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The delusion continues

The delusion continues

I previously have highlighted the treatment of the “Arab Street” by NY Times columnist Roger Cohen in the midst of the Arab Spring protests, many of which revealed an open and ugly anti-Semitic side:

In the Middle East you expect the worst. But having watched Egypt’s extraordinary civic achievement in building the coalition that ousted Mubarak, having watched Tahrir Square become cooperation central, and having watched the professionalism of the Egyptian army, I’m convinced the country has what it takes to build a decent, representative society — one that gives the lie to all the stereotypes associated with that dismissive shorthand “The Arab Street.”

In fact, post-Tahrir, let’s retire that phrase.

Now Cohen, aware of the rise of Islamists, continues to downplay the threat:

The old Middle East of Israel’s cozy military-to-military relationships with the likes of Turkey and Egypt is gone. A new Middle East where Israel must deal people-to-people is being born. For a democracy this should ultimately be encouraging: People, including Arabs, with control of their lives tend to be focused on improving those lives rather than seeking conflict. The rise of Islamic parties opposed to despotism and adjusting painfully to modernity is cause for caution, yes, but not for manipulative Israeli dismissiveness.

“Cause for caution”  The main concern being “manipulative Israeli dismissiveness”?  In fact, history is full of examples of people who control their lives seeking conflict, particularly when Israel and Jews are on the other side.

This is a dangerously optimistic view of the forces at work in the region, one which has been all too common among columnists at The NY Times.


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This is, of course, not much different from Thomas Friedman’s latest, Israel and the Arab Awakening:

Israel’s fear of Islamists taking power all around it cannot be dismissed. But it is such a live possibility precisely because of the last 50 years of Arab dictatorship, in which only Islamists were allowed to organize in mosques while no independent, secular, democratic parties were allowed to develop in the political arena. This has given Muslim parties an early leg up. Arab dictators were convenient for Israel and the Islamists — but deadly for Arab development and education. Now that the lid has come off, the transition will be rocky. But, it was inevitable, and the new politics is just beginning: Islamists will now have to compete with legitimate secular parties.

Netanyahu’s prescription is to do nothing. I understand Israel not ceding territory in this uncertain period to a divided Palestinian movement. What I can’t understand is doing nothing. Israel has an Arab awakening in its own backyard in the person of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority. He’s been the most radical Arab leader of all. He is the first Palestinian leader to say: judge me on my performance in improving my peoples’ lives, not on my rhetoric. His focus has been on building institutions — including what Israelis admit is a security force that has helped to keep Israel peaceful — so Palestinians will be ready for a two-state solution. Instead of rewarding him, Israel has been withholding $100 million in Palestinian tax revenues that Fayyad needs — in punishment for the Palestinians pressing for a state at the U.N. — to pay the security forces that help to protect Israel. That is crazy.

In a sense this is even worse than Cohen’s argument. Friedman effectively acknowledges that Israel’s fears are valid and then insists they Israel is still wrong.

Sometimes it really hurts to be stuck with stereotypes. Roger Cohen breaks with the stereotype. Who’d thunk there could be a anybody with a Jewish surname who doesn’t understand the art of negotiation.

“… Israel must deal people-to-people …”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t 20% of Israeli citizens Arab? Cohen’s gobbldygook notwithstanding, that seems pretty tolerant and people-to-people to me.

At Occupy LA I saw a guy holding one of those “Free Hugs” signs you see on youtube. Occupy supporters were going up to him and hugging him.

I double dare Cohen to walk the people-to-people walk he so easily espouses and stroll around Egypt in its glorious spring holding a “Hug me, I’m Jewish” sign.

Maybe the next time the Israeli embassy is attacked … or the next big friendly gathering in Tahrir Square would be good opportunities.

He’d get hugged for sure.

    But he’s gotta walk through Israel with a “hug me I’m Arab” sign first, otherwise he won’t get the point.

    And it has to be in that order, it might not work going to Egypt first.

Do you suppose this idiot will recognize the threat BEFORE they arrive at his doorstep to hack off his brainless head? Does anyone want to talk odds on that?

Delusion and denial writ large…

Cassandra Lite | December 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm

In the 8th grade, another boy kicked me in the shin during homeroom. I grabbed my leg. The teacher sent me and the other boy to vice principal, who asked what happened. The other boy, to his credit, said, “I kicked him in the shin.” So what did the veep do? He gave us both swats and said he hoped we’d learned our lesson.

I didn’t realize until recently that that was a metaphor. I was Israel.

Cohen is speaking from his cozy little nest here in the US. He is not challenged to put his money where his mouth is and probably never will be. It amazing that some people can sit in their armchairs and tell the rest of the world where it went wrong. OTOH, why does anyone pay any attention to this guy or read any of his drivel.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to BarbaraS. | December 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Where he is doesn’t matter to Cohen cuz it will always be the “Juice” fault. Part of belonging to the in-crowd is denying reality and blaming the “Juice” for everything.

I surely hope that no one around here is holding their breath waiting for intelligence to “spring” up at the NY Slimes. Methinks there would be many blue-faced people before that happens.

Cohen has a death wish. When a group of people, based on their “holy” book, tell you that they will kill you, you’d better believe it. More importantly, you’d better have a plan to save your life. Cohen’s plan is to blame Israel. Word to Cohen: that won’t save you. Either you convert or you die cuz the “holy” book tells those precious ones you’re protecting that even the trees will say “yo, there’s a Jew hiding behind me, kill him.” I guess Cohen will say that that’s an Israeli translation and misunderstanding of Islam’s Koran.