For the second time in ten days, Roger Cohen has a column today quoting Israeli novelist Amos Oz on the urgency of getting a two-state solution because a one-state outcome will be a nightmare. On December 22, Oz warned that Israel is becoming an “isolated ghetto.” This time he warns of a disaster if the two-state solution is not achieved.
“I don’t see an alternative. Or rather, the alternative is a disaster for Israelis. The alternative is the end of Israel.”
Cohen announced a year or so back that he is a liberal Zionist at core (good for him for his transparency), and he is hard at work to demolish Benjamin Netanyahu’s political future. He has said that Labor’s Isaac Herzog is surging in the polls. In this column Oz calls Netanyahu
“a coward, a man who prefers inaction to action.”
“He has been in power for some nine years,” Oz said. “In those nine years he has not made one, even one, really controversial decision either way.”
But on the Likud side of the Times yesterday, David Brooks wrote a column offering a brief for Netanyahu as a Churchillian leader. “Netanyahu is surpassingly brilliant,” and his caution can be defended:
If you think, as I do, that Israel has to wait out the current spasm of Islamist radicalism, then this caution has its uses.
It was Brooks’s 18th or 19th trip to the country; he has said that he is “gooey-eyed” about Israel.
I wonder: Is there any columnist at the Times who doesn’t advocate for Israel?
Tom Friedman has of course long been a supporter of Israel. He spent summers as a teenager working on a kibbutz and would later confess his embarrassment that high school was “one big celebration of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War.” But he has continued to celebrate the country to this day; and his support for the disastrous Iraq war was premised in part on the fact that Saddam supported suicide bombers in Israel.
A few weeks ago Joe Nocera stood up for Marty Peretz’s New Republic, noting Peretz bought the magazine “because it gave him a megaphone on issues he cared about, like Israel.” But Nocera took care to say nothing more about Zionism in that column. He’s savvy enough to avoid this issue.
So is Paul Krugman. When Peter Beinart’s Zionist book came out three years ago, the Nobel Laureate declared himself a liberal Zionist, but said that he avoids the issue at all costs, because he doesn’t want the heat.
I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide — and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.
Nicholas Kristof has tried to say the right thing about the two-state solution. But as Jerry Slater pointed out last summer, he cannot fault the Israeli government for its unending settlement policy and insists on characterizing the conflict as a cycle of violence.
So back to my point. There’s a burgeoning grass-roots movement in our country that’s critical of Israel. Young Democrats and women and Hispanics are especially critical of Israel. The Democratic Party base. Increasingly Americans are asking, why not one democratic state. Why don’t the Times columnists offer any support for this camp? Four years ago Andrew Sullivan asked why there are no anti-Zionists in the mainstream media. The question is more relevant than ever. The New York Times is echoing the Jewish establishment on the conflict, and thereby reflecting a rightwing discourse on a central question of our time.
My advice: They should hire a leading Palestinian columnist tomorrow, Noura Erakat or Ali Abunimah or Yousef Munayyer, and begin to sound an alternative view of the conflict.