Roger Cohen is a fool.
If you don’t know him, he is considered by the leftist and pro-Palestinian circles one of the enlightened and humane Jews that find many occasions to criticize Israel and its supporters in America. He is especially a darling of the extreme Jewish Left who think his foolishness is actually wisdom.
Having read some of his articles with my head shaking in utter disbelief, I thought today would a propitious one for showing what happens when a philosophy rooted in goodness that actually ends up turning against the side of justice clashes with reality. After all, it’s clear why members of the far Jewish Left have voiced sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs, sympathy that has often turned into hostility and hatred of Israel’s supporters. Life is hard for the Palestinians and can be very unpleasant at times. They have ended up with the short end of the historical stick of this conflict and Israel’s continued military presence in their midst is not all chocolates and roses. It can be harsh at times but always places pressure upon this society.
But drawing the wrong conclusions from this complex and difficult situation is foolishness. It actually weakens Israel and causes its many enemies to gain power and steam against it. One of the best examples of this is the article Roger Cohen wrote about Iran’s Jews in February, 2009.
Back then, he wrote:
Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran â€” its sophistication and culture â€” than all the inflammatory rhetoric [he is referring to inflammatory rhetoric of the Iranian leader].
That may be because I’m a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian TV, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the â€œMad Mullahâ€ caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 â€” a position popular in some American Jewish circles â€” is misleading and dangerous.
You can see right away how the events of the past week show the prescience of this man. After all, the caricature of Iran after an election stolen by the mullahs who clearly support the inflammatory rhetoric of their chosen dictator seems to be less a caricature and more true by the minute.
After glossing over the challenges the Iranian Jewish community faced in the past, Cohen, a man who writes for the venerable New York Times for a living, informed his readers:
I asked Morris Motamed, once the Jewish member of the Majlis, if he felt he was used, an Iranian quisling. â€œI don’t,â€ he replied. â€œIn fact I feel deep tolerance here toward Jews.â€ He said â€œDeath to Israelâ€ chants bother him, but went on to criticize the â€œdouble standardsâ€ that allow Israel, Pakistan and India to have a nuclear bomb, but not Iran.
Double standards don’t work anymore; the Middle East has become too sophisticated. One way to look at Iran’s scurrilous anti-Israel tirades is as a provocation to focus people on Israel’s bomb, its 41-year occupation of the West Bank, its Hamas denial, its repetitive use of overwhelming force. Iranian language can be vile, but any Middle East peace â€” and engagement with Tehran â€” will have to take account of these points.
Green Zoneism â€” the basing of Middle Eastern policy on the construction of imaginary worlds â€” has led nowhere.
Realism about Iran should take account of Esfehan’s ecumenical Palestine Square. At the synagogue, Benhur Shemian, 22, told me Gaza showed Israel’s government was â€œcriminal,â€ but still he hoped for peace. At the Al-Aqsa mosque, Monteza Foroughi, 72, pointed to the synagogue and said: â€œThey have their prophet; we have ours. And that’s fine.â€
Well, today the Iranians have shown their goodwill towards Israel and their justified hostility toward the state of the Jewish people that enjoys those supposed double standards. Yes, today after several days of violently attempting to quell non-violent public protests against the theft of the election, the tolerant and civil Iranian mullahs – not mad mullahs these – have found their solution for explaining away their perfidy. Blame the Jews.
The Iranian Intelligence Ministry on Thursday claimed to have foiled an Israeli-linked terror plot to plant bombs in mosques and other crowded places in Teheran during last week’s presidential election.
State broadcaster IRIB quoted a ministry statement as saying several terrorist groups had been discovered, adding they were “in contact with Iran’s foreign enemies, including the Zionist entity.”
“Members of one of the uncovered networks were planning to plant bombs on election day at various crowded Teheran spots, including the Ershad and Al-Nabi mosques,” the statement continued.
Yup, it’s going to be that time again. They’ll trot out a few unlucky Jews from the same community that compelled Cohen to write that op-ed that flies in the face of reality and they will charge them with espionage. Then they will compromise on a couple of them and release them but keep one or two incarcerated or perhaps even killed for supposedly causing this electoral crisis. Of course that isn’t what happened here, but in a couple of years when the Iranians have nuclear bombs pointed at Israel, Saudi Arabia and Western Europe, perhaps Roger Cohen will write another piece about how it’s the “occupation” and Israel’s nuclear capability that has brought this about. He’ll write that one right after he excuses Palestinian violence because of Israel’s behavior and probably soon after his article about why Arab countries have despotic regimes. Israel, of course.
The folly of the extreme Jewish Left hurts Jews in America. It makes this public debate about Israel into an open attack on the character of Israel’s supporters. They, the good humane Jews of the far Left, get to brand Israel’s supporters with language and attacks that are often used by the Jews’ worst enemies. Reading Stormfront is sometimes not much different than reading Mondoweiss or Silverstein. At York University and at Concordia University, Jewish activists drove the public campaigns against Israel and at those students, particularly Jewish ones, who support Israel. Activists like Tony Judt scream about Jewish censorship and the evils of Israel even as they move from one public speech to the next national op-ed. And the supposed “Israel Lobby?” In their world, the far Jewish Left treats this myth as a known reality.
We can see how powerful that supposed “lobby” is by watching how Obama is running scared of it along with the Democrats of the House. Oh wait, they’re not.
Yup, the ultimate success of the far Jewish Left is that their ongoing attacks are playing a serious and real role in the negative attention being directed towards American Jews by growing segments of American society, helped by the current financial crisis and by people like Walt & Mearsheimer. And what exactly have Israel’s supporters done to deserve this? We support a beleaguered democratic state that seeks to define itself as a Jewish state but has been forced to fight war after war for decades. Yes, it’s far from perfect but it’s also far from the evil monster that it is made out to be.
I’m not sure whether there’s a God, but if there is one, I hope he helps the Jews who are about to be arrested by the Iranian government for crimes they didn’t commit. And if there is a God, perhaps she would be kind enough to have Roger Cohen write an apologetic op-ed in the New York Times where instead of vilifying those of us who understood what was going on, he actually treats Israel’s supporters with some respect. Because Cohen is no less wrong in his other expressed opinions about the Middle East than he was about Iran and its Jews.