Roger Cohen ‘Times’ op-ed short on sources, history and logic

Roger Cohen’s November 17, 2009 op-ed in the New York Times, "A Mideast Truce," demonstrates how much work remains to be done in the battle against Zionist hasbara, or propaganda, in the mainstream media. Mr. Cohen may be woefully ignorant of the facts, or he may be deliberately subverting them in service of a leftwing Zionist vision of an Erez Yisrael; an Israel that is accepted by indigenous people of the Middle East. Whatever his purpose, his omissions and half-truths cannot go uncorrected, especially since his is the ‘moderate’ Zionist position.

First, Mr. Cohen fails to incorporate one Palestinian voice in his analysis. There isn’t a single Palestinian quoted or interviewed in the entire op-ed. Not even a voice from the American/Israeli Palestinian Authority, which would have parroted the official line anyway. The omission impacts the framework within which the reader evaluates the piece; this is a problem with two principal agents, the Americans and the Israelis. The Palestinians are mute objects. The American President and four Israelis are civilized enough to merit quotation – including Avigdor Lieberman, the neo-fascist Israeli Foreign Minister and Ron Nachman, the founder of the Ariel settler colony in the occupied West Bank.

Some of Mr. Cohen’s other errors belie a poor understanding of the conflict. He cites President Obama’s capitulation to the Israeli Prime Minister on the settlements as a tactical error, when in fact it has been the cornerstone of American policy vis a vis the Israelis since Bill Clinton took office. Mr. Cohen doesn’t attempt to describe the dynamics that produced this policy – namely Israel lobby power in Washington, nor does he describe potential for influence that the world’s only superpower has over its principal client state.

Mr. Cohen throws his weight behind the debunked Hamas canard. He writes that Hamas gained power in Palestine through violence with an “accompanying resurgence of annihilationist ideology.” In fact, Hamas was elected to power through free and fair elections verified by election monitors. When Hamas attempted to exercise control – as it was elected to do – the American/Israeli Palestinian Authority launched a coup. More discipline and better training allowed Hamas to defeat the illiberal and anti-democratic American/Israeli Palestinian Authority forces trained by General Keith Dayton. Vanity Fair has a comprehensive history of that internecine conflict.

The writer uses one well known trick in papering over the truth; omission of a subject to limit the reader’s understanding of the agency of an actor. For instance, he writes “[b]oth Oslo (1993) and the Road Map (2003) called for settlements to stop, but the number of settlers has risen steadily to over 450,000.” Mr. Cohen, who permitted the number of settlers to increase in that period? What responsibilities did those parties have under Oslo and the Road Map?

The biggest error is one of cognition; Mr. Cohen didn’t think this one through. He calls for a détente in Palestine/Israel. What would be the first step in a status quo détente? What would be the first step in stopping hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis? What would permit Mr. Cohen’s vision of uneasy partition to take place? Well, the Israelis would have to stop stealing Palestinian land in order to colonize it – in other words, a settlement freeze. For Mr. Cohen’s détente to exist, the two sides would have to leave one another alone. Pretending for a moment that there aren’t over a million Palestinians in Israel today, and that the Apartheid barrier doesn’t force even more Palestinians to live on the Israeli side, Mr. Cohen would need to end provocative Israeli practices. For Mr. Cohen’s détente to exist, he would have to end the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

Finally, the writer evokes the writer David Grossman to make the point that the Israeli psychology is “Intifada-traumatized.” I evoke Avraham Burg’s book, The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise from its Ashes to insist that the Israeli Psychology is Holocaust-traumatized. Israel exists, and is a jingoistic racist state today, in part, because of the Nazi Holocaust. Mr. Cohen may have an easier time understanding his coreligionists and their Apartheid state once he owns up to this fact.

Ahmed Moor is a 25-year-old Palestinian-American from the Rafah refugee camp. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Beirut.

About Ahmed Moor

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American who was born in the Gaza Strip. He is a PD Soros Fellow, co-editor of After Zionism and co-founder and CEO of liwwa.com. Twitter: @ahmedmoor
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 19 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. bob says:

    The omission impacts the framework within which the reader evaluates the piece; this is a problem with two principal agents, the Americans and the Israelis. The Palestinians are mute objects.

    The uncovered Palestinian narrative in Media in the US is a key problem that deserves to be rectified.

  2. Nolan says:

    Mr. Cohen may be woefully ignorant of the facts, or he may be deliberately subverting them in service of a leftwing Zionist vision of an Erez Yisrael

    I vote for deliberately subverting them. Someone once said that the best way to conceal a lie is to hide it between two truths.

  3. robin says:

    Another great piece by Moor. When I read Cohen’s editorial, I just thought “this guy doesn’t know anything”. In fact it reminded me a lot of Friedman’s recent editorial, and Friedman as a rule doesn’t know anything. Does Cohen usually deal with these issues? I got the sense that he doesn’t, and just said “I guess today I’ll write a column on Israel-Palestine”. It’s completely the “officialspeak”, “peace process” narrative, ignorant to Moor’s crucial point that the occupation is violence.

  4. Dan Kelly says:

    The writer uses one well known trick in papering over the truth; omission of a subject to limit the reader’s understanding of the agency of an actor.

    Much of the Zionist narrative of Israel is based on this trick. It is at once both a brilliant linguistic device and a terrifying method of dumbing down masses of otherwise intelligent readers.

    • Citizen says:

      I agree, people without much time or detailed information about the I-P history
      won’t catch the intentional lack of an actor. This is never done when the (negative) actor is
      Palestinian.

  5. Hamas did/does employ violence as its means to politically organize. It is NOT only a political party. It determined that it would not lay down its arms even to a PA that it was majority.

    While actions of Fatah and Dahlan in particular may be criticized, to hold Hamas immune from criticism is false and frankly malevolent towards realized improvement in Palestinians’ status. As a realistic perspective is useful.

    Hamas is certainly instrumental in shifts in Israeli attitude. To the extent that Hamas or anyone is uttering any criticism that extends beyond that of policy, to anything related to the basis of Israeli validity, Israeli’s rationally feel and then act threatened.

    I strongly prefer the deliberate and effective actions by Fayyad, in actually creating stable institutions in the West Bank. The presence of stability, law, commerce, social services, trump ideological consistency (which doesn’t bother to be so ideological consistent anyway).

    Hamas was so close to getting to a point of validity and leadership, then blew it with the resumption of shelling in December. Israelis had noted Hamas’ discipline, then noted the degree that they were untrustable, angrier more than pragmatic.

    On Cohen, If there is anyone that has been consistent on insisting on freezing settlement construction in the Obama administration, it is Cohen.

    I get that you probably take heart in reading the posts on this site, that support your comments and objectives. There is much sympathy in the world for Palestinian experience, and particularly Gazans. There is not enough sympathy or motivation, nor will there be, to enact the more maximalist Palestinian national agitation (single-state) globally.

    Fayyad is close to realizing sovereignty. Certainly, much can go wrong, and Netanyahu is a very wily character.

    To return to agitation that is oriented towards the Palestinian street fight as to who should lead, is clearly a distraction, worse than a distraction.

    • Citizen says:

      Why don’t you respond to the first point:
      “Mr. Cohen fails to incorporate one Palestinian voice in his analysis.”

      Or this one:

      “Some of Mr. Cohen’s other errors belie a poor understanding of the conflict. He cites President Obama’s capitulation to the Israeli Prime Minister on the settlements as a tactical error, when in fact it has been the cornerstone of American policy vis a vis the Israelis since Bill Clinton took office. Mr. Cohen doesn’t attempt to describe the dynamics that produced this policy – namely Israel lobby power in Washington, nor does he describe potential for influence that the world’s only superpower has over its principal client state.”

    • Chaos4700 says:

      What? As opposed to the Zionist movement, huh? Hypocrisy to the Nth degree.

  6. potsherd says:

    I think Moor gives the Israelis too much credit by focusing on trauma and ommiting plain old greed.

    • Sin Nombre says:

      Yeah, I was gonna say, how does Holocaust/Intifada/anything trauma explain the lust for expropriating other people’s land?

      Talk about dishonoring the Holocaust: Use it as an all purpose excuse/rationalization.

      Funny how all this shows the disengenuousness of Left liberalism: Since the founding of the Soviet Union of course it’s most damning condemnation has been to categorize someone or some action or some state as “fascist.” (Even though same would seem to have fit the Soviet Union for most of its existence.) And this epithet of course was used by it up to and including the U.S.

      Now however, when confronted by a state supported by the U.S., which has a person like Lieberman as one of its highest officials and his party in a firm position of power, and things being said like that Chief Rabbi of the IDF the other day, suddenly, my my, all the grand, self-appointed moral Paladins of humanity have just gone blind. Can’t see a thing. Nothing to see here, just move along….

    • Citizen says:

      Eva? Where’s your comment?

      • James says:

        she managed to slip by the ‘you have to post more then one word in order to post’ dynamic here at wordpress… that shows talent! this reminds me of the lao tze saying……

        those who know, do not speak… those who speak, do not know, lol….

  7. Cohen has sold out on Israel-Palestine. I think he and Friedman are sending a signal from the NYT editorial board: Let Israel have its way. Don’t expect any help from “the newspaper of record” in putting pressure on Israel to comply with normal standards of human behavior. As for Cohen, the Great Jewish Hope, Palestine is no longer on his beat. The Tribe has claimed him and brought him to heel.

    Cohen advocates the status quo. What does the status quo mean? First, it is not static. It is a process of gradual change toward an end state. The end state is The Greater Jewish State of Israel, reaching from the Jordan to the sea. But in the crazed eyes of many, that is not really the end state. The end state must reach far to the east of the Jordan and into the Lebanon because those lands, too, were mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

    The end state means the end of the Palestinians. There are no Palestinians; there are only Arabs. Arabs are not eligible to be citizens in The Greater Jewish State. They will be eliminated; they are now being eliminated. It just takes time, but there are ways. The “International Community” will turn away, will avert its eyes. They are not meant to observe how sausage is made. All the while, the Hasbara Chorus will sing Israel’s praises in the American media, drowning out the shrieks and groans from far away.

    When I was a child of eight, watching the newsreels at the Saturday morning picture show – those films of emaciated living beings in those strange prison rags, and naked cadavers piled high – little did I know that what I was seeing was the emblem of the world to come. It was a lovely spring in 1945, and all I had ever known was sunshine and showers and the flowers they brought from heaven. But what I was seeing then, the conclusion of an unimaginable catastrophe, would set the course of human history throughout my life, and long into the lives of my children and grandchildren.

    The Jewish portion of the Holocaust led inevitably to fruition of the Zionists’ wildest dreams: the creation of The Jewish State of Israel with no borders, no unmovable obstacles to ever-greater expansion into Eretz Israel and beyond. The Zionists took care of everything and never waivered from the goal. All it took was a ruthless indifference to the suffering of gentiles, which came easily enough after all that ….

    Now an essentially disarmed and helpless world stands by and wonders, What does this mean for us? How many world wars before the lust for vengeance is satiated? In America, bewildered people ask, How do we get back control of our government; how do we reclaim our independence from the Zionist Power? How do we protect our national interests, including our security, from domination and subversion by this foreign power?

    How, indeed?

    • Citizen says:

      Campaign finance reform would go quite away, exclusively funded by individual USA citizens–coupled with a few public TV channels devoted to nothing but campaigns and issues, also funded the same way, and absent any political taboos. Except no incumbents would ever vote for it.
      Back to square one.

      • potsherd says:

        A definite quis custodiet dilemma.

        Among my other daydreams is the one where the US DoJ arrests the entire Congress and charges them with bribery. They got Jefferson, only 534 more to go.

    • Dan Kelly says:

      Great writing, CMI. Thank you for that passage.

  8. Rehmat says:

    I would like to donate a copy of the movie “New Muslim Cool” – before Roger Cohen decide to write his next crap about Islam and Muslims.

    link to rehmat1.wordpress.com

  9. Roger Cohen’s abandonment of Palestine is indicative of the resignation, if not moral collapse, of the vaunted American Jewish “Left”. Where are the PIPs – Progressives Including Palestine? Singing “I Love Israel” ditties at a J Street conference that was supposed to promote the goal of a two-state solution, while their tepid leaders muttered ambivalent equivocations.

    This abysmal performance seems to confirm what I have long suspected: “liberal” Jews will never be able to break away from the strictures of tribal dogma, which for more than four decades has been dominated by the ultra-Zionist doctrines of Likud and the sons and daughters of Jabotinsky. When it’s time to show the colors, ethnic tribal allegiances will trump universal moral values every time. That is what Zionism has done to un-assimilated Jewish life in America.

    Saving America and the Palestinians (I won’t say “Palestine” anymore) from the Zionists is going to require massive intervention by the goyim. Get used to it.