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When the going gets tough, Roger Cohen gets going

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Roger Cohen

Roger Cohen

Roger Cohen has a column in the Times today that is remarkable for its toughness. Titled, “Israel’s Sustainable Success,” it says that the occupation may be permanent but Israel can manage it. Let’s quit with the “unsustainable” idea; Obama should stop saying that the occupation can’t go on; it may not be desirable, but it can go on forever, because Tel Aviv is a sparkling success for all the world and Israel is “certain of more or less unswerving American support.” Cohen’s idea of “manageable conflict,” to which he says the Palestinians are as much a party as the Israelis, is reminiscent of Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall idea, but retrofitted for a 47-year military occupation. Excerpts:

Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most attractive cities, has a boom-time purr about it. For all the talk of its isolation — and all the efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement — Israel has an economy as creative as it is successful. Yes, it is sustainable.

Behind its barriers and wall, backed by military might, certain of more or less unswerving American support, technologically innovative and democratically stable, Israel has the power to prolong indefinitely its occupation of the West Bank and its dominion over several million Palestinians…

It is time to retire the unsustainability nostrum. Facile and inaccurate, it distracts from the inconvenient truth of Israel’s sustainable success…

Permanent occupation is what several ministers in Netanyahu’s coalition government advocate. Backed by the evidence, they are certain it can be managed. They are right.

I found this piece so spiritually exhausted and exhausting that I turned to a book I had out, Emerson’s Anti-Slavery Writings, and his lecture on slavery from 1855. Emerson said he did not have the talent for politics, but legislatures passing laws for the recovery of fugitive slaves forced all citizens to come forward and consider how slavery could coexist alongside “the advantages and superiorities we fondly ascribe to ourselves.”

Just read this.

A high state of general health cannot coexist with a mortal disease in any part…

We have to consider that, however strongly the tides of public sentiment have set or are setting towards freedom, the code of slavery in this country is at this hour more malignant than ever before. The recent action of Congress has brought it home to New England, and made it impossible to avoid complicity.

The crying facts are these, that, in a republic professing to base its laws on liberty, and on the doctrines of Christianity, slavery is suffered to subsist; and, when the poor people who are the victims of this crime, disliking the stripping and peeling process, run away into states where this practice is not permitted,–a law has been passed requiring us who sit here to seize these poor people, tell them they have not been plundered enough, and must go back to be stripped and peeled again, and as long as they live…

We found well-born, well-bred, well-grown men among ourselves, not outcasts, not foreigners, not beggars, not convicts, but baptised, vaccinated, schooled, high-placed men, who abetted this law. ‘O by all means, catch the slave, and drag him back.’ And when we went to the courts, the interpreters of God’s right between man and man said, ‘catch the slave and force him back.’

Now this was disheartening. Slavery is an evil, as cholera or typhus is, that will be purged out by the health of the system. Being unnatural and violent, I know that it will yield at last, and go with cannibalism, tattooing, inquisition, duelling…

But to find it here in our sunlight, here in the heart of Puritan traditions in an intellectual country, in the land of schools, of sabbaths and sermons, under the shadow of the White Hills, of Katahdin, and Hoosac; under the eye of the most ingenious, industrious and self-helping men in the world,–staggers our faith in progress.

Emerson called for political leaders to make a deal to free the country of slavery, with compensation for the slaveholders. Creative men could figure that out, he said. But they didn’t do a thing, the crying facts continued, and the political parties continued to cater to the slave power. And four years later a radical who hated slavery led a murderous raid on the south, and helped precipitate the country on the path toward war, and Emerson celebrated John Brown. Slavery was not sustainable.

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54 Responses

  1. John Smithson
    John Smithson on April 25, 2014, 10:56 am

    Awesome, just great. Thanks for this and all you do on the topic. I have faith that it will get better, but also believe we have to make that happen. Let’s to it then – more evangelizing on IP, drip, drip, drip…one day the dam will burst.

    Hope we get to see the change in our lifetimes. It is our burden I guess. “Every generation got it’s own disease. I’ve got mine.”

  2. Marshall
    Marshall on April 25, 2014, 11:00 am

    Slavery was profitable and dynamic, just like occupation and just like exploitation in (almost) all its forms. The notion that moral repugnance must be reflected by worldly outcomes is as clear an instance of the Just World Fallacy as exists in history. Israel’s money and apparent success doesn’t wash clean its sins. It explains why the rest of the world (or at least the US) doesn’t give a shit about the Palestinians, but it doesn’t justify it. As with slavery here, the pile of dogshit that Israel is won’t be hosed off the sidewalk of the world without a moral revolution.

  3. pabelmont
    pabelmont on April 25, 2014, 11:19 am

    Phil: thanks for publishing the anti-slavery quote. Wonderful. Reminds us that no matter how many people — vaccinated, not (yet) convicts, well-educated, well-connected, well-dressed, generally-well-mannered, well-spoken, etc., etc. — approve of Israel’s seemingly unending apartheid-style, racist occupation-cum-settler-colonialism — no matter, i say, we must work to end it. We may not be successful, but the duty (if one accepts it, and it is not mine to assign it) to fight this horrible Israeli crime does not end because one has been temporarily unsuccessful.

    Slavery did not end in the USA until a war was fought. Many hope that the occupation will end without quite so much violence, but NONE SHOULD IGNORE the violence without which the occupation-cum-settler-colonialism could not have happened. This was not the violence of the war of 1967. This was the violence (the use and the threat of force by Israel against the people of OPTs) used by Israel after the war of 1967.

    So far, unending, apparently by design.

    • RoHa
      RoHa on April 26, 2014, 1:44 am

      Many countries in Europe, Asia, and South America, as well as a number of US states abolished slavery long before that war. Britain played a large role, not merely by example, but by sending the Royal Navy to suppress the trade.

      There is a good timeline here.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolition_of_slavery_timeline

      Perhaps this too serves as an example of what happens to those who resist international pressures.

  4. Taxi
    Taxi on April 25, 2014, 11:34 am

    And what makes mister Roger Cohen think that resistance to occupation is NOT perpetual too? You cannot have one without the other.

  5. American
    American on April 25, 2014, 11:39 am

    Will never last.

    ”Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.’…Euripides

    The Cohens madness spins wilder and wilder, it will fly off its spinning axis one day and that will be that.

    • on April 25, 2014, 4:48 pm

      ”Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.’…Euripides.

      Perfect.

  6. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka on April 25, 2014, 11:39 am

    Cohen’s failure is his inability to understand that the present is not a guarantee of the future. 100 years ago, the USA had a military smaller than Beligium’s and had a difficult time keeping Mexican bandits from sacking locales in the Southwest. Who knows what will be the state of the world in 5 years or 10 or 20 or 50.

  7. palijustice
    palijustice on April 25, 2014, 11:53 am

    Roger Cohen’s callous statements are probably what many Israeli’s believe and their American supporters as well. The occupation works for them. They have everything they want, all the land and not the people with it who can vote. It is perfect for them. In their heartlessness and disregard of the rights of Palestinians, they feel this
    solution can go on indefinitely. Maybe they are right. If the Palestinians rise up they will be slaughtered, at a much higher rate than they are now. Will the US do anything? No.
    So maybe this situation will last a very long time. The technology for oppressing people keeps growing, and Israel is a leader in this technology. If people have no conscience, they will rationalize their crimes, or just turn their heads away. That’s what the Israelis are doing, with America backing them all the way. Will we stop backing Israeli apartheid and oppression and persecution of Palestinians?

  8. dbroncos
    dbroncos on April 25, 2014, 12:12 pm

    Great piece, Phil. The suddenness of the Civil War came as a surprise to most Americans who never believed it could happen. Cohen will be surprised to see the sudden collapse of Zionism. His apologies for Zionism’s racist crimes, and the convulsive hubris we’re seeing from many other defenders of Israel, are proof that the collapse is already underway.

  9. weareone
    weareone on April 25, 2014, 12:29 pm

    Thank you, Phil.
    “I found this piece so spiritually exhausted and exhausting that I turned to a book I had out, Emerson’s Anti-Slavery Writings, and his lecture on slavery from 1855. ”

    It’s interesting that you turned to Emerson at a time of spiritual exhaustion because, as you probably know, he was deeply spiritual and a student of the Vedas and Hindu scriptures.

    Emerson said: “That only which we have within, can we see without. If we meet no gods, it is because we harbor none.” He also said, in referring to karma, “The world looks like a mathematical equation, which, turn it how you will, balances itself. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty.”

  10. seanmcbride
    seanmcbride on April 25, 2014, 12:33 pm

    Per usual, I scanned the Readers’ Picks comments and discovered that most New York Times readers expressed thoughtful disagreements with Roger Cohen.

    The comment that got most directly and succinctly to the main point:

    What’s economically sustainable is not always politically sustainable. Ask the South Africans.

    Regarding that data pattern I mentioned earlier — Jewish critics of Israel on the left (both liberal and progressive) sliding to the right over time and rationalizing or enabling Likud Zionist policies: Roger Cohen is yet another datapoint.

    If you are a Zionist, you can’t be just a little bit Zionist any more than you can be just a little bit pregnant — you are in for the whole nine yards. Liberal Zionists really need to get their act together and stop pretending that they are “liberal.”

  11. NormanF
    NormanF on April 25, 2014, 1:04 pm

    Slavery was evil. It was never justifiable and had no merit whatsoever.

    Zionism on the other hand, is good. Jews deserve national self-determination and have shown all the good uses they have done with it.

    That and more in view of their age-old history of persecution and suffering, is one of the many causes for the rebirth of Jewish nationhood.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka on April 25, 2014, 1:34 pm

      “Slavery was evil. It was never justifiable and had no merit whatsoever.”

      Not to the slaveowners. To them it was good, justifiable and had great merit. It provided the slaveowners with a benefit because they did not concern themselves with the harm it did to those who suffered because of it.

      “Zionism on the other hand, is good. ”

      Not to the Palestinians. To them it is evil because its effects on the Palestinians were never justifiable and had no merit whatsoever. But Zionism provided the Zionists with a benefit. Further, the Zionists did not and do not concern themselves with the harm it did and does to those who suffered because of it.

      “their age-old history of persecution and suffering”

      All Zionism did was change the persecuted and the suffering to the persecutor and the inflictor-of-suffering. Pretty damnable change, if you ask me.

    • eljay
      eljay on April 25, 2014, 1:39 pm

      >> Slavery was evil. It was never justifiable and had no merit whatsoever.
      >> Zionism on the other hand, is good.

      Zionism is religion-based supremacism. Unlike justice, equality and accountability, Zionism has never been justifiable and it has no merit except to those who benefit from the inequalities inherent in it.

    • seanmcbride
      seanmcbride on April 25, 2014, 1:52 pm

      NormanF,

      Zionism on the other hand, is good. Jews deserve national self-determination….

      On what grounds does any people “deserve” to seize territory from another people by means of force, violence and terrorism?

      And on what grounds can it demand that other peoples support its territorial aggression?

      Does every ethnic and religious group get to play this game? Many of them are nursing a wide variety of legitimate historical grievances.

      Or is only one group “special”?

    • bintbiba
      bintbiba on April 25, 2014, 2:09 pm

      @ NormanF….
      “all the good uses they have done with it” ? …..my foot!!!!

    • ToivoS
      ToivoS on April 25, 2014, 3:48 pm

      Slavery was evil. It was never justifiable and had no merit whatsoever.

      Actually slavery was justified for most of recorded history. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that a political movement first arose to oppose it. And then in less than a century slavery was mostly gone and people the world over came to believe that it was not justifiable under any circumstances.

      Quite amazing, to think of it, how long slavery lasted and then how quickly it disappeared.

      • Keith
        Keith on April 25, 2014, 5:24 pm

        TOIVOS- “Quite amazing, to think of it, how long slavery lasted and then how quickly it disappeared.”

        Although no longer considered legitimate, slavery has not disappeared, rather, it is now a profitable criminal enterprise. As for the delegitimization, I suspect that it correlates strongly with the industrial revolution which has made mass slavery an obsolete mode of production, at least in the West. Third World sweat shops another matter. Regrettably, we appear to be coming full circle back to a form of First World neo-feudalism involving modern debt servitude, the super rich and corporations the new lords of the capitalist realm. Lord Gates, Lord Adelson, Great Lord Goldman Sachs, that sort of thing.

      • ToivoS
        ToivoS on April 25, 2014, 10:58 pm

        Sorry Keith you are wrong. Slavery as a formal institution of societies has disappeared. There is no country in the world today that recognizes the ownership of another human being as personal property. That was the slavery that was mostly abolished in the 19th century and that was the institution dismantled in the US by the civil war.

        You are talking about exploitation of workers that in many parts of the world may live under conditions indistinguishable from slavery. Marxists used the term “wage slave” to describe this exploitation of workers. But even Marx would know that exploited workers were not the personal property of another human or corporation. What changed is the property laws, within nations and within international institutions, whereby one could no longer sell and buy other humans.

      • Ellen
        Ellen on April 26, 2014, 12:13 am

        You are both right, each from your perspective.

        Trafficking of women and children who are bought and sold among third parties is modern day slavery. These human beings who are sold are completely controlled. When they eat, where they live, what they eat, who they see. If they have passports, their owners keep them.

        Among the major hubs of human slavery and trafficking for the sex trade in women and children is Las Vegas, Tel Aviv, Zürich.

        Yes, no governments recognize this ownership of humans, but no governments put an end to it. It is part of the economy of many nations.

      • Keith
        Keith on April 26, 2014, 11:18 am

        ELLEN- “Trafficking of women and children who are bought and sold among third parties is modern day slavery.”

        Yes, this is exactly what I am talking about. Legal slavery may have more-or-less disappeared, however, illegitimate de facto slavery exists and we should be aware of it. Objectively, these people who are bought and sold and controlled against their will are, in fact, slaves. Let us not split too many hairs arguing over the differences in the manner of control.

        From Wikipedia: “Contemporary slavery refers to the institutions of slavery that continue to exist in the present day. Estimates of the number of slaves today range from 12 million[1] to 29 million.[2][3][4][5] Slavery is a multi-billion dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually. The United Nations estimates that roughly 27 to 30 million individuals are currently caught in the slave trade industry.”

    • Hostage
      Hostage on April 25, 2014, 9:28 pm

      Zionism on the other hand, is good. Jews deserve national self-determination and have shown all the good uses they have done with it.

      No one, not even Balfour, ever agreed that the Jews were a single nationality. In fact, he told the War Cabinet that the Zionists would be absorbed in one or two generations and become Palestinians in exactly the same way as the English immigrants to the United States became Americans. He also claimed that creation of a national home in Palestine would eliminate any danger of a double allegiance or non-national outlook among Jews who chose to remain citizens of other countries. He denied the Zionist movement or his declaration created the right to the establishment of a separate Jewish state in Palestine on the basis of national self-determination. See item 18, War Cabinet meeting 245 on 4 October 1917 and item 12 War Cabinet meeting on 31 October 1917. The last sentence of Lord Milner’s draft of the Balfour Declaration, introduced during meeting 245, made it clear the members of the Jewish race would not be considered members of a single nation:

      “His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish Race, and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object; it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed in any other country by such Jews who are fully contented with their existing nationality and citizenship.”

      As for the continued occupation of another neighboring state, the General Assembly has repeatedly made the applicable principles of international law perfectly clear and they have been adopted by the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC:

      Solemnly reaffirms that every State has the duty to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any other State, and that the territory of a State shall not be the object of military occupation resulting from the use of force in contravention of the provisions of the Charter, that the territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force, that no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal and that every State has the duty to refrain from organizing, instigating, assisting or participating in acts of civil strife or terrorist acts in another State;

      http://www.un-documents.net/a25r2734.htm

    • RoHa
      RoHa on April 26, 2014, 1:58 am

      “Jews deserve national self-determination”

      When self-determination means creating and/or sustaining a state, Jews do not deserve anything more than anyone else in a specific territory. Thus, Australian Jews have as much self -d as other Australians in respect of Australia, and no other right to sd anywhere else in the world. Swedish Jews have as much right to sd as other Swedes, and no more. And the same principle applies to all other Jews.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew on April 26, 2014, 3:30 am

        RoHa- The growth of the population of Israel in the 1930’s was in a time period where self determination in certain countries in Europe looked like a bad deal and in fact it was. Ignoring history is worse/better than obsessing about history?

      • RoHa
        RoHa on April 26, 2014, 6:30 am

        But that did not give the Jews of those countries any extra rights.

      • on April 26, 2014, 7:23 am

        Ah Yonah. The Holocaust as an excuse to commit horrific crimes against others. Isn’t it time we moved past that?

      • Naftush
        Naftush on April 27, 2014, 4:14 am

        He said nothing about the Holocaust. I think he was referring to the feeble attempts in Eastern Europe to grant the Jews self-determination as minorities in others’ nation-states. The majority peoples there had no doubt that the Jews were in fact a national group.

      • American
        American on April 26, 2014, 9:16 am

        ”Ignoring history is worse/better than obsessing about history?’..yonah

        Not learning anything from history is worse.
        Remember what happened to the Nazis supremist.

    • pjdude
      pjdude on April 26, 2014, 11:51 am

      Showing jews are just as big of a$$holes as everybody else is a good use? And israel has nothing to do with self determination. Naked conquest isn’t self determination it’s naked conquest. Stealing a people’s country and real right of self setter minature is not good no matter how many times you say otherwise

  12. Chu
    Chu on April 25, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Indefinite Occupation. Great idea…

  13. seanmcbride
    seanmcbride on April 25, 2014, 1:42 pm

    What Roger Cohen leaves out of his political calculations: the accumulated impact over decades of often abusive attacks by pro-Israel activists on Americans and Europeans. (The most recent high-value target: John Kerry.)

    My bet is that Israel, on its current path, will be facing a more serious problem with Americans and Europeans than with Arabs and Muslims. It might be a mistake for Roger Cohen to assume that billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban will be able to hold the American political system in thrall indefinitely. The Israel lobby may be the most self-destructive public relations machine in history.

  14. DaveS
    DaveS on April 25, 2014, 2:50 pm

    I take a different view of Cohen’s column. It’s certainly not a morally righteous one, but he is endeavoring to explain Israel’s intransigence in negotiations, and I think he’s absolutely right. From Israel’s perspective, the current situation is sustainable. They have lived with it for nearly half a century, and would be content to do so for another half. Cohen correctly points out that all of the ominous declarations about the vanishing window for the two state solution are falling on deaf ears. There simply is no disadvantage to continuing the status quo; the Palestinians may be miserable under Israeli rule, but as long as it enjoys the unfettered support of the US, Israel can continue forever. How could Israel have passed up all of these opportunities to cement its hold on 78% of the land, give lip service to RoR, and keep the lion’s share of Jerusalem, a deal that surely would have been accepted by Arafat and/or Abbas even though it is profoundly unjust? It is only because refusing to compromise at all has little or no adverse consequences.

    Sure, Cohen blames equally Israel and the Palestinians in his concluding paragraph, but he really doesn’t explain the latter’s fault. Also, whether the current situation is truly sustainable is not as important as whether Israel perceives it to be so. Cohen’s is not a moral voice, and I fully understand the anger directed at him. If he were moral, he would support rather than oppose BDS, and clearly call for a suspension of US economic, military and diplomatic aid to Israel in order to punish Israel for the intransigence that he identifies. Instead, he vaguely calls on both sides to do better, after accurately noting why that’s not going to happen. In fact, his position is not that different from the far more loathsome Bill Kristol – http://mondoweiss.net/2012/05/kristol-i-dont-see-it-as-a-huge-problem.html – who proclaimed that he does not see continuation of the status quo as a “huge problem.” Of course he doesn’t, and Israel won’t budge until someone – the international BDS movement of the US and EU – makes it a huge problem.

    • jenin
      jenin on April 25, 2014, 3:02 pm

      I am no fan of Roger Cohen, but I agree with your interpretation of his column. that’s how I read it. I was disappointed by the reader comments, though. Many of them were quite vile and I would say a majority repeated the same old nonsense, blaming the Palestinians, saying there are no real Palestinians, etc. etc. that was quite disappointing.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976 on April 25, 2014, 3:52 pm

        I don’t think I’ll bring myself to read the reader comments now you’ve described them – a disappointment, considering that reader comments have sometimes been a source of encouragement to us.
        The reason why the negotiations have repeatedly gone pear-shaped is not only that Israel has little practical incentive to move but that Zionism is opposed at its very core to any idea of anything which gives Palestinians any agreed ‘right to exist’ in Palestine.

      • jenin
        jenin on April 25, 2014, 3:55 pm

        yes, I was particularly discouraged by the comments after there have been a lot of good ones to some of the recent articles on Israel/Palestine. I thought these were significantly worse. Maybe it is because Cohen has a reputation for being pro-Palestinian among Times readers (that in itself is upsetting, of course–if he is considered pro-Palestinian–well, you catch my drift) so those who commented were the ones who felt they needed to defend Israel. That’s just speculation. But the comments certainly cast a shadow over my afternoon :-)

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka on April 25, 2014, 5:28 pm

      “Cohen’s is not a moral voice, and I fully understand the anger directed at him. If he were moral, he would support rather than oppose BDS, and clearly call for a suspension of US economic, military and diplomatic aid to Israel in order to punish Israel for the intransigence that he identifies. ”

      The problem that I see with that argument is that he is, in fact, making a moral argument, just as all Zionists make a moral argument for Israel, at least implicitly We see it here all the time: that Zionism and Israel are legitimate or justified because of the history of antisemitism. The moral claim says, essentially, that because the that history is real and is a legitimate problem, that Zionism and the State of Israel are legitimate responses to that history.

      But that’s stealing a base or two because a response has to morally stand on its own feet and doesn’t automatically become legitimate or moral because the problem that it is designed to correct is a legitimate problem. No one would say that, to combat the problem of homelessness in a town, a “moral” solution would be to permit the homeless to break into people’s houses and force the people who live there to go bunk with their neighbors.

      But that principle is simply not applied by Zionists to the Palestine situation. In fact, the Jews of the world, despite the sad history of antisemitism, had no right whatsoever to form a state in Palestine against the wishes of the Palestinians, any more than a homeless person can solve the problems of his homelessness by taking over someone else’s house.

      But people like Cohen and most of the Zionists in the US, simply pretend that moral question doesn’t exist. That’s why they are always bringing up the past, the supposed Glorious age of “good” Zionism, where the Labor party controlled and are always bringing up the nonsense in the Zionist Declaration of statehood about equality. They pretend that this ideology and this state were, in the past, pure and good, but it was somehow merely despoiled (and here they usually blame the occupation, or modern politicians or some other excuse) so that the current state of Apartheid and evil can be seen as merely an aberration. This frees them from considering the moral questions raised by the Zionism project, which they don’t want to do because of ethno-religious or ideological reasons. So they concoct a Zionist golden age and have blinders to the fact that back in this supposed “pure and good age” this state put a people under martial law for a generation simply because of their ethno-religious background, and engaged in a massive state-run, ethnically based program of grand theft.

      So when Cohen says that it’s “sustainable,” the moral point he is making is in what he is not saying. He’s not calling for the world to work to change it, he’s not working toward that change and he’s not highlighting those Palestinians who are fighting for their rights, as you know he would if, say, half of the UK was made up of Jews who were oppressed by the British as the Palestians are being oppressed by the Israelis, and as many people like him reacted to the situations in the South in the US pre-mid 1960s and in Apartheid South Africa. That’s where the moral point is.

  15. wondering jew
    wondering jew on April 25, 2014, 2:53 pm

    I think Cohen is right. In the short term it is sustainable. I think in the long term it is not sustainable. (i’d label 20 years as short term and 60 years as long term.) I think a move by the Palestinians to achieve one man one vote as citizens of Israel is the best move, for the two state solution really is on shaky ground. Such a move would have to give precedence to the West Bank over Gaza.

    Another point: the Arab spring is barely three years old. We will see how Egypt and Syria (and Lebanon and Jordan) develop over the next 20 or 30 years. If those countries can get their acts together, the dynamic of the region will look different. If those countries continue in their current basket case configuration (Egypt and Syria) then the dynamics of delay by the Israelis will make a type of sense.

    • libra
      libra on April 26, 2014, 3:02 pm

      yonah fredman: Such a move would have to give precedence to the West Bank over Gaza.

      Or would it, yonah? That may well be wishful thinking on your part. But I sense it’s dawning on you how powerful a unified Palestinian demand for equal rights in one state would be.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew on April 26, 2014, 4:26 pm

        libra- as I conceive it, I conceive it as an Israeli initiative and thus the precedence. If you conceive the future as Nato or Arab League troops controlling Lod Lydda airport, then maybe you’re on a different page. The demand to give the residents of the West Bank the vote is based upon the settler nature of the occupation. The demand to give the residents of the GAza strip the vote is based upon the concept that Gaza and the West Bank is one and the military siege. These are two different types of demands. Maybe when you listen to the choir you only hear what you want to hear, but whereas roger cohen says its sustainable I am also talking about political realities that your choir does not recognize.

      • Hostage
        Hostage on April 26, 2014, 6:16 pm

        I am also talking about political realities that your choir does not recognize.

        The status quo is based upon 1) the 1988 Algiers Declaration of the State of Palestine; 2) the principles of the Oslo Accords, which requires your choir to sing the same tune as ours, i.e. that the two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved; and 3) the Interim Agreement of 1995, which was the major post-Oslo agreement aimed at implementing the Oslo Declaration of Principles. It specified that neither party shall be deemed “to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims or positions” (Article 31-6). That certainly included the 1988 Declaration of the establishment of the State of Palestine.

        So the fact that the State of Palestine has signed onto the Geneva Conventions and has agreed to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC means the status quo, as you envision it, is unsustainable.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew on April 27, 2014, 3:23 am

        Hostage- I can see where legally Gaza and the West Bank are one unit. But Gaza is not occupied the same way that the West Bank is occupied. And the provable consequences to Joe Israeli are not as apparent regarding the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. I am reflecting a reality of the mindset of Joe Israeli that may or may not have an effect on the eventual outcome, but since I argue half the time with people to the right of me, I try to make my arguments the same on both sides and to them I would say, “Annex the West bank, Gaza is a separate issue!” and that’s why I say it here. There’s no knowing what the world politics will evolve to over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years and the evolution could make Joe Israeli’s opinion irrelevant. but it is relevant to my arguments with Joe Israeli and thus I offer my opinions here.

      • libra
        libra on April 26, 2014, 6:35 pm

        yonah fredman: The demand to give the residents of the West Bank the vote is based upon the settler nature of the occupation. The demand to give the residents of the Gaza strip the vote is based upon the concept that Gaza and the West Bank is one and the military siege.

        yonah, always choosing tactical opportunism over strategic opportunity.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew on April 27, 2014, 3:16 am

        libra, always choosing the rhetoric of opposition rather than building on the ideas offered. The West bank will not be annexed tomorrow or next year or in 5 years and probably not in 10 or 15 years either, that gives you plenty of time for strategic opportunity. But you are here to score points with somebody, not to talk to me. Whoever is keeping score just gave you a few more points. Great.

  16. MHughes976
    MHughes976 on April 25, 2014, 2:59 pm

    Cohen does seem to think that the continuation of the status quo would be immoral, though he says so with some reserve and circumlocution. That does seem to mean that he should accept – can’t but accept, if really pressed – the analogy with other forms of morally ‘corrosive’ (his word) domination of some over others: which gives a reason why this form too cannot be sustained for ever.
    Mind you, I somewhat agree that the emphasis should be on the moral rather than the ‘prudential’ question – ‘Is it right’ rather than ‘Can you get away with it?’ Well, I say ‘agree’ but I’m not sure whether Cohen is saying that. There’s a hint of perverse celebration of the boom town that forgot about ethics and got on with money and power.

  17. Kathleen
    Kathleen on April 25, 2014, 3:53 pm

    The “it” in Roger Cohen’s statement “it is sustainable” is apartheid.

    He describes “it” later in the article.
    “Of course, manageability does not equal desirability. There is no consent of the governed in the West Bank. Dominion over another people is morally corrosive; Jews, of all people, know that. The nationalist-religious credo that the West Bank was land promised to Abraham’s descendants has intensified over the past half-century. Settlers see their work as the culmination of the Zionist idea of settlement. The opposite is true. Israel has undermined its Zionist founders’ commitment to a democratic state governed by laws. The occupation undercuts Israel’s own Founding Charter of 1948, which promised a state based on “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”

    Apartheid is not sustainable. Only a matter of time that Israel suffers in serious ways for a systematically racist government. Roger is wrong

  18. ritzl
    ritzl on April 25, 2014, 4:18 pm

    The Occupation is only sustainable because the Palestinians have gone non-violent. A bit of a glaring omission.

    Cohen’s analysis completely disregards the potential for renewed violence, in Israel and abroad, because the Palestinians get dead-ended. What happens, in Cohen’s scenario and under Israel’s indefinite occupation strategy of “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” if morale doesn’t improve, and in fact gets worse? More “morale improving” beatings?

    Cohen’s analysis seems based on too many “hair-triggers” NOT being pulled to conclude “sustainable.”

  19. Shingo
    Shingo on April 25, 2014, 6:02 pm

    Cohen is is complete denial.

    He argues that with US support, Israel can continue the occupation, but he ignores the fact that until now, the rest of the world has sat on it’s hands due to US pressure. Now that the mask has been lifted and Israel’s intransigence is undeniable, the world will indeed take matters into their own hands.

    Kerry and Obama admit the US can no longer protect Israel. This is not only BDS, because once the ICC makes a ruling, all those who are signatories to the convention will be obliged to act.

    It’s fascinating to watch how Cohen’s descent into madness is very similar to MJ Rosenberg’s.

  20. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned on April 25, 2014, 6:51 pm

    Think back to the 1950’s, when MLKing was organizing the Montgomery (AL) bus boycott, in protest of the Jim Crow system of racial segregation of public transportation. If you had asked just about any thoughtful white Southerner, you would very likely have been told:

    The US is a white man’s country. That’s how God intended it. It’s always been that way, and always will be that way.
    Outsiders, Northerners, troublemakers, will never be a serious threat to the South, its traditions and institutions, and its way of life.
    The Southern way of life, and Jim Crow, are sustainable.

    And white public opinion backed up these assertions, electing George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and other segregationists.

    Within a decade or two, the supposedly sustainable Jim Crow system was gone.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew on April 26, 2014, 3:24 am

      Nevada Ned- The case of the south circa 1950’s is an interesting analogy. First we must admit the essential difference that the south due to a war fought in the 1860’s was part of the Union and essentially against its will. And when the south said northerners will never be a serious threat to the south, that wasn’t all they said. They said, we lost the war but we will win this battle and they were wrong.

      Maybe Israel’s dependence on the US is somehow analogous to the south’s dependence on the Union (coercive dependence). But without the fact of the civil war and the coercive nature of the Union, your analogy is ahistorical.

  21. bijou
    bijou on April 25, 2014, 8:50 pm

    Cohen’s analysis completely ignores the deeply corrosive effect that the untramelled power to humiliate and abuse other human beings has on the oppressors’ society. Israeli society is paying a very heavy price for this abhorrent situation that will one day come to be appreciated. Abusing others can cause lasting trauma to both parties. It is despicable and unconscionable that he should take the stance that the situation in Palestine is sustainable and bearable, even just from the POV of Israeli society (if that is all that apparently matters to him).

    The cost of Israeli apartheid to humanity and future generations of humanity in that part of the world is incalculable ON BOTH SIDES, not only the Palestinian one (where it obviously goes without saying).

  22. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield on April 26, 2014, 12:55 pm

    The lie at the core of this piece — and at the core of many other “analyses” of this and other issues by so-called “realists” — is that the author assumes the pose of an objective observer whose actions do not and cannot significantly affect the issue under consideration. In fact, the writing of articles like this, asserting the sustainability of the occupation, is a significant contribution to MAKING it sustainable, as people who are persuaded by this sort of sophistry will conclude that it is futile to resist the occupation and will therefore not resist it. In other words, this is self-fulfilling prophecy, disseminated quite deliberately in the interests of the Zionist right wing with a view to such self-fulfillment.

    • seanmcbride
      seanmcbride on April 26, 2014, 1:02 pm

      Stephen Shenfield,

      In fact, the writing of articles like this, asserting the sustainability of the occupation, is a significant contribution to MAKING it sustainable, as people who are persuaded by this sort of sophistry will conclude that it is futile to resist the occupation and will therefore not resist it. In other words, this is self-fulfilling prophecy, disseminated quite deliberately in the interests of the Zionist right wing with a view to such self-fulfillment.

      Smart.

      It is difficult to believe that “liberal Zionist” Roger Cohen doesn’t know exactly what he is doing.

      This is how the liberal Zionist game is played.

      For a list of some key liberal Zionist ops see: https://friendfeed.com/mondoweiss-on-friendfeed/18b40ee6/liberal-zionist-ops

  23. James Canning
    James Canning on April 26, 2014, 5:20 pm

    Emerson was quite right to call for buying out the slaveowners. Lincoln had the same viewpoint, and said it would be much cheaper than fighting a civil war.

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