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No Escaping the ‘Cohen’: Nick Cohen is becoming a Jew (again)

Middle East
on 28 Comments

British journalist, Chomsky detractor, Iraq war supporter, and fanatical opponent of fanatical Islamism (the “fascism (and possibly Leninism) of our age”) Nick Cohen has re-outed himself as a Jew (sort of).  In an Opinion column in March 19’s Guardian, Cohen recounts how, growing up with a mother who wasn’t Jewish and a father who abandoned his Judaism,

[s]till there was no escaping the “Cohen”….I assured anyone who asked (and some who did not) that, despite appearances to the contrary, I wasn’t Jewish…I sounded like a black man trying to pass as white or a German arguing with the Gestapo that there was a mistake in the paperwork. [1]

In other words, Cohen was a textbook “self-hating Jew”—though as the late Mike Marqusee observed in his 2008 memoir If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of An Anti-Zionist Jew, that particular term was reserved by those to whom “Israel was a just cause and a Jewish cause, those who opposed Israel were anti-semites, and the only Jew who could fail to recognize these truths was a self-hating Jew” to describe political opponents who were also Jews, rather than to describe Jews like Cohen who actually hated being Jewish.  Reading Cohen’s account of his wilderness years (hat tip to Richard Nixon), one begins to wonder whether he was really this abject in his tribal alienation, or whether for example the “friend” he had to call to ask what on earth “mazel tov” meant warrants the same level of skepticism as Ben Carson’s hammer (“I would get so angry–!”).

Of course, Nick Cohen is British, which means he’s especially concerned with the antisemitism that has spread so far from the extreme left into the mainstream that it now threatens to poison the Labour party, which translates as “Jeremy Corbyn” (He Who Must Not Be Named, though Cohen later names him).  However, the cause of Cohen’s “conversion” appears to be not party politics and its malcontents, but rather (quelle surprise) liberal hypocrites who profess tolerance of different cultures and “identity politics” but not-so-secretly hate Jews for their projected Protocols of the Elders-like power.  Maybe, pace Peter Viereck, anti-Semitism is the true anti-Semitism of the intellectual.

The rest of Cohen’s column is exemplary in its recycling of liberal-who’s-been-mugged-and-you-will-be-too canards, rants, and empty threats, from

  • “The Left is just a politer version of the Nazi party”; to
  • “Anti-Zionism” = “calling for the total destruction of the world’s only Jewish state” (almost a verbatim quote, with the targeted legal “destruction” of Judaism as the basis for citizenship that defines anti-Zionism casually being reworded to suggest the simultaneous physical and existential “destruction” of actual Jews); to
  • The conflating of the Labour Party and UKIP (the British version of the “Sanders and Trump are both populist outsiders too extreme for the mainstream” argument); to
  • The slur against Sweden’s Margot Wallström undermined by Cohen’s own link to the actual story (according to the New York Times, Wallström didn’t blame the Paris attacks on the Israeli occupation but rather mentioned Palestinians as one example of the “root causes of radicalizations” during a 15 to 20 minute TV interview—hardly proof of “racial conspiracy”); to
  • Vague, ominous pronouncements about the “growing darkness on the left” (Koestlerian nods to the (non-Mosaic) God that failed?).

Nonetheless, despite becoming a Jew, and encouraging us non-Jews (by which he means either actual non-Jews, or merely non-Jewish Jews) to become Jews so that we can truly see anti-Semitism for what it is and understand why it always leads to despotism and despair, Cohen admits: I was and remain an atheist who knows that communalist and identity politics crush individuality.  In other words, Cohen is not religiously Jewish but only culturally Jewish, by which he means not that he is “lox and bagels and a vague duty to repair the world” but rather that he is David Horowitz.

Which still isn’t news, of course, since Cohen wrote more or less the same exact column in 2009.  [B]rought up with no connection to Judaism…the modern Left succours and indulges radical Islam [replace “Jeremy Corbyn” with “Ken Livingstone,” rewrite, resubmit]…I would no longer protest that I wasn’t Jewish…when Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel it had declared war and had to accept the consequences…etc.  Where his 2009 Jewish Chronicle column began by confessing, “My name is Nick Cohen, and I think I’m turning into a Jew,” his 2016 Guardian column begins, “It took me 40 years to become a Jew.”

And yet…Nick Cohen’s Jew is a universal Jew whom we all can become, provided we recant our soft antisemitism, defend Zionism (but not tribalism), stop blaming Israel and the West, and never vote Labour.  It’s a mystery, this: is Nick Cohen too Jewish, or not Jewish enough?

Notes

1. The more I think about this quote, the more bizarre it seems. Does he mean a German Jew arguing with the Gestapo? And if so, why wouldn’t he use the word Jew (in this column of all columns)?  Otherwise, why would a German non-Jew argue with the Gestapo that there was a mistake in the paperwork—unless there was a mistake in the paperwork?  Is the black man trying to pass as white likewise having difficulty passing, but actually white?

About Hop Wechsler

Hop T. Wechsler is a labor lawyer in New Jersey. His work has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, New Left Project, CounterPunch, HiNgE, and RIBOT. He can be reached at [email protected]

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28 Responses

  1. John O
    March 28, 2016, 12:05 pm

    “he had to call to ask what on earth “mazel tov” meant”.

    Cor, blimey, Mary Poppins! Even a London boy such as I knows what “mazel tov” means. But then Leo Rosten’s delightful “jOYs of Yiddish” has long been one of my favourite anthologies of humour.

    Cohen is also yet another of those tiresome lefties who swing rightwards when they see where the butter lies thickest on the bread.

  2. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    March 28, 2016, 2:27 pm

    The Guardian is obsessed with ‘anti-semitism’. Not surprising I suppose, with the sleazy Jonathan Freedland – who delights in finding ‘anti-semitism’ under every bed – as one of its editors. Barely a week passes without some hand-wringing ‘article’ about the ‘new anti-semitism’ – even its celeb/lifestyle hack, Hadley Freedman, was in on it.

    For many years now, Cohen has been less a journalist than a professional ranter/above the line troll. His ‘articles’ consist of little more than baiting leftists, Muslims and anti-Zionists. And now he wants to play the victim too! Is there anything more repulsive than when an ultra-privileged person wraps themselves in the mantle of victimhood?

    “[s]till there was no escaping the “Cohen”….I assured anyone who asked (and some who did not) that, despite appearances to the contrary, I wasn’t Jewish…I sounded like a black man trying to pass as white or a German arguing with the Gestapo that there was a mistake in the paperwork. [1]”

    Oh, do get over yourself! Try being a guy I know who lived in Troubles era Belfast with the quintissentially Irish Catholic name of ”Murphy”, despite being a Protestant himself. I’m willing to bet that 99% of these people weren’t nearly as concerned about Cohen’s ”Jewishness” than Cohen himself was/is.

    Naval gazing is not an attractive trait, Guardian editors.

  3. oldgeezer
    March 28, 2016, 4:11 pm

    I’ve been a long time reader of the guardian. I used to buy it in print before it came online although I was limited to a single edition per week due to it’s availability.

    I don’t know Nick’s full history but I’ve never understood him being classified as left. His concern for human rights only comes to the fore when it serves as a stick to bash opponents. My take on him is that he is a right wing imperialist.

    Nick has certainly been a supporter and proponent of the neocons and their strategy. An unrepentent one at that.

    I’m glad he found religion but apparently only to use that as a stick to beat opponents with as well. Most of his articles contain core lies and some are actually replete with lies piled upon falsehoods.

    The guardian has gone downhill since Freedland took it over. I no longer go there often, unless someone links to a specific article. I might visit once every few weeks whereas I was a site visitor every day.

    The moderation on comments is bizaare. Epecially when an article is open for comments on I/P issues. Pro zionists can make the most audacious lies, slanders and defamations and they will remain. Factual posts which might be anti-Israel disappear. I tend to give the moderators the benefit of the doubt and hope they aren’t collectively part of the effort. It could be that lazy moderators respond to any user complaint and that they are flooded with complaints by pro Israelis. It could even be a small number of pro Israel moderators. It truly doesn’t appear to me that they are following any preset agenda.

    Anyway…. Nick’s article was his typical slander. He might be on the left wing of the right wing but he’s no leftist for sure.

    • Thalwen
      March 28, 2016, 11:58 pm

      There are entire groups of pro-Israel(hasbara) trolls dedicated to monitoring specific sites’ comments section, the Guardian’s comments are no exception and are(or were) monitored by a rather nasty one whose name escapes me but used to tweet under @CIFWatch I think. Of course, ensuring any I/P article would be flooded with pro-Israel trolls with their standard propaganda techniques & complaints of “bias.” I’ve even seen them flood small blogs, ridiculous how far they will go to shut down any discussion of I/P anywhere they can reach it.
      No idea about any bias in moderation but wouldn’t be surprised. Guardian is better than many mainstream news sources, but still far from unbiased on this issue.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      March 29, 2016, 9:52 am

      “Pro zionists can make the most audacious lies, slanders and defamations and they will remain. Factual posts which might be anti-Israel disappear. ”

      Yup. A month or so ago I saw a hasbarist blatantly say that Guardian journalist Peter Beaumont flat out lied when he said those four boys were murdered on the beach during the last Gaza massacre. Why did he lie? Because he was ‘anti-Israel’ of course. The poster repeated it several times, but it stayed.

      “I tend to give the moderators the benefit of the doubt and hope they aren’t collectively part of the effort.”

      Hmmmmm….. I dunno. I don’t think they personally are pro-Zionist neccessarily, but it does without a doubt seem that the Guardian ‘moderates’ Israel threads in a very different way to ‘normal’ discussions. They systematically delete any comments which reference various ”Friends of Israel” lobby groups, for example, even though that’s hardly in breach of their ‘community standards’. It may be that ‘anti-Israel’ comments just get ‘reported’ a lot and the mods just automatcially delete them, but I think there are very specific, unofficial policies regarding such discussions.

      That’s when they’re opened for comment at all, which is rare. In a way I can’t blame them, as the comments will just be flooded by hasbarists who got an internet alert, but on the other hand I wish they had a bit of backbone. Part of the problem is that the Guardian is trying to increase its readership in the US, and feels it has to toe the Zionist line. The other problem is the odious Freedland. Like you, I rarely bother with it for serious news anymore.

      Agree with you about Cohen though. I never saw him as ‘left-wing’. He’s a (much) less intelligent and eloquent Christopher Hitchents – and even Hitchens was a critic of Israel.

  4. Citizen
    March 28, 2016, 5:26 pm

    Just take a look at him. My, my my

    • Brewer
      March 29, 2016, 3:40 am

      That picture qualifies for the ADL’s cartoon of the week

      http://www.adl.org/anti-semitism/cartoons/cartoon-week-archive.html#.VvoybxywdC1

      • miriam6
        April 2, 2016, 12:07 pm

        That picture qualifies for the ADL’s cartoon of the week

        You prefer you Jews of an acceptably Aryan appearance then?

        Comments like yours confirm all my worst suspicions about this site

        How and why do the mods allow comments such as yours and Citizens ?

        Derogatory comments like yours and Citizens about a Jewish persons physical appearance simply wouldn’t be tolerated if expressed about a Arabic person / someone of any other origin

      • Mooser
        April 2, 2016, 2:10 pm

        “What’s wrong with his face exactly ?”

        It’s not his face, “Miriam”. It’s his aura. It’s terrible. If I had an aura like that, I wouldn’t go out of the house, not without a large hat or hood or something.

      • echinococcus
        April 2, 2016, 2:53 pm

        Myriam 6,

        Wrong again.
        That guy is not Jewish by the most fundamental standard, his mother being non-Jewish.
        In official Jewish genetics, all hereditary tribal transmission is strictly through one’s mother.
        So this is not “a Jewish person”. Also, even if this Mr Nick Cohen were Jewish, surely some Jewish persons can be ugly –as incredible as it sounds. He just happens to be a particularly ugly Goy, so there is no offense that concerns you.

      • eljay
        April 2, 2016, 4:27 pm

        || echinococcus: … even if this Mr Nick Cohen were Jewish, surely some Jewish persons can be ugly –as incredible as it sounds. He just happens to be a particularly ugly Goy, so there is no offense that concerns you. ||

        It’s possible that she resembles Mr. Cohen and that’s why she’s so sensitive about the remarks.

      • echinococcus
        April 2, 2016, 8:27 pm

        Eljay,

        Surely there is no such resemblance, as the lady clearly states that “Jews” have no “Aryan appearance”.

        Still trying to remember when I last heard something like that…

    • miriam6
      April 2, 2016, 12:02 pm

      Just take a look at him. My, my my

      What’s wrong with his face exactly ?

      Explain your comment

      Just too ‘Eastern European Jewish ‘ looking for your liking – huh?

      • Brewer
        April 2, 2016, 9:03 pm

        Sorry Miriam. The fact that my comment lampoons people such as yourself and the ADL, who take such nonsense seriously was, of course, not evident to you.
        Here’s one of my father’s favourite jokes:
        A Scotsman and an Irishman were walking down the street when the Irishman found a half-crown. The Scotsman borrowed it to get his eyes tested.
        Offensive?

      • echinococcus
        April 2, 2016, 9:38 pm

        Brewer,

        Isn’t it a crying shame that the best jokes are wasted by definition, as the most deserving addressees can only take them seriously?

  5. Citizen
    March 28, 2016, 5:49 pm

    He wrote article in 2011 saying lefties only look at Israel-Palestine & ignore all the Arab people straining under the yokes of the Arab tyrant countries

    • miriam6
      April 2, 2016, 11:14 pm

      The fact that my comment lampoons people such as yourself and the ADL

      Don’t kid yourself Brewer.

      Second point: Why not deal with the crap that emanates from Cohens mouth rather than attack his physical appearance.

      You are intellectually lazy – that’s all

      • Mooser
        April 3, 2016, 12:07 pm

        “Second point: Why not deal with the crap that emanates from Cohens mouth”

        Oh well, looks like “miriam6” excommunicated Cohen.

      • Brewer
        April 3, 2016, 3:09 pm

        “You are intellectually lazy – that’s all”
        Quite possibly, on an occasion where I choose to have a little fun – but coming from someone lacking the intellect to even understand the joke I cannot take the criticism seriously. You see it epitomizes intellectual laziness. You state “You are….” the arch-typical ad hominem, an invalid and erroneous statement given my catalogue of over 600 comments on this site examining the History of this conflict (with a few forays into the logical fallacies that accompany the conflation of valid criticism with that contrived and illogical concept – anti-Semitism – in which you indulge).

  6. tony greenstein
    March 29, 2016, 10:46 am

    A sadly disturbed man, not to be taken too seriously.

    But how many times can someone convert to being a Jew whilst remaining a Gentile. I shall have to consult a rabbi!

    • gamal
      March 29, 2016, 3:44 pm

      Cohen and Melanie Philips have always seemed to me to be clinically depressed tormented individuals exploited by a media that is intent on distorting any social or political discourse with their insane intemperate rants. Like court jesters they can render the invective of mainstream monologue raw and direct

      David Aaronovitch is a proper “British Jew” laid back, confident of his own superiority, wide-boy, a man free of any interiority as is proper to the English Bloke, like Rod Liddle, clubbable.

      Cohen can’t “bloke”, English men are suspicious of those who can’t “bloke” right.

      I hope Cohen finds refuge from himself.

      great article Hop, and excuse the impertinence but great name.

  7. Talkback
    March 29, 2016, 2:43 pm

    He makes it sound like a relapse of an antisemitism junkie who wants to become Jewish to become even more high.

    “(almost a verbatim quote, with the targeted legal “destruction” of Judaism as the basis for citizenship that defines anti-Zionism casually being reworded to suggest the simultaneous physical and existential “destruction” of actual Jews)”

    Makes sense, that’s what people feel who experience a cold turkey.

  8. The Hasbara Buster
    March 30, 2016, 6:47 pm

    If Cohen lived in Israel he would have fingers pointed at him all the time for not being Jewish, since, no matter his innermost feelings, his mother wasn’t. Then perhaps he would realize what Judaism actually is, and that, unfortunately, he hasn’t made it into the tribe.

    • echinococcus
      March 31, 2016, 2:42 am

      Exactly. Now, there is no need to live in occupied Palestine to experience that: it is official doctrine anywhere, no matter newfangled reform ideas on women rabbis (do they recite “Thanks, Lord, for not making me a woman”) or conversions (to Marrano-like status.) Mr Cohen, who inherits his father’s name but not Jewishness even though he is a rabid Zionist, is the walking textbook example of the tribe’s inhuman racism.

      • Mooser
        March 31, 2016, 4:05 pm

        “Thanks, Lord, for not making me a woman”

        The bris was bad enough.

    • Mooser
      March 31, 2016, 4:03 pm

      “Then perhaps he would realize what Judaism actually is…”

      …in Israel.

      • gamal
        March 31, 2016, 6:00 pm

        ” what Judaism actually is…”

        everyone is an Islamic scholar now everyone’s a Rabbi, Zaha Hadid died today, in the states of bronchitis, I have flu and may well live.

      • Mooser
        April 1, 2016, 2:06 pm

        “everyone is an Islamic scholar now everyone’s a Rabbi,”

        Except me. I don’t know how I missed out. I knew a defrocked Rabbi once, but no Temple would let her preach topless.

        ,” I have flu and may well live.”

        Get well soon! Hope you feel better. And don’t ‘wear it on your sleeve’, like I do. Use a hankie.

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