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‘NYT’ writers slam left for intolerance of dissent– on Israel panel that excludes anti-Zionists and Palestinians

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New York Times columnists Bret Stephens and Roger Cohen repeatedly bashed the left for not tolerating dissent at a panel about Israel in New York last week. Cohen called for “unsafe” speech and “open discussions, fierce debate” so as to fend off a “monolithic” McCarthyist “mob” on campuses.

But the panel itself embodied Jewish intolerance of dissent: All three speakers on stage at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan were ardent Zionists, introduced by a JCC official, Dava Schub, as people who could “articulate our connection to and our commitment to Israel. . . the great Jewish project which should unite us but somehow divides us.”

The panel included one Israel critic, Roger Cohen, to counter two rightwing Zionists, Stephens and the event’s moderator, New York Times editor Bari Weiss.

But if anything was plain after 100 minutes of discussion, it is that liberal Jewish institutions like the JCC need to limit division over Israel. The organization has no room on its stage for those inside the Jewish community (and the U.S.) who do not see the need for a Jewish state. And God forbid a Palestinian would care to open her mouth.

Stephens and Cohen both gave speeches about the intolerance of the left.

Stephens’s tone was angry. He said the “toxic” leftwing concept of intersectionality is anti-Semitic; and that if leftists don’t “check their prejudices at the door . . . it’s us who should want no part of them, ever.” He likened Palestinian leadership to pornography (because he’ll know it when he sees it) and said that when Zionists are criticized by students for defending apartheid, they should say “F.U.” back to the students, and do so with a smile.

Roger Cohen was far more high-minded. “Without civilized disagreement, liberal society dies,” he said; and the absence of dissent in leftwing discourse is McCarthyite.

We human beings contain multitudes. Human beings contain multitudes. [He cites Whitman and Goethe.] But there’s something going on today whereby that’s not allowed any more. People are not complex, they’re not multifaceted, they don’t have internal conflicts, they don’t believe one thing that may not fit exactly with another thing.

But yes, they do believe it! And they believe it because they’re human. That’s what they feel, that’s what they think, that’s what they believe. And this form of trying to impose a kind of monolithic order, where because you think one thing, you have to think another, it’s grotesque. At its worst, at its endpoint, it’s McCarthyite. And we have to be very vigilant about resisting it.

Cohen also was eloquent about the idea that universities are collapsing under the mob-rule of monolithic ideology.

We don’t want safe spaces in universities. That’s the last thing we want. Universities should be profoundly unsafe. That’s where you want to be challenged. That’s where your mind is being formed. It’s a very exciting moment in life. And if all you do is go to  college to feel safe, then you’re missing out on an essential element of what that moment in one’s education should be. At least that’s what I think. So. . . for all the people who want us to be monoliths, who want to shut us down, who want to stop discussion…they’re loud, they make a noise, mob mobilization is very easy these days. . . The answer is to fight back, to speak out, to talk. To try and organize forums where discussions can get pretty animated, even vitriolic…

He also said that all three New York Times staffers on stage believe that “open minds, open discussions, fierce debate, disagreement” are at the “foundation of Jewish ethics and Jewish identity itself.”

But again: there was no open or fierce discussion on stage about that idealistic trend in Jewish life, anti-Zionism and non-Zionism. All the panelists praised the creation of a Jewish state and the marvels of Israeli culture. Stephens said that everyone in Tel Aviv is beautiful, and the nukes are wonderful; and Cohen said, “I’m a Zionist. I support the state of Israel, strongly,” and reiterated his theme that Jews in the west would be unsafe were it not for the “new Jews” of Israel.

The same lack of free speech is evident at the New York Times, which has no anti-Zionist columnists. No, its latest hires are hacks for Israel. (And you think this site is tribal!)

It was a measure of the narrow range of the panel that when Bari Weiss asked the group to name the most important books on Israel, all six books named were by Jewish Zionists.

“Anything by Amos Oz, and Six Days of War [by Michael Oren],” Stephens said.

Like Dreamers by Yossi Klein Halevi. And Matti Friedman’s book Pumpkin Flowers,” Weiss said.

“I think 1948 by Benny Morris is very important. And I think even at this distance, From Beirut to Jerusalem remains a great book,” Roger Cohen said.

To his credit, Roger Cohen also was harshly critical of the occupation and acknowledged the crisis of Zionism.

The occupation is corrupting, ladies and gentlemen, it is corrupting, there is no escaping it. There is simply no escaping it. And we see it, day after day, in Israel. You cannot exercise this kind of power in that kind of way for that many years without it getting inside you. It gets inside you. So I as an American Jew — I can see why many young Jews in this country feel growing unease about what Israel is and especially about what Israel is becoming. That doesn’t mean that America’s castiron strategic support for Israel and the support of the Jewish community for this critical alliance is going to erode at any point that I can see.

P.S. I would urge those looking for books to get two books outside the Zionist lens: In the Land of My Birth, by Reja-e Busailah, about a Jerusalem family’s experience of the birth of Israel, and The Israel Lobby, by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, about that castiron support.)

 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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23 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    February 20, 2018, 1:10 pm

    this reminds me of a quote in an inspiring speech i watched last night by Canadian Dr. Michael Dan.

    he was talking about the Two Row Wampum Treaty (google that if you don’t know what it is). the saying was “Nothing about us without us”.

    such absurdity to criticize the left for not being inclusive and for being intolerant when they support and represent one of the most exclusionary intolerant nationalistic ideologies in the modern world. zionists talking with zionists in a zionist venue to a zionist audience bemoaning the lack of “civilized debate” w/critics of zionism. grab the violins!

    Stephens’s tone was angry. He said the “toxic” leftwing concept of intersectionality is anti-Semitic; and that if leftists don’t “check their prejudices at the door… it’s us who should want no part of them, ever.”

    what a novel idea. faster please! because it is quite clear stephen’s (and the whole jcc set up) already “want no part of them”. and the feeling is mutual. why normalize zionsim? what’s the point? they should be isolated.

    • pabelmont
      February 20, 2018, 8:31 pm

      Indeed, they (Zios) isolate themselves — discussions about us-and-others held without any others. But woe betide anyone who discusses I/P without Zios present!

      My take on this (apart from seeing the absurdity and immorality of the Zios, what everyone sees, and which the article shows so well, is — that the zios are getting scared! The “others’ (whether dirty nasty Palestinians or dirty nasty anti-Zionist Jews, etc.) are scaring them and they are reacting by circling the Zionist wagons.

      And another thing!

      Someone said Palestinian leadership is like pornography — he’d recognize it when he sees it. OK, I guess he sees himself as a judge, hunh? But can he recognize Zionist leadership? If he/they deplore the occupation — so beloved by the Zionist leadership — I guess he can recognbize it, but merely deplores it, whereas the Palestinian leadership is worse, “like pornography”.

      Cheap name calling. But of course, the Zionist leadership is not LIKE pornography, it embodies it. All the torture, killing, imprisonment without trial, arrests of children at 2 AM, kangaroo trials when there are trials at all, and all the excusing Zionist killing (by army, by police, by settlers) while abusively punishing all kinds of Palestinian behaviors, mostly far short of killing.

      Of course, the Palestinians are guilty — as I am — of wishing to see an end of the zionist enterprise, and I guess that sounds like an intent to murder to them. After all they’ve given themselves permission to act as if wishes were realities.

      As if wishes were realities. They wish that they had a right to seize all of Palestine and empty it of Palestinians, and they ACT as if they had that right; and they also act as if the Palestinian wish to end the Zionist horror were itself a reality, and they punish it accordingly.

      No reality anywhere. All over-exposed nerves.

  2. eljay
    February 20, 2018, 1:12 pm

    … But if anything was plain after 100 minutes of discussion, it is that liberal Jewish institutions like the JCC need to limit division over Israel. The organization has no room on its stage for those inside the Jewish community (and the U.S.) who do not see the need for a Jewish state. …

    I think the term for this is “foregone conclusion”.

    • pabelmont
      February 20, 2018, 8:39 pm

      And the “need for a Jewish state” implies — for them — the correctness of ANY Jewish state, no matter how awful, just as some benighted German may once have said there was a “need for a German state” and therefore Hitler et al. were OK, a reasonable, and acceptable consequence of having “a German State”.

      Pfui! I’ve proposed the only “Jewish state” that I can imagine might be acceptable to myself, and maybe to Palestinians, and that is a small slice of Palestine about the size of NYC, which has a population about the size of Israel’s “Jewish” population. If the Zionists “need a Jewish State”, let them bhe satisfied with a little one. But when they go from their possibly allowable premise to the wild outrageous conclusion of today’s (or yesterday’s) Zionism, they go far too far.

      • echinococcus
        February 21, 2018, 1:21 am

        Pabelmont

        If the Zionists “need a Jewish State”, let them bhe satisfied with a little one.

        Let’s ask again and yet again: with what right?

        The bad habit of giving away what’s not ours looks like hard to kill.

  3. LHunter
    February 20, 2018, 4:25 pm

    Another Zio-orgy – Cohen using a bit of lube while the others – Weiss and Stephens – prefer to deliver their message dry. I hope they enjoyed screwing themselves for Israel. They will be remembered as racist zealots no different from the Nazi propagandists of yesteryear.

    Am i wrong or has it’s gotten to the point where these pathetic cowards only preach to the choir? They must realize no one (except other racists) is buying their form of hatred any more.

    For those that don’t know of or want to know more of Bari Weiss or Bret Stephens – see the links below to articles written by the amazing Glen Greenwald of the Intercept.
    https://theintercept.com/2017/08/31/nyts-newest-op-ed-hire-bari-weiss-embodies-its-worst-failings-and-its-lack-of-viewpoint-diversity/
    https://theintercept.com/2015/07/30/listen-wsjs-bret-stephens-secretely-plot-pro-israel-evangelicals-killing-iran-deal/

  4. john douglas
    February 20, 2018, 6:10 pm

    Cohen states, “We don’t want safe spaces in universities. That’s the last thing we want. Universities should be profoundly unsafe.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with Cohen. But what a “safe space” he picked to state it in.

  5. Citizen
    February 21, 2018, 7:11 am

    I remember when college students were imbued with the notion universities were the champions of free speech, of the “free play of ideas”–that was in the latter part of the Vietnam Era. In those days the male students carried draft cards. Now we have a volunteer army. How much “safe space” is needed now, and why?

  6. Nathan
    February 21, 2018, 9:41 am

    “The same lack of free speech is evident at the New York Times, which has no anti-Zionist columnists”.

    Having anti-Zionist columnists is a rather silly criterion of “free speech”. Since when is a newspaper supposed to present all views? Does the Mondoweiss website feel obligated to publish articles that present the point of view of the pro-Israel public? All the articles seem to have a very extreme anti-Israel ax to grind. Perhaps, it is a type of humor that an article in Mondoweiss criticizes another publication of lacking “free speech” based on the expectation that this other newspaper should publish all the opposing views. I thought it was quite amusing.

    I don’t know if it’s true that the NY Times has no anti-Zionist columnists. Historically speaking, the newspaper was certainly opposed to the founding of a Jewish state, but the issue is not on the agenda anymore. Today, the NY Times might publish an article that criticizes Israel (which is just fine), but obviously it would be uncommon to find an article that calls for the undoing of Israel. One can find such an article in the Arabic press (and in anti-Israel websites such as this one) in the thousands, but it’s really unreasonable to imagine that a serious newspaper would waste its energy publishing articles of utter fantasy.

    • Misterioso
      February 21, 2018, 10:58 am

      @Nathan

      “….it would be uncommon to find an article that calls for the undoing of Israel.”

      Israel is doing a superb job of “undoing” itself.

    • Donald Johnson
      February 21, 2018, 11:47 am

      ” obviously it would be uncommon to find an article that calls for the undoing of Israel. ”

      I don’t recall, but I imagine the NYT commonly carried articles calling for the “undoing of South Africa” in your sense of the term. That is, calls for one man one vote and the end of apartheid.

    • broadside
      February 21, 2018, 11:50 am

      Nonsense, Nathan. But that you spelled correctly both “ax” and “its” puts you in the rarest company indeed — Zionists w something, anything to admire.

      • RoHa
        February 22, 2018, 12:25 am

        But he left the “e” off “axe”!

    • eljay
      February 21, 2018, 12:30 pm

      || Nathan: … Does the Mondoweiss website feel obligated to publish articles that present the point of view of the pro-Israel public? All the articles seem to have a very extreme anti-Israel ax to grind. … ||

      I think you’re right – Israel is being “singled out”. MW should immediately:
      – stop publishing “very extreme anti-Israel” articles advocating BDS and equality; and, instead,
      – start publishing very moderate articles advocating harsh financial, economic and political sanctions, bombing campaigns, regime change and boots on the ground.

      After all – and I agree entirely with you on this – Israel should be treated just like any other oppressive, colonialist, (war) criminal and (religion-)supremacist state.

    • LHunter
      February 21, 2018, 1:12 pm

      Nathan

      Be nice if the NYT presented the unbiased truth instead of hiring propagandists and activists for Israel – Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens are unconditionally pro Israel Zionists. Disgusting bigots like ALL Zionists are.

      Nathan – simple question – do you believe Jews are superior to Palestinians because of their race/religion/culture or any other criterion Jews are using these days to differentiate themselves from non-jews? Simple question – are you a bigot?

    • Stephen Shenfield
      February 21, 2018, 7:40 pm

      The difference is that The New York Times claims to be an inclusive ‘newspaper of record. Its biases stand out in that context.

      Also, establishment media like the NYT play a major role in determining what people regard as realism and as fantasy. If the NYT seriously discussed non-Zionist scenarios for the future such possibilities would no longer seem so fantastical. To a significant degree these are self-fulfilling prophecies.

  7. Maghlawatan
    February 21, 2018, 10:10 am

    Cohen said, “I’m a Zionist. I support the state of Israel, strongly,” and reiterated his theme that Jews in the west would be unsafe were it not for the “new Jews” of Israel.

    He doesn’t believe that. He has written (excruciatingly for him) about what a clusterfuck Israel has become. and he knows that most systems don’t change. They collapse.

  8. Ossinev
    February 21, 2018, 10:55 am

    @Nathan
    “All the articles seem to have a very extreme anti-Israel ax to grind”

    Ah yes Nathan I do so catch your drift on this one – you mean like all those very extreme Ani – Nazi articles in the 1930s and 1940s.

    Keep up the good work !

  9. James Canning
    February 21, 2018, 5:31 pm

    One can be a “Zionist”, and still believe Israel needs to end its occupation of the West Bank (and Golan Heights).

    • echinococcus
      February 22, 2018, 8:49 am

      Canning,

      That is precisely the most ravaging form of Zionism, the one that is moving correctly to keep the foothold in Palestine –without having any right to it. Pretending to want to “give up” the 1967 conquests is the best way to avoid total defeat, keep the 47-48 conquest and continue the genocide and the emptying of the land. There is no need to effectively end any occupation, by the way. Nothing is moving right now but wagging tongues.

      So it sure doesn’t need scare quotes. That is the same beast, Zionism.

    • eljay
      February 22, 2018, 9:04 am

      || James Canning: One can be a “Zionist”, and still believe Israel needs to end its occupation of the West Bank (and Golan Heights). ||

      Sure. Zionism is about Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

      Or as Richard Witty – “liberal Zionist” and former MW regular – once put it:

      I personally don’t see a conflict with intentionally adjusting boundaries if the demographics change considerably to create a smaller Israel that is Jewish majority.

  10. MHughes976
    February 21, 2018, 10:45 pm

    I’m not sure of that. Zionist claims concern the entire Holy Land, surely. There’s no form of it which restricts Jewish rights to part of the area or accepts that Palestinians have as much right to be there as people who are Jewish. No idea like that could have justified the inhumanity and cruelty of 1948.

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