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Roger Cohen Discovers Antisemitism

The New York Times columnist moves to London.

by
Ben Cohen

Bio

August 24, 2011 - 12:00 am
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This anti-Zionism certainly bothers Cohen, to the extent that he even mentions its critical component: Muslim antisemitism. But again, he reports no conversations with those who might have educated him on the subject. A conversation with Howard Jacobson, the leading British writer whose recent novel, The Finkler Question, is a witty journey through the minds of anti-Zionist Jews, would have yielded valuable insights. The same can be said of the Community Security Trust, a communal defense organization run by individuals who are the very opposite of the supine Jews of Cohen’s imagination. One can add, too, the bloggers of Harry’s Place, who diligently monitor and attacks extremists of all varieties — left, right, and Islamist  — as well as the activists of Engage, who combat the academic boycott of Israel.

I could go on. The point, though, is that Cohen does not seem willing to connect with anyone who might shake his convictions (a pronounced trait among New York liberals that he must have picked up during his years over here). He is determined to drive home his fundamental argument, and no-one will stop him.

Above all else, it is a bizarre argument and it goes something like this. Jews have a duty to combat prejudice against them boldly and bravely. Yet their history compels them to resist the entreaties of those Cohen labels as “Islamophobes,” since these folks have simply adapted the discourse of antisemitism to Europe’s Muslims. For Cohen, if no-one else, “the lesson is clear”:

Jews, with their history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people. They must be vociferous in their insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank will increase Israel’s isolation and ultimately its vulnerability.

Got that? When someone makes a boneheaded joke about a “JewBerry,” the proper response is to denounce the Israeli occupation.

The Times, frankly, should be embarassed about publishing this type of nonsense. Moreover, it’s not the first time; in another recent column from London on the Oslo massacre, Cohen excoriated “Islamophobes” by tying in the death of singer Amy Winehouse, “a Jewish girl from East London whose artistry would once have been dismissed by a racist and murderous European right as degenerate ‘cosmopolitan’ trash.”

Underpinning Cohen’s inchoate offerings is a notion that many would reasonably regard as antisemitic: that Jews are collectively responsible for Israel’s actions unless they explicitly declare otherwise. Yet if someone was to argue that European Muslims were similarly obliged to condemn each and every Islamist atrocity, Cohen would no doubt declare them “Islamophobic.”

Most insidious of all is Cohen’s use of antisemitism as a gateway to bash Israel. Like Peter Beinart, he is profoundly troubled by the image of the empowered Jew. Essentially, he believes that the historical mission of Jews is to be without power, even as the antisemites accuse them of being all-powerful.

With friends like these, eh?

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Ben Cohen is a writer and media consultant based in New York City. He writes a column for The Huffington Post and regularly contributes opinion pieces and blogs at The Jerusalem Post, Harry's Place, Tablet, Congress Blog and many other online and print publications. His scholarly work includes the monograph "The Ideological Foundations of the Boycott Campaign Against Israel," published by the American Jewish Committee, as well as analytical papers for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. He has also appeared as a commentator for a range of broadcasters.
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