Roger Cohen of NYT


Demo against the assault on Freedom Flotilla in the front of the white house, on June 1, 2010

Roger Cohen is the rare columnist at NYT who makes an occasional effort to bring some objectivity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, how far does his objectivity go?

Consider his piece of June 10, "Modern Folly and Ancient Wisdom." 

I have selected a few excerpts for comment.

First excerpt: 
"Israel's bloody interception of the Mavi Marmara and its motley crew was crass - another example of the counterproductive use of force - but nothing about it could justify the Turkish prime minister's outrageous statement that the world now perceives "the swastika and the Star of David together (italics mine)."

Why does he speak of the "motley crew" on the Mavi Marmara? First, is 'crew' the appropriate word for the humanitarian activists on a ship bringing relief to people under blockade. 'Crew' has unpleasant connotations. Let us consult the Oxford English dictionary. Originally, it meant "an augmentation or reinforcement of a military force." Now, by extension, it means "Any organized or associated force, band, or body of armed men." 

In addition, why is this a 'motley' crew? Does he mean heterogeneous? In fact, most were Turkish. Why then are they "motley?" The word has a bad odor. The OED concurs. Consider two entries in the OED. Entry one: "Of a thing or collection of things: composed of elements of diverse or varied character, form, appearance, etc. Freq. with implication of poor design or organization (italics added)." And entry two: Of a gathering or group of people: consisting of people of diverse or varied appearance, character, etc.; miscellaneous. Freq. depreciative (italics in the original).

Now consider this: Israel's behavior was merely "crass - another example of the counterproductive use of force." So Cohen disapproves of Israel's behavior because it is "crass" (stupid) and "counterproductive" to Israel. Nothing worse. On the other hand, the Turkish prime minister's statement is "outrageous." Criticism aimed at Israel is "outrageous" but Israeli massacre of humanitarian activists is merely "crass." 

There is a myopia too behind Cohen's anger at the Turkish prime minister's statement. He claims, "there is nothing about it [the illegal Israeli massacre of civilians]" that can justify Erdogan's statement. Is Erdogan's outrage a response only to the attack on the Flotilla - or is the world's perception of Israel slowly catching up to its long history of settler colonialism, ethnic cleansings, illegal wars, countless massacres of civilians, and wars daily threatened against Lebanon, Syria and Iran? Such myopia is inexcusable in one who should be better schooled in the Middle East.

Second excerpt:
"Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the bristling leader who has given Kemal Ataturk's secular Turkey an Islamic tinge and an eastward-looking inclination, should know better than to invoke the Nazis when speaking of a state that emerged from the ashes of European Jewry (italics mine)."

Israel as "a state that emerged from the ashes of European Jewry" That's a page out of Israeli hasbara. Using the Holocaust to justify the creation of Israel and the 'right' of Israel to immunity from international law. The Zionist movement was launched when Adolf Hitler was barely eight years old. Inside the supportive shell of the British occupation of Palestine, the Zionists in Palestine had already created the infrastructure of a Jewish society and state by the early 1930s, again long before the Holocaust. I am sure Roger Cohen knows all this: but does not matter to the way he thinks about Israel?

Third excerpt:
"But it is still a liberal democracy, home to a level of debate and openness unknown elsewhere in the Middle East (italics added)."

Is Israel "still a liberal democracy?" Consensus on that claim is fast disappearing, even in partisan Western societies. Then follows something inexcusably lame: he compares Israel to the despotisms supported by and allied to the USA and Israel. Look Israel is still a liberal democracy: just compare it to the despotic monarchy of Saudi Arabia.

Fourth excerpt:
"Its tactical lurches, often violent, do not add up to a strategy; they have resulted in a shocking erosion of Israel's stature."

Given what Israel is - an apartheid society, a garrison state founded on ethnic cleansing, a state that still practices ethnic cleansing, a nuclear-armed state threatening warfare against its neighbors - why should the erosion of Israel's "stature" be "shocking." Shouldn't persons of liberal and humane values welcome this erosion? No so Roger Cohen of the New York Times.

Enough said: if this is what comes from the pen of a self-consciously liberal and humane Zionist, what can we expect from the rest of the "motley crew?"

*****

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2006). Contact him at alqalam02760 [at] yahoo.com.


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  2 Comments   Comment

  1. Shuja from Canada

    Despite the fact, that I agree with Shahid Alam, he is a wonderful writer, I am asking Muslims, why are they mum on the hypocricy of Saudi Arabia and its paid newspapers. They are far more dangerous than any Roger Cohen or Tom Friedman. Read the Saudi Newspapers, they are more critical of Turkish role or any resistance role against Israel since they are loosing their leverage after every such resistance. I don't see any such critical articles against Saudi Arabian Newspapers. No doubt, Zionists have a complex agenda, we all knew that. But, how long the Muslim population will be deprived of the facts of the role played by the Center of Islam in relation to Palestine. They are critical to Iran, Turkey, Gaza government, and guess what even Lebanese Resistance. Muslims should question more frequently to the Heart of Islam rather than Roger Cohen for their writings. Finally, road to Jeruselum goes through Makkah, not through Washington. Like it or no. The greatest accident is not the deposition of Muslims from the position of World Leadership, but our continuous denial to accept our deposition and refusal to accept what are the reasons behind that. Very unfortunate.

  2. Kam from canada

    The author is supposedly an economist, but I see nothing but his Islamist outbursts and ant-semitic writings. I wonder if he has anytime left to teach! That is what I call seeing through green glasses. Just musings!

    Kam