Several times we have noted that Democrats are trying to run to the right of Romney on Israel/Palestine. The efforts show that support for Israel is a core value of the US establishment; and that in the mainstream political sphere, despite J Street’s work, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between neocons and neoliberals on the conflict.
Here’s more evidence of the trend: Richard Cohen of the Washington Post standing up for Romney’s superior Jewish culture argument in a column called “For Israelis and Palestinians, a difference beyond question.” Cohen is a liberal Democrat, but his column exposes the chauvinistic thinking about Jews and Israel that underlies even “liberal” considerations of the issue. Again, the guy might as well be a neocon. The neocons were all Democrats a while back.
Cohen’s putdown of Palestinians scarcely acknowledges the occupation and says nothing about the destruction of the educated elites that Israel achieved with the Nakba. I simply don’t understand how American liberals can get away with this sort of racial contempt about countries half the world away. Oh and what about all the Palestinian businesses destroyed? What about brilliant young men like the late Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, forced to follow through on their studies in foreign countries?
Cohen argues that Israel far outranks the entire Arab world in U.S. patents. I’m sure he’s right. But so what? Did the higher standard of living of Afrikaaners justify apartheid? Of course not. I’m sure such repulsive arguments were a staple of the slavery south, and the Jim Crow south, too.
That a liberal American columnist would put forward a white man’s burden argument shows how Zionism has corrupted Jewish intellectual tradition. Cohen sounds like a crank at a dinner table. I bet the entire younger generation is fuming, stewing, walking away. He just doesn’t get it. (You young people should be speaking out!)
Though I am pleased that Cohen openly addresses Jewish achievement numbers that I have been attacked for bringing up. He mentions the number of lawyers in Germany, and Jewish real estate ownership in Hungary (something Herzl also focused on). I welcome Cohen’s statistics here because we all know that Jewish achievement in the U.S. is spectacular; and a Washington Post columnist is giving us permission to talk about it. In my view, American Jewish achievement is a cultural phenomenon: our educational and urban traditions suited us for 20th century industrial conditions, and we excelled—the Jewish Century, as sociologist Yuri Slezkine has put it.
But if you are going to talk about the composition of the American elite, then people have a right to ask about the importance of Jewish kinship networks (e.g., I got most of my jobs from male Jewish editors who saw me as a familiar type) and the role of the Israel lobby in the establishment. Cohen has opened a door here he may soon want to shut.