The Big Lie Returns: Antisemites and Antisemitism
The forthcoming edition of Commentary magazine carries an essay I've written on the recent contortions of contemporary antisemitism. The trigger was an episode that HP readers are certainly familiar with, and one that, by rights, should have resulted in a major scandal.
Yet it didn't.
I'm referring, of course, to Chicago University professor John Mearsheimer's endorsement of the latest book by the imbecilic Jew-hater, Gilad Atzmon. And I argue that the general indifference to Mearsheimer's decision underlines a disturbing reality: that Jews don't own the definition of the word "antisemitism". In truth, they never have.
I then engage in a little thought experiment:
My aim in writing this piece is to reclaim the antisemitism debate on the terms of those who still suffer from this ancient prejudice, together with that broader public who still understand the profound danger that antisemitism – whether open or clumsily disguised – represents. I end by saying:
All comments and reactions most welcome. You can read the essay in full here.
By Ben Cohen | Tue, January 24, 2012 9:13 AM | Permalink
Rock The Casbah
Something a little different to my usual output: a review of legendary outfit Big Audio Dynamite's reunion gig in New York City. Even here, though, the politics of the Middle East intrudes. Here's an excerpt:
If that tickles, go here to read the rest.
By Ben Cohen | Thu, April 21, 2011 10:46 AM | Permalink
The Palestinian Authority's Strategy of Self-Defeat
Today's United States veto of the Arab -sponsored resolution at the UN Security Council has left no-one happy.
Israel's detractors point, with a modicum of glee, to an Obama Administration full of multilateralist pretensions, yet woefully isolated in this vote, which won the support of the remaining 14 members on the SC. That, they say, is a direct result of the overpowering influence which Israel and its lobby has over U.S. foreign policy.
Israel's supporters are angry that this issue even got to the UN. After all, this is a body in which all states are formally equal, yet Israel finds itself less equal to everyone else, thanks to the wildly disproportionate attention which the various UN bodies pay to its supposed offenses, as well as the battery of agencies dedicated to everything from Palestinian refugees to Palestinian rights.
It is true that the U.S. enabled today's spectacle by seeking a compromise solution, whereby the Security Council would issue a non-binding presidential statement condemning the settlements. However, the Palestinians, who are unrivaled when it comes to playing the victim, said they were being short-changed. They pressed ahead with a resolution that, if not for the U.S. veto, would have been passed.
A moral victory for the PA, then? Perhaps, but so what. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the Israeli-Palestinian impasse in which I quoted Francois de Callieres, an emissary of France's King Louis XVI, who made this pithy observation about powers great and small in one of the foundational texts of modern diplomacy, "On the Manner of Dealing with Princes:"
I went on to say:
My point is that while the prestige of U.S. diplomacy has been badly bruised today, the Palestinian strategy is ultimately self-defeating. Neither pushing resolutions at the Security Council, nor winning recognition of statehood from assorted Latin American countries, will deliver a real, functional Palestinian state. Only direct talks with the Israelis can achieve that.
By scorning the talks, the Palestinians are also scorning their sponsor: the Obama Administration. Yes, as de Callieres tells us, big powers value their relations with small entities. At the same time, small entities who abuse those relations take a perilous risk.
Whatever differences Obama may have with Israel, this snub from the PA is not one he will easily forget. Remember, this is a man who, last September, stood at the podium of the UN General Assembly and pledged to do all he could to bring about a Palestinian state by the same time the following year. That pledge now looks increasingly forlorn, thanks in the main to the PA's antics.
As well as alienating the U.S., the PA has no guarantee of continued regional support. Those Arab states which lined up to push the resolution are under tremendous internal pressure, so much so that it is positively bizarre that, today of all days, the Security Council should devote its energies to the Palestinians. Further unrest and repression in the Arab world, as well as the spectre of an Islamist triumph in Egypt, could actually damage the fortunes of the PA.
Rejection, isolation, the overwhelming sense of being on the wrong side of history: all the fates that the PA warns lie in store for Israel await the PA too. If the PA leadership is serious about creating the political conditions for statehood within the framework of a final agreement with Israel - and that if seems ever more pertinent to the conversation - it needs to stop the grandstanding.
By | Fri, February 18, 2011 6:09 PM | Permalink
Lies of the Angry Arab
I normally don't respond to my critics because if I did, I'd scarcely have the time to do anything else. But, as I'll explain, I have to make an exception in the case of As'ad Abu Khalil, a Political Science Professor at California State University and the author of a rather sordid little blog called the Angry Arab News Service.
Abu Khalil, seen here in a picture which may serve as a warning about the misuse of hair restoration products, berates me for my latest piece – published here in The Propagandist and on The Huffington Post - about Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper with a Strasserite editorial line: anti-American, anti-capitalist and viciously antisemitic.
Abu Khalil, whom I have never met and never corresponded with, wants his readers to believe that I have no knowledge of Marx's oeuvre (dude, don't get into that with me – I really do.) And he's also spitting rage that a "Zionist hoodlum" like me – don't you just love that deliciously retro, Soviet term of abuse? – should criticize an Arab newspaper when I don't read Arabic.
It's that last point which has triggered my decision to respond. Abu Khalil is right. I don't read Arabic and I'd like to explain why. In 1941, my father's family was ethnically cleansed from Iraq in the wake of the farhud, a pogrom against Baghdad's Jewish community instigated by similarly "angry Arabs," allied with the Nazis and spurred on by the notorious Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, which resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries and destroyed homes. Had it not been for that event – painstakingly documented in Edwin Black's superb book on the subject – my mother tongue would have been Arabic.
Hence my desire to set the record straight. And now I'll move on.
By | Fri, December 31, 2010 6:53 PM | Permalink
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions and the New Israel Fund
This one has been doing the email rounds rather feverishly today, and now Jeff Goldberg has run with it:
Jeff is absolutely right to say that supporting BDS under any circumstances is incompatible with defining oneself as pro-Israel. After all, can you imagine a foundation dedicated to civil rights supporting grantees whose advocacy of separate lunch counters was deemed "incidental?"
There is, however, a more fundamental point concerning NIF's characterization of BDS as a "tactical matter," the aim of which is to secure an end to the "occupation" - a term which NIF understands as referring to those territories under Israeli control since the 1967 war. In fact, the polar opposite is true. BDS is the tangible expression of an ideology which holds that Israel itself has no moral or legal foundation. And this is something understood on left and right. J Street, commendably, sums it up rather well:
For the BDS movement, the original sin crystallized in 1948, not 1967. Those who push for BDS are advocating the same eliminationist strategy embodied in the Arab League's 1945 declaration of a boycott of "Jewish" and "Zionist" goods.
Whether waged by states or by NGOs, BDS is a form of economic warfare which has, so far, been as spectacular a failure as the parallel attempts by Arab armies to defeat Israel on the battlefield. That doesn't, however, make it any more acceptable for an entity called the New Israel Fund to provide support to those who believe Israel shouldn't be there in the first place.
By | Wed, November 17, 2010 2:51 PM | Permalink
Goldstone, Goldstone, Wherefore Are Thou, Goldstone?
I'm asking because, in his report to the scrupulously neutral and balanced UN Human Rights Council in September 2009, Judge Richard Goldstone and his fellow commissioners said: "Statements by Israeli political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza indicate that the Israeli military conception of what was necessary in a war with Hamas viewed disproportionate destruction and creating the maximum disruption in the lives of many people as a legitimate means to achieve not only military but also political goals."
They also famously said: "While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole."
Last week, Fathi Hamad of Hamas came out and admitted that 600-700 of those killed in a war whose casualties have been estimated in the 1,100 -1,400 range were Hamas fighters. Quite a revision upwards from the original Hamas figure of 49. And who knows? Perhaps it'll be revised upwards again.
Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, now says the world owes Israel an apology for what is, in effect, a modern day blood libel. If I were him, I wouldn't hold my breath.
By | Tue, November 9, 2010 1:10 PM | Permalink
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