'll take the nonresponse as an admission."), and we can leave it to others to judge.

Just tell me if I was right that you are who I thought you were, that is someone who regularly expresses contempt for Professor Bernstein in these threads and frequently goes with the ad hominem when others disagree with you.
2.27.2007 7:00pm
Yankev (mail):
Neurodoc, the awesome Rod Carew often wore a chai (or perhaps a Magan David, I forget), which gave rise to rumors that he was Jewish. I seem to recall that, despite rumors to the contrary, he was not Jewish, neither by birth nor conversion.

As to Sen. Rudy, well, he gave it his best shot.
2.27.2007 10:12pm
neurodoc:
Yankev, according to the authoritative Wikipedia, Carew was named for the Jewish doctor who delivered his mother of him on a train in Panama, and he did marry a Jewish woman, which supposedly brought him death threats. But though Adam Sandler counted him a Jew in his Chanukah Song, Wikipedia says this baseball great never converted. (Wikipedia also claims, rather improbably I think, that when Carew's daughter developed leukemia, her Panamian-Jewish background made it very much more difficult for them to find a bone marrow match for her, and thus she did not get one and died.)

This is a well-liked and much admired guy who was a Hall of Famer, 7-time batting leader (years of >.300 hitting and .388 in 1977!), AL MVP, and repeated All Star. Can't we find a way to bring him into the fold? (Carew even rhymes with Jew.)

The halachic standard is matrilineal descent, but the Reform have enlarged that to matrilineal or patrineal descent. Couldn't there be a special, one-time matrimoneal based exception for Carew?

(Yeah, we really have gone OT, but I think a timeout here for the not so serious is a good thing.)
2.28.2007 1:18am