Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The reviews are in on Richard Cohen's latest, "Hunkering Down with History" and the self selected ones I've seen have been uniformly negative.

Little Green Footballs:
At the Washington Post, Richard Cohen agrees with Hamas and Hizballah that “Israel is a mistake.”

And he’s open to the argument that Israel is a “crime.”

Israel Matzav - his post is aptly title History Lesson
Cohen's article reflects a total ignorance of Jewish history, and of the Jewish connection to the land of Israel dating back to biblical times, which is inexcusable even for an assimilated Jew (which I assume Cohen to be). In fact, even Christians should be offended by Cohen's writing them out of the history of the Holy Land. Cohen adopts the Arab narrative of the last century of history lock, stock and barrel, without even considering that it might be false. Note, I said Arab and not 'Palestinian,' because the 'Palestinians' by their own admission are a fiction created by that Arab narrative.


Someone explain to me why anyone in their right mind would think that the "smart choice" is to pull back to borders that are not impervious, while terrorism continues, while "waiting and hoping" that history will "move on to something else"?!

The life he has cheerfully resigned himself to sacrificing might be your own, but that's what you get for being born in a mistake-state, right?

After reading the latest from Richard Cohen, we have to wonder what the Washington Post columnist has been smoking...

Yag's thoughts
In it he calls the creation of Israel "a mistake". OK. That's fine. It would be surprising to my father, who is a 6th generation Jerusalemite. It might be insulting to my mother, a holocaust survivor who moved there from Germany after the war, but OK. I’ve read worse ...

Infotainment Rules
So says the hysterical Richard Cohen in the Washington Post, in the first (current) case of a Jewish pundit desperately trying to feed Israeli Jews to the crocodile in the hope that he will be eaten last.

Blue Crab Boulevard
Hunkering down is never a strategy for winning a war. It is a way to die. Israel did not choose this war, it was thrust on them. Sitting back and taking it will not make it better and will not fix the underlying problems. I do not profess to know the ultimate solution, but I highly doubt it is the one Mr. Cohen charts.

Richard Cohen advises Israel not to be overly aggresive. He theorizes that Israel would be best serve to "hunker down" in a defensive position and wait for the nations which surround it to develop into peaceful neighbors. It is an excellent hypothesis provided one does not have to face the consequences of testing it.

Sierra Faith
Richard Cohen is a useful fool tool for Anti-Semites the world over.

I can see the smile cross the face of the evil Ahmadinejad as he reads these words in a prominent American newspaper.

We should all weep for the lack of moral clarity in these times from many in America.

The Belmont Club
"Never Again" lasted all of sixty years.

Though not addressed to Cohen's column this recent Dry Bones provides a rebuttal to Cohen's argument.

And while I don't think that Cohen probably meant something less offensive than it sounds - when he calls Israel a mistake he probably means a historic accident given the unlikelihood of a third commonwealth being founded after 2000 years - it's hard to get past the article without feeling that he's giving ammunition to Israel's enemies.

But when Cohen writes
In his forthcoming book, "The War of the World," the admirably readable British historian Niall Ferguson devotes considerable space to the horrific history of the Jews in 19th- and 20th-century Europe. Never mind the Holocaust. In 1905 there were pogroms in 660 different places in Russia, and more than 800 Jews were killed -- all this in a period of less than two weeks. This was the reality of life for many of Europe's Jews.

Little wonder so many of them emigrated to the United States, Canada, Argentina or South Africa. Little wonder others embraced the dream of Zionism and went to Palestine, first a colony of Turkey and later of Britain. They were in effect running for their lives.

you get the impression that he is providing ammunition to the Arabs and their sympathizers who argue that since the Holocaust is a European crime why should Europe repay Jews by taking the Palestinians' land from them. As President Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Der Spiegel (where he's clearly having trouble with the idea that the Holocaust did take place)
We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians.

Cohen doesn't mention the historical ties of Jews to Israel and no mention of persecution of Jews in Arab and Muslim lands. Nothing to provide a context that Israel is a refuge for Jews, not just from Europe, but from the world over.

To Cohen Israel's founding is a reaction to the Holocaust. Toleration of Israel is a sign of civilization and an acknowledgement of the wrongness of the Holocaust. But there are those who don't accept his premises. They too must be tolerated no matter how outrageous (and murderous) their behavior. Until they come around. Somehow that's not very comforting or convincing.

UPDATE: Welcome Memeorandum readers.

AbbaGav's title says it all Israel's Mistake: Existing. Remedy: Cower Passively, Hoping They Run Out of Rockets . Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

Daled Amos writes of the many aspects of history that Cohen ignores ...
Or the history of Safed, the city in Israel that is currently known for being struck by Hizbullah missiles, but back in the 16th century was home to a Jewish community which included Rabbi Joseph Caro who wrote the compendium of Jewish Law used till today.

Kesher Talk
Winston Churchill knew Saudi Arabia was a mistake. Don't blame the Brits for letting Jews finally have tiny Israel back after they had repeatedly returned and gotten slaughtered and exiled again and again for 2000 years. Blame the Brits for giving Arabia to the Wahabis, arguably the mistake which has shaped the last 100 years more than any other.

On the topic of Kesher Talk's zinger read this.

UPDATE II: Welcome to Buzztracker readers.

Captain's Quarters
Richard Cohen channels National Lampoon's "Deteriorata" in today's Washington Post opinion section in writing about Israel. He argues that since Israel's birth came out of the Holocaust and that many in the Muslim world refuse to acknowledge that genocide, Israel should "hunker down" and apparently allow terrorist groups to attack then without fear of reprisal.

And by all means check out Deteriorata. It's a riot.

A Barbaric Yawp

In short Cohen agrees that the critics of the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza were correct and that these moves were seen as weakness by Hezbollah, Hamas and company. Cohen also admits that UN peacekeeping troops are not the answer.
His solution is to withdraw again to what he calls defensible borders. Isn't the definition of insanity continuing to do the same thing over and over again with the hope that it will yield different results.

Right Wing News on noting the column sounds like satire

Maybe they can just replace Cohen with Frank J., Liberal Larry, Scott Ott, or Iowahawk. The conservatives would think it was funny, the liberals would have trouble telling the difference, and the bloggers would probably work much cheaper than columnists like Cohen.

Hot Air

Picture yourself perched in the turret of a tank, scanning the horizon with night-vision goggles, pondering whether the order that sends you north across the blue line is the order that might end your life. You’ll be sent over into Lebanon to take out a Hezbollah rocket cache, but it’s heavily defended and there’s every chance in the world that Hezbollah has an ambush waiting for you. At that moment, the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen wants you to remember: Israel is a mistake.

Thoughts by Seawitch

But I will say this, far from being a mistake, Israel is the greatest miracle to have occured in the 20th century. The Jewish people returned to their ancient homeland and have created a vibrant society while at the same time defending itself in numerous wars from neighboring countries and from terrorists groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah.

LawHawk - expanding on KesherTalk's point

Israel's existence was a mistake? You could say the same thing about every border drawn by Europeans in Africa, the Middle East, and anywhere else for that matter, where countries were invented along borders that never existed before (Palestine, TransJordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey were all part of the Ottoman Empire until its breakup after WWI by the Europeans).

Common Folks using Common Sense in a similar vein

By the way, if Israel is a historical mistake, then so are Pakistan and Bosnia, and probably others. Anything noteworthy about them, Sir Cohen? Maybe we should return Iran to the Zoroastrians, Egypt to the Copts, Lebanon to the Maronites, western Turkey to the Greeks, Iraq to the Assyrians, and eastern Turkey to the Armenians. Why don’t we turn the whole world over to the Roman Empire?

Boker Tov Boulder

After acknowledging in this very same column that 95.7 percent of Poland's Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, Cohen has the audacity to suggest that Israel wait and hope "that history will get distracted and move on."

Common Sense and Wonder

Ah yes, if only those Europeans hadn’t foisted the Jews they didn’t manage to kill off on the poor Arab world where no Jews had been before. If only the few million Jews already living there under British rule and Turkish before that agreed to permanent dhimmitude under the enlightened Arab rulers after the British left there would be no troubles at all. I’m sure the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem would have been happy to carry on the unfinished work of the Germans and then there would be no ‘problem’ with the Jews at all.

Or as Tinkerty Tonk puts it succinctly

Cohen would have Jews continue to run for their lives.

Iowa Voice
Gateway Pundit
Confederate Yankee

UPDATE III: TBIFOC gets some expert opinion on Cohen. Katz say, "meow."
If creating a nation of European Jews was a horrible mistake, I guess the morons who came up with the idea of expelling 600,000 Jews in Arab lands to force them to move there and cement the Jewish hold on those lands have got to be the dumbest, most ignorant people who ever lived.
And he's soliciting. Opinions that is.

Maryland Conservatarian starts with
As of this writing, Richad Cohen’s column - Hunker Down With History - in today’s Washington Post has already generated 87 blog linkings according to the Technorati sidebar. A quick sampling of them indicates the trend is definitely anti-Cohen…and deservedly so because his column today is mind-numbingly inane.

(Emphasis mine) and he doesn't let up.

Partisan Times also noticed the similarity to Ahmadinejad and links to a few others.

Some general criticisms including Cohen:
Life of Rubin - the long version
Beit Frumpy Chic - the short version

UPDATE the final: I never mentioned any of Cohen's defenders. Here's Mahablog after noting that it isn't clear what Cohen wanted, writes
Righties, who have below-average reading comprehension skills at best, have variously interpreted this column...

Well yes there's a lack of clarity in the column and that would explain the various interpretations of Cohen. That's the fault of the writer, not the critics. But for the most Cohen was criticized for his ignorance of history. By focusing strictly on Jews coming to Israel after the Holocaust he was leaving out an awful lot of history. His central point was very weak.

Mahablog approvingly quotes Matt Yglesias
Israel itself is a mistake . . . the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now” is a bit too quick and easy. … The “mistake” here would be Arab rejection of the UN partition plan which, at the time, I’m sure looked to them like a really clever piece preventative security gambit but obviously turned out to be a total fiasco. The lesson would be something about not pushing things too far, not rejecting reasonable favorable compromise proposals, not doing things with giant downside risk, etc.

But Cohen's column was directed towards Israel not the Arab/Muslim world. And Cohen seemed to be saying that the conflict won't end as long as Israel's viewed as a mistake so Israel better get used to it. If anything that seems to be encouraging Israel's enemies, not cautioning them.

Technorati tags: , .
Walt-Mearsheimer retrospective in the washington post
In the Sunday between publishing an op-ed by the leader of Hamas and an op-ed by a regular columnist declaring the existence of Israel a mistake, the Washington Post undertook another sticky topic regarding Israel in its magazine. It revisited the Walt-Mearsheimer paper in an article, A Beautiful Friendship? by former Israel correspondent Glenn Frankel.

I'd have to agree with questioner (from a subsequent Q & A with Frankel, who wrote
As a Jewish American with deep connections to Israel, I began your article expecting to be outraged and finished only mildly annoyed.

Unfortunately Frankel, while generally balanced, never really addressed the content of the Walt/Mearsheimer paper directly.
In March two distinguished political scientists -- Stephen Walt from Harvard and John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago -- published a 42-page, heavily footnoted essay arguing that the Bush administration's support for Israel and its related effort to spread democracy throughout the Middle East have "inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security."

Yes it was heavily footnoted. It was also extremely selective. A critique that Benny Morris wrote in the New Republic dealt with the selective nature of the paper. Or I could link to an excellent critique on a single point by Jewish Current Issues. The problem with that unless one acknowledges the sloppiness of the paper, one isn't going to question the motives of the authors.

This is troubling.

In an e-mail Pillage Idiot wrote:
The basic issue is whether the position a "lobby" espouses is correct. These people are saying that a lobby whose position they oppose HAS TOO MUCH POWER. That's a wholly different thing. What is power, anyway, but the ability to persuade? Was Bush duped into supporting Israel? Was he bribed into supporting Israel? Doubt it. He actually believes in what he says.

For Frankel to address the question of the power of the Israel lobby, implicitly he is acknowledging that he disagrees with the aims of that lobby. He wouldn't look too critically at the contents of the Walt/Mearsheimer paper because he, at least, accepts that part of their premise.

But let's assume supporting Israel is against American interests. Therefore the $3 billion in annual aid is a waste. Well does anyone ask about whether the $2 billion annual aid the U.S. gives to Egypt? Or the millions that went to the PA over the past 13 years? And does support of Egypt or the PA really advance American interests?

Israel's enemies and America's enemies are largely the same. Egypt and the PA embrace those enemies. Israeli votes roughly 90% of the time with the United States; Egypt about 20% of the time. (Actually no country votes with the United States more than Israel. Wouldn't that suggest that their interests are similar?)

But despite the antagonism shown to the U.S. by Egypt in a number of ways the American monetary support of Egypt isn't subjected to anywhere near the same level of scrutiny as aid to Israel. (About the only time the Washington Post editorially opposes the aid to Egypt is in reference to its suppression of the opposition - including the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.)

Another problem with Frankel's articles is that he lets Walt and Mearsheimer get away too easily with their dismissal of David Duke. Yet as even Walt's friend Shai Feldman observed "
You have to differentiate between them and their argument," Feldman replies. "They're not anti-Semites even if they have slid into an anti-Semitic argument. I think it all comes from their failure to prevent the war on Iraq."

Or, more pointedly, as Pillage Idiot e-mailed
If you mimic anti-semitic charges that have been made against the Jews for centuries and perhaps millennia, the burden shifts to you to prove you are NOT an anti-semite.

And in fact, though Walt and Mearsheimer rejected the support of David Duke a well know white supremacist in this country they were more than happy to submit to a sympathetic interview in England's Independent with Robert Fisk who isn't exactly well known in the United States. But Fisk's antagonism towards Israel is no less than Duke's. And in case anyone missed the point of the interview, the Independent ran a cover with an American flag where the star field replace 5 point stars with the six point Jewish stars. It was a visual representation of what white supremacist call ZOG - the Zionist Occupied Government.

(The cover photo of the Washington Post magazine had a similarly disconcerting image prompting a questioner to ask Frankel
But what has me most upset is the cover art on the magazine itself. The Washington Post gave every anti-semetic organization in the nation their new poster image. It is like something straight out of The Elders of Zion. I expect more from the Post.

Frankel answered I
understand your concern but I can't agree with your comment about the cover. Yes, it's a strong image, but if you look at AIPAC's own logo, it's a Star of David with American stripes going through part of it. Symbols do have power, and extremists often seek to hijack them for their own purposes. But that shouldn't stop us from engaging in free expression.

Except that AIPAC uses that imagery to show a confluence of interests. Israel's antisemitic critics use it to show that the Elders of Zion have hijacked American policy. Frankel at best is oblivious. And of course he says well, we can't not run such an image, that would curtail our right of free expression, latching onto another criticism of the Israel lobby: that it silences its opposition.)

(In a different context Hatemonger's Quaterly observes
By now, we all know the old saw: Zionists purportedly mean-spiritedly label opponents of Israel anti-Semites in order to shut them up. This helps silence the opposition in what is, we imagine, the most cacophonous silence in history—one hears more about this horrible silence more than one actually notes the non-existent silence.

Then there's another matter of Walt and Mearsheimer's behavior that also makes it hard for me to give them the benefit of the doubt about their motivations.

In an interview published Friday with Forward, Prof. John Mearsheimer alleges that the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that he and Stephen Walt would never have been able to find an American publisher for their paper.

Who is Walt kidding? I'm sure that the Village Voice, the Nation, the American Conservative or even the New York Review of Books would have been willing to publish "The Lobby." And if they were interested in publishing the essay in book form, there's certainly Nation Books. Walt has no problem using the language of the anti-Israel crowd when it suits his purposes. For him and Mearsheimer to shrink from David Duke's praise is a little hyprocritical. They agree with the view, but don't want the stink of others who hold that view to stick to them.

Finally Frankel mention former Senator Charles Percy who feels that he was successfully targeted for defeat by AIPAC. (AIPAC is frequently referred to in the article as "right-wing" yet it was its support of the very liberal, the late Paul Simon, that is cited as the reason for Percy's defeat.) The reason given that AIPAC targeted Percy was that he met with Yasser Arafat even though, according to Percy, he voted for every foreign aid bill that AIPAC favored. Look I can understand Percy's resentment if he feels he was targeted by AIPAC, but reading Frankel you don't realize that there's more to the story.

First of all meeting with Arafat 20+ years ago, was a big deal, that it wasn't post Oslo. Though Arafat never gave up his terrorist ways, he was accurately perceived as a bad guy then and meeting with him was tantamount to approval of his agenda. Furthermore since his defeat, Percy has been involved with the American Educational Trust. AET is a decidedly anti-Israel organization. It is probably antisemitic too. (Check out the website for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs for a sense of the organization.)

Again this is a significant piece of information about Percy that Frankel doesn't mention.

So the problem with Glenn Frankel's treatment of Walt and Mearsheimer is that it's about their paper without it being about them and their views and allies. It is, in other words, shallow. Long but shallow. So though the article appears balanced between proponents and opponents of Walt and Mearsheimer, it lets them off the hook by not investigating what their paper really said.