The New York Times’ Roger Cohen Laments Israeli Self-Defense
Among the court Jews, Roger Cohen of The New York Times leads the coterie identifiable as “ashamed Jews.” He laments Israel’s defense of its borders and by extension its citizens as the despicable and reckless exercise of power, periodically wringing his hands and twisting his mind in the attempt to find appropriate words of condemnation.
Back in December, he deplored President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Echoing left-wing historian Tom Segev, who assailed the “strong nationalism and strong religion” that has supposedly transformed the Jewish state into a “colonialist power,” Cohen labeled Israel an “ethno-religious Jewish state.”
One month later he reported on his visit to Hebron, where he ostensibly encountered “the biological metaphors of classic racism” driven by “a fanatical settler movement.” This in King David’s first capital, where the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people are buried. His mentor, predictably, was a founder of the left-wing anti-settlement group Breaking the Silence. Seemingly oblivious to the place of Hebron in Jewish history, Cohen lacerated Hebron’s Jews without any indication that he conversed with a single one of them.
Cohen’s most recent lamentation, published April 20, focused on Israel’s alleged “insanity,” evidenced by its “stomach turning” reliance on “a disproportionate military response” to Gazans, mobilized by Hamas, who have been attempting to breach Israel’s border. Quoting an array of former Mossad directors who cannot abide the Netanyahu government, he concluded that “Israel, through overreach, has placed itself in a morally indefensible noose.” He conveniently failed to mention the kite marked with a swastika and carrying a petrol bomb that flew across the border a day earlier – appropriately on Adolf Hitler’s birthday. The day his column appeared an Israeli warehouse was set on fire by another kite equipped with a flaming rag.
Cohen grew up in London, where Jews of his generation learned at an early age to keep their identity to themselves. He has broken that mold, emphasizing his ancestry so as to lacerate Israel as an ashamed Jew. Ostensibly concerned that Israel’s violent response to Gazans massed at its border only feeds “Israel haters” and “Jew haters,” he laments “the Messianic fanaticism opposed to all territorial compromise that has steadily gained influence since 1967.” He conveniently ignores Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw the IDF from Gaza and dismantle all settlements, leaving 8,000 Jews homeless and allowing Hamas to establish its terror regime.
Mercifully, relief from Cohen’s hyperventilation was provided by Bret Stephens on the Opinion page. Marking the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence, Stephens hailed “the creation of a feisty liberal democracy in a despotic neighborhood.” Perhaps with a backward glance at Cohen, Stephens noted that Israel “did not come into existence to serve as another showcase of the victimization of Jews.” The Hamas fantasy of breaching the border and marching to Jerusalem to claim Israel’s capital as its own is doomed.
Roger Cohen is surely worthy of inclusion among those lacerated by Stephens for providing “moral sustenance for Hamas in its efforts to win sympathy for its strategy of wanton aggression and reckless endangerment.” If 30,000 enraged Palestinians, armed with stones and flaming kites, targeted Cohen’s sedate London neighborhood, it is reasonable to assume that even he might request some bobbies for protection. Jews living on the Israeli side of the Gaza border are entitled to no less.
To be sure, Cohen is not alone at the Times, which has had a problem with Zionism ever since Adolph Ochs purchased the newspaper in 1896, several months after Herzl published The Jewish State. The very idea of Jewish statehood, to say nothing of its reality half a century later, provoked unrelenting consternation at the Times, which was determined to resist any intimation that it was a “Jewish” newspaper. It buried the Holocaust in its inside pages, declined to support the admission of desperate Jewish refugees to the United States, and warned that support for Zionism would ignite allegations of divided loyalty.
Ever since the 1920s, its Jerusalem correspondents – Joseph Levy, Thomas Friedman, Jodi Rudoren, and Isabel Kershner among others – have relentlessly criticized the idea and then the reality of a Jewish state. Inheriting former columnist Anthony Lewis’ self-appointed role as Israel’s hectoring critic, Roger Cohen has found his true home.
Jerold S. Auerbach’s newest book Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016 will be published this summer.