Roger Cohen on Left Anti-Semitism

Categories: Israel, Jewish Identity, Letters From Leadership
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The NY Times columnist, Roger Cohen, has at times drawn criticism for his liberal critique of Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians, but he has also long made it clear that he cares about Israel’s security and its wellbeing as a homeland for the Jewish people.   In his latest column, “An Anti-Semitism of the Left,” he decries left-wing antisemitism driven by an unbalanced over-the-top anti-Zionism, including an “intersectionality” that denies Jews their history as a persecuted people and the historic circumstances under which Israel was established as a haven for Jews.  These are the most salient parts:

LONDON — . . . Jews, of course, are a minority, but through a fashionable cultural prism they are seen as the minority that isn’t — that is to say white, privileged and identified with an “imperialist-colonialist” state, Israel. They are the anti-victims in a prevalent culture of victimhood; Jews, it seems, are the sole historical victim whose claim is dubious.  . . .  

What is striking about the anti-Zionism derangement syndrome that spills over into anti-Semitism is its ahistorical nature. It denies the long Jewish presence in, and bond with, the Holy Land. It disregards the fundamental link between murderous European anti-Semitism and the decision of surviving Jews to embrace Zionism in the conviction that only a Jewish homeland could keep them safe. It dismisses the legal basis for the modern Jewish state in United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947. This was not “colonialism” but the post-Holocaust will of the world: Arab armies went to war against it and lost.

As Simon Schama, the historian, put it last month in the Financial Times, the Israel of 1948 came into being as a result of the “centuries-long dehumanization of the Jews.” The Jewish state was needed. History had demonstrated that. That is why I am a Zionist — now a dirty word in Europe.

Today, it is Palestinians in the West Bank who are dehumanized through Israeli dominion, settlement expansion and violence. The West Bank is the tomb of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Palestinians, in turn, incite against Jews and resort to violence, including random stabbings. The oppression of Palestinians should trouble every Jewish conscience. . . .

Criticism of Israel is one thing; it’s needed in vigorous form. Demonization of Israel is another, a familiar scourge refashioned by the very politics — of identity and liberation — that should comprehend the millennial Jewish struggle against persecution.

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