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.