Roger Cohen gets it wrong again: Not sure what world he lives in

Roger Cohen should have gone on vacation this week just as the other New York Times’ opinionators Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman did.  Had he done so we would not have had to be exposed to his latest admission that he has no idea what really happens on the ground here in the region especially when it comes to Israel.

His latest diatribe entitled “My Jewish State” of all things, once again selectively quotes people whose politics match his, those of the standard Jewish non-resident of Israel who believes that if only we (i.e. Israel) would accede to every demand of the Palestinians peace and quiet would reign. The following examples illustrate my point.

Quote: So, too, has an Israeli ministerial committee vote advancing legislation to annex settlements in the Jordan Valley infuriated the Palestinians. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the vote “finishes all that is called the peace process.” Such contemptuous characterization of a negotiation from a leading protagonist is ill-advised and bodes ill.

He, of course, makes no mention that this legislation has no chance of passing, that it is not supported by the Prime Minister and is something that is done in parliaments all over the world by small groups who want to make a point knowing the legislation will not pass. He leaves all of that out but legitimizes Saeb Erekat’s comment, when everyone here knows that Ereket objects to everything Israel does when it does not match his view of how the peace process should progress.

Quote: Then there is the rebounding Israel-is-a-Jewish-state bugbear: Netanyahu wants Palestinians to recognize his nation as such. He has recently called it “the real key to peace.” His argument is that this is the touchstone by which to judge whether Palestinians will accept “the Jewish state in any border” — whether, in other words, the Palestinian leadership would accept territorial compromise or is still set on reversal of 1948 and mass return to Haifa. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, says no; this “nyet” will endure.  

A “bugbear?” Really? Has Cohen completely forgotten that Abbas continues to say at every opportunity that in a future Palestinian state there will not be one Jewish resident and if there are international forces involved he will not permit any of them to have Jews in their cohorts? Is it any wonder then that Netanyahu insists on this as a precondition of peace? If Jews are not permitted to live in a Palestinian state, at a minimum their leadership has to admit (I use the word admit, as we do not need their or anyone else’s recognition) that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. 

Anything less opens the door to ultimate annihilation in our own land.   With more than half of the world’s Jewish population living here now we have no choice but to demand this. It’s easy for those Jews living abroad to misunderstand this as their existence is not threatened but, sadly, ours is!

On the recognition issue he goes on to say:

Quote: This issue is a waste of time, a complicating diversion when none is needed. As Shlomo Avineri, a leading Israeli political scientist, put it to me, “It’s a tactical issue raised by Netanyahu in order to make negotiations more difficult.”

But, once again, Cohen omits Shlomo Avineri’s overall approach as elucidated on January 13th of last year in Ha’aretz when he said:

Quote: Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are unlikely to bridge the gaps between the sides, and I call for reduced expectations, interim agreements, trust-building exercises, unilateral steps and other mechanisms. There is a long list of steps Israel could take following this model. It could halt construction projects in the territories, ease up on the living conditions of Palestinians, and put a stop to the measures intended to punish the Palestinians for earning UN recognition. On the Palestinian side, such a list would include accepting the idea of two states for two peoples. This would mean a fundamental change in the Palestinian education system and in its propaganda, both of which evince a deep hatred toward Israel.

Cohen therefore conveniently chooses to quote just one small point made by Avineri while omitting the very essence of his comments and beliefs which significantly inform the selected quotation.

What Roger Cohen should do, if he is as strong a Zionist as he claims to be in his op-ed, is to move here and live among us for an extended period of time so that he can imbibe the richness of Jewish life in Israel and make it part of his soul. His diaspora background in two major centers of Jewish life, the US and the UK, biases his thinking in a way that makes him see the facts here through a prism that, as in physics, “bends” the light and gives him a jaundiced impression.

Douglas Wilder, who served as the first African-American to be elected Governor of Virginia and the first to be elected governor of any state since Reconstruction, once said: “Certain Black leaders would believe that you have to go through their prism: If I lay my hand on you you’re OK! So many people have made a living off of the pimping of race.”

Here we might say that certain political leaders would have you believe that you have to go through their prism in order to see the facts clearly, bent as they may be. So many people have made a living off of the pimping of peace. 

Roger Cohen is just one example and, sadly, there are many others as well.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 33 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, Ontario and Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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