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November 27, 2013 10:37 am

Seal the Deal and Blame Israel

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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

Whoever said that you cannot have your cake and eat it too never read The New York Times.

Hailing the current love fest between the United States and Iran, replete with “handshakes, smiles, side-by-side flags and significant compromise” (aka American diplomatic surrender), Times columnist Roger Cohen seized the opportunity to lambaste Israel (November 26). No sooner had President Obama chosen, with Iran as previously with Syria, to emulate Neville Chamberlain in Munich exactly seventy-five years ago than Cohen lacerated Israel for its “over-the-top ‘nyet’.”

Cohen seems unable to grasp why the American rapprochement with Iran that endangers its closest Middle Eastern ally was not greeted with euphoria in Israel. But like the United States, Cohen suggests, Israel must “adapt to a world where its power is unmatched but no longer determinant.” A world, that is, of Iranian nuclear weapons. This might be possible if Israel possessed the “enlightened leadership” that the United States enjoys from its president and the “admirable” John Kerry. But it does not, because its “overriding prism is military” i.e. it must protect itself not only against its enemies (Iran paramount among them) but now, it seems, against its erstwhile friends.

That provides Cohen with his opportunity to flail Prime Minister Netanyahu. His primary source for Iranian intentions is a Harvard-educated Iranian businessman with “a strong sense of outrage at Israel’s contempt for Iran’s national aspirations.” The problem with Netanyahu, Cohen suggests in his curious segue from Iran to Israel, is his absence of “hope.” (Where have we previously heard promises of “hope and change”?) Once Iran’s intentions can be tested, at least there is hope for a good outcome. “Perhaps this is what is most threatening to Netanyahu.” He remains unwilling “to test the Palestinians in a serious way – test their good faith, test ending the humiliations of the occupation, test from strength the power of justice and peace.” Indeed, he actually prefers Israeli “domination.”

This, of course, is nothing but liberal boilerplate. Palestinian intentions were tested by the Peel partition plan in 1937, by the U.N. partition plan a decade later, by the Oslo Accords twenty years ago, and by the ominously generous territorial concessions offered by Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert within the past fifteen years. On every occasion Palestinian leaders rejected their chance for statehood, “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity” in Abba Eban’s memorable phrase.

Cohen is dismayed by “hyperventilating Israeli rhetoric.” About the recent references to Israel by Iranian leaders as a “cancerous tumor” and “an insult to all humanity” he has nothing to say. About Ayatollah Khamenei’s declaration, only weeks ago, that the “Zionist regime” is the “sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region” Cohen remains silent. Fault lies only with the Jewish state: Cohen writes, in closing, that “cheap allusions to 1938 are a poor template for Israel in the 21st century.”

In her “Memo from Jerusalem,” preceding Cohen’s column by a few pages, floundering Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren chimed in with her own deflection from the United States and Iran to Israelis and Palestinians. In a classic non sequitur, she cited Israeli outrage over the deal with Iran and followed with the erroneous reference to an Israel that “continues to build West Bank settlements while negotiating with the Palestinians.” But Israel is not building settlements; it is continuing to build within settlements, which is altogether different and which nothing in its negotiations with the Palestinian Authority prevents. Earlier this month, in a similar faux pas, Rudoren erroneously wrote that Israel was building “3,500 more settlements,” which the Times was compelled to correct. (November 7). She went on to compare “Israel’s approach to Iran,”  with “arguments long made by its Palestinian adversaries”: that Israel “evacuate settlements considered illegal under international law.” With such legerdemain, Rudoren transforms Israel and Iran into partners in international law breaking.

In the end, there is no Iranian problem for the Times – only, predictably, a Jewish problem. Perhaps, in the next eight days, the Times will even find a way to blame everything on the Maccabees who, after all, heeded the call of Mattathias to resist Hellenistic oppression in, of all places, Judea and Jerusalem.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Against the Grain: A Historian’s Journey (Quid Pro Books, 2012).

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