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. 
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?
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?