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August 22, 2011 10:01 am

‘Jews in a Whisper:’ Roger Cohen’s Shameful Op-Ed in The New York Times

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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The New York Times building in New York. Photo: Haxorjoe.

I now understand why people make anti-Semitic jokes; have hated Jews worldwide throughout history; and certain Jews are embarrassed to be Jewish. Following Mr. Cohen’s logic, one can understand why a friend of his made an anti-Semitic joke regarding a BlackBerry; why someone pointed at a Jewish family in a London neighborhood in 1970 and whispered, “Jew;” why many Jews whisper about Judaism in an “awkward, half-apologetic way;” and their “priority was assimilation.” Read on – it’s quite simple.

Cohen details why he can’t stand with Israel because of, “Knesset members who have met in Israel with European rightists.” With this explanation he reaches the conclusion, “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.” That, not fanning the flames of Islamophobia, is the task before Diaspora Jews. Anti-Semitic jokes, embarrassed shameful Jews – it’s all because of the “West Bank.”

If one believes Mr. Cohen, the Jewish settlements, which Israel won in a defensive war in 1967 are to blame for worldwide anti-Semitism. The concept that the settlements are the reason Jews are embarrassed to be Jews is absurd. If this is the case, why did Israel face annihilation in 1948 or 1956 before there were any “occupied territories?” Why was Israel attacked in 1967 by the Arab world before the Jewish State was forced to take Judea and Samaria? I don’t understand – Israel has given land repeatedly – Oslo peace process, Camp David – Mr. Cohen, why is there still anti-Semitism, and no peace?

Jews like Mr. Cohen of the J-Street ilk can choose so many positive manifestations to celebrate Judaism; the beauty of the Torah, Jewish philosophy, the gift of the Sabbath, or Judaism’s many humanistic values. Within Israel, they could choose to celebrate the multi-cultural way of life, democratic country or physical beauty of the State. Instead the lesson these fools learn from years of anti-Semitism is that “Jews, with their history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people.”

Ze’ev Maghen of Bar-Ilan University in Israel says it so well: “A man calls you a pig. Do you walk around with a sign explaining that, in fact, you are not a pig? Do you hand out leaflets expostulating in detail upon the manifold differences between you and a pig (A pig has a snout, I have a nose; a pig wallows in mud, I only occasionally step in a puddle, and then, of course, inadvertently…)? Do you stand on a soap box and discourse eruditely on why, in general, it is extremely not nice to call people pigs, and appeal to the populace to please have no truck with an individual rude and nasty enough to say such things about an upstanding citizen like yourself? Fellow Jews, where is your dignity? Where is your abhorrence of useless, thoughtless, counterproductive endeavours?”

I shouldn’t be surprised at today’s New York Times headline, “Casualties on Both Sides as Israel and Gaza Trade Fire,” as if there is a moral equivalency between Hamas targeting women and children going about their daily lives and a democratic state protecting its own civilians. Couldn’t one have referred 9/11 as one which saw casualties of Americans and Arabs as well?

Better to have an Israel that is hated than an Auschwitz that is loved”

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR in New York City.

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  • Danny in US

    –I salute Ronn for including the link. It is an interesting dialogue between the original and this critique.

  • Good piece!!!

  • patricia in canada

    Bravo! Am Yisrael Chai!

  • I’m not even sure how I came to be reading this post – I think I clicked a link on Twitter as a distraction from work. But *BOY!* do I agree with Ronn Torossian. I think I am going to stalk Ron until we work together in PR or Israel activism – or both!

  • Binah ( Wendy) Bindell

    Dear Ronn, Thank you and congratulations on your response to Roger Cohen’s ( yes!) shameful op-ed in The NY Times. So powerful your words, in so small an article!! If only my words could express my gratitude for your clear, honest, precise and eloquent article. A Thank you does not express how I feel, but will have to suffice.. Thank you!