Roger Cohen, who was so stirred by Tehran, is now moved by Polish history to imagine a different Middle East. His teaching re "victimhood" is aimed at those of us who harp about "justice" in Palestine in historical terms. And I think it’s a good teaching, poetical, but it would be more meaningful if Cohen would go to Palestine and observe existing conditions and explain who is responsible for them (asscovering parens: Maybe he has; I’m not aware of it). Agency in history is a difficult issue; but the ongoing creation of Jim Crow in Palestine is Israel’s achievement, with the active complicity of the American Jewish leadership. (Also, when all was said and done, Poland got Poland back…) Cohen:
Poland should shame every nation that believes peace and reconciliation are impossible, every state that believes the sacrifice of new generations is needed to avenge the grievances of history. The thing about competitive victimhood, a favorite Middle Eastern pastime, is that it condemns the children of today to join the long list of the dead.
For scarcely any nation has suffered since 1939 as Poland, carved up by the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact, transformed by the Nazis into the epicenter of their program to annihilate European Jewry, land of Auschwitz and Majdanek, killing field for millions of Christian Poles and millions of Polish Jews, brave home to the Warsaw Uprising, Soviet pawn, lonely Solidarity-led leader of post-Yalta Europe’s fight for freedom, a place where, as one of its great poets, Wislawa Szymborska, wrote, “History counts its skeletons in round numbers” — 20,000 of them at Katyn.
It is this Poland that is now at peace with its neighbors and stable. It is this Poland that has joined Germany in the European Union. It is this Poland that has just seen the very symbols of its tumultuous history (including the Gdansk dock worker Anna Walentynowicz and former president-in-exile Ryszard Kaczorowski) go down in a Soviet-made jet and responded with dignity, according to the rule of law.
So do not tell me that cruel history cannot be overcome. Do not tell me that Israelis and Palestinians can never make peace. Do not tell me that the people in the streets of Bangkok and Bishkek and Tehran dream in vain of freedom and democracy. Do not tell me that lies can stand forever.
Thanks to Irek.