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Roger Cohen’s epiphany

The screw is turning; American liberal Zionist opinion is turning harshly against Israel the occupier. First Tom Friedman declared early this year, “Let the one-state era begin,” there will never be a Palestinian state. Now Roger Cohen, a true believer in the Jewish state who lately published a book about its enduring importance to him, all but throws in the towel in a long opinion piece in the New York Times titled “Why Israel Still Refuses to Choose.”

Cohen begins by stating the news, to readers of the New York Times anyway, that no one on either side over there believes there will be a Palestinian state:

on one issue there is near unanimity these days: A two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more distant than ever, so unimaginable that it appears little more than an illusion sustained by lazy thinking, interest in the status quo or plain exhaustion.

So maintaining that illusion in American policy and influence circles is actually cruel, and sustains Israel’s policy of managed conflict and American bigotry re Palestinians. Cohen holds out hope that President Obama will send a rebuke to Israel by laying out parameters for a two-state solution in the Security Council —

Israel is strongly opposed. That is the best reason for doing it. As long as Israel has a blank check from Washington and an effective Security Council veto through the United States, nothing will change. And something has to…. The worst thing would be for Western leaders to come up with some new “peace initiative” that would offer a convenient diversion from political responsibility.

But the surprise of the piece is Cohen’s identification with Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel. He chronicles tensions at a dinner party when an entrepreneurial Palestinian couple state their desire to recover property stolen from ancestors during the creation of Israel, and Jewish guests upbraid them. Cohen ends the piece with the Palestinians’ views.

“How can you feel equal when you are not?” Reem [Younis] said, mentioning that she had found it impossible to buy a house in a nearby town because she is an Arab. “Israel needs to be democratic more than Jewish.”

Imad [Younis] believes the personal trumps the political. “One state or two states? Who cares?” he told me. “What matters is human dignity and equality under the same law. Palestinian kids want to live well. That’s what they want.”

If Cohen is not for one state, he is close. Better yet and to his credit, he presents the views of Palestinians who favor one state and equal rights without condescension. This is admirable. Cohen is going against views he has held for his whole life.

H/t James North.

Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson

Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson are NY writers and regular contributors to this site

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7 Responses

  1. on October 29, 2016, 1:57 pm


    Whatever the opposite of epiphany is, that’s the word you’re looking for.

  2. Kathleen on October 29, 2016, 4:49 pm

    Continued Israeli theft of Palestinian lands and homes check points on stolen land, separate roads, lack of rights for Palestinians provide a carved out path to an epiphany for anyone paying attention.

  3. Kay24 on October 29, 2016, 6:17 pm

    Either it was denial, or the ziocane is slowly but surely wearing off. Why is it that these zionist loyalists were unable to see what we all could?

  4. ET on October 29, 2016, 7:57 pm

    The premise that there is a future one-state “equality” solution is the “lazy thinking by western powers, interest in the War Criminal status quo by Sionists or plain exhaustion of Abbas Regime collaborators”
    If the western powers invested 1/2 the time & effort to define framework for State of Israel leadership compliance with International Law as they expend of attempting to create auspices for State of Israel to circumvent International Law, There would be a Vienna Convention Article 53 jus cogens compliant Israel_Palestine Agreement in place
    International Law Context

    • echinococcus on October 29, 2016, 9:13 pm


      Of course, Western Powers are good at defining frameworks and requesting compliance and writing agreements. It’s their job.

      1. Who told you the Zionists will ever stop before eating up all? Or will not restart after a tactical stop? I mean, with only paper and threats.

      2. Where is justice, meaning restoration, anywhere in that framework?

  5. amigo on October 30, 2016, 11:20 am

    Another spoke in the wheel breaks.

  6. pabelmont on October 30, 2016, 11:23 am

    I hope Obama does NOT lay out parameters (that is, if by “parameters” is meant a definition of sharing of land, water, cleanup of garbage, sewage, nuclear waste, chemical waste, whatever Israel’s been dumping on WB land; Gaza; refugees/exiles from 1948; democracy without discrimination). NO. That’s what a settlement negotiated between the parties is for, and USA is not a party.

    What Obama should do is ask UNSC for a demand that Israel remove all settlers and demolish all settlement buildings over a shortish time and according to a schedule for uniform removals over that time, a schedule to be published by Israel within a very short time, and that a program of described sanctions be set forth to be acted upon in the case of Israeli failure to comply with the schedules, it being understood that a peace agreed to between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people (I don’t trust the PA “government” to speak for the entire P-People) will call off the sanctions (unless Israel fails to keep to the terms of the agreement).

    There are a million details to a proper peace deal that we cannot expect the USA alone or the entire UNSC to even think about, much less “get right”, that peace must be negotiated. But, also, Israel must be pressured to negotiate in good earnest, and a requirement to observe international law seems to me an adequate pressure.

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