It’s important to chart the New York Times’s Roger Cohen because he is a good sincere writer– and the limit of American Jewish liberal establishment opinion on the conflict. An avowed liberal Zionist in the J Street mold, he is visiting Israel and writes that Israel is the Jewish “homeland” and our deliverance after the Holocaust, and Israeli “genius” has flourished there. (Cohen’s pride in Israel and keen sense of Jewish persecution remind me of views that billionaire Lester Crown expressed at the Aspen Ideas Festival last month.)
Cohen regards Netanyahu and his settler-supporting coalition as intransigent, and in opposing them, he creates a composite Israeli liberal named Yakov, obviously based on his friends. Yakov is a prosperous software entrepreneur and a member of the Ashkenazi elite, a dying breed.
And the attitudes Yakov expresses reflect what Alex Kane says about Israeli Jewish opinion, it doesn’t really care much about Palestinian human rights.
I find Cohen’s summary of Yakov’s views extremely bleak– he speaks of Judea and Samaria, and Jewish exile, and endless security concerns, including of course Hamas’s rockets. Not so different from a rightwinger:
Yakov’s mood swings are sharpest over the conflict. A voice says: “I am completely supportive of the peace process — so long as it does not get to a solution. A solution could be problematic. You have to hand it to Netanyahu, by starting the peace process he has made peace. With Obama! Do I accept the idea of two states? Yes I do. Do I want two states? That is a different question … ”
At which point an angry voice will be raised: “Of course you don’t want two states. Look what happened when we withdrew from South Lebanon: Hezbollahland! And when we withdrew from Gaza: Hamasland! Is that what you want in Judea and Samaria? You want rockets not just in the south but all over Israel blowing up our children? Olmert offered everything and still they refused it. You want Jerusalem divided?”
Deep inside Yakov there is a white Ashkenazi Israeli liberal, that dying breed. He knows the Jews are not going away; nor are the Palestinians. He believes the Jews did not leave the European ghetto to build walls. The Jews did not emerge from millennia of exile to impose exile on another people, did not escape dominion to inflict dominion. He believes, still, in the possibility of peace through territorial compromise in the occupied West Bank.
I have to belief that by conveying these privileged and hermetic and “liberal” views, Cohen understands that they are anachronistic. There is no Palestinian voice in this column– Palestinians who have been promised a state for 66 years and gotten nothing, Palestinians who make up 15 percent or more of Israeli society, Palestinians who have been exiled around the world.