Thursday, July 05, 2007

Anti-Semitism, by Nick Cohen

I learned it was one thing being called “Cohen” if you went along with liberal orthodoxy, quite another when you pointed out liberal betrayals. Your argument could not be debated on its merits. There had to be a malign motive. You had to support Ariel Sharon. You had to be in the pay of “international” media moguls or neoconservatives. You had to have bad blood. You have to be a Jew.

I've just finished reading Nick Cohen's book "What's Left". Here is what one reviewer says:

Third world democrats, feminists and liberals have been betrayed by those who so style themselves in the West. The fall of communism and the disappearance of a coherent set of principles have liberated Western leftists into a kind of nihilism that is akin to modern consumerism. Now you can pick your issue du jour from an anti-Western smorgasbord. Cohen chronicles the etiology of the disease - how it started with postmodern theorists and obscure fringe groups, entered the mainstream and led to the failure of left-liberals to confront genocide in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Middle East until it grew into an all-consuming fever. He also attempts to salvage the best of the liberal-left's internationalist and democratic traditions. In this regard, please consult A Matter of Principle edited by Thomas Cushman.

The author chronicles these developments in part by telling the story of Iraqi human rights campaigner Kanan Makiya who exposed Saddam's atrocities in the book Republic of Fear and was later shunned by his former so-called comrades. Makiya was prescient as he foresaw the outcome of these relativist multiculti tendencies in his 1993 book Cruelty and Silence. Many myths and lies are exposed by Cohen, for example those concerning Saddam's arms suppliers. For the record, between 1973 and 2002, 57 per cent of those weapons came from the Soviet Union/Russia, 13 per cent from France and 12 per cent from China. The USA and UK together did not contribute even one per cent.

Other revelations concern sinister British groups on the left, like the Workers Revolutionary Party of the thug Gerry Healy, a toxic cult if ever there was one. Some of the juiciest writing is about the obscurantism of postmodern theorists - it makes you laugh out loud. The Sokal Hoax is inter alia covered here, but the very best dissection of this species may be found in Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks.

Cohen observes that the utopian, the hate-filled and the irreconcileable do not dissappear with geopolitical changes, so a revived radicalism was inevitable after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the death of communism gave birth to a nasty nihilism, the breast milk of the Moonbats. Not surprising since one of their intellectual masters, Michel Foucault, already hailed the Khomeinian ayatollocracy back in 1978. Thus his intellectual heirs ended up endorsing anything that was against liberal democracy.

And here is what another critic has to say about Cohen's position vis a vis Israel and antisemitism:

On The Zionist Question

In dealing with the general situation in the Middle East, Nick Cohen adopts a strong position for the defence of Israel, whilst arguing that a solution of the Palestinian conflict requires a confrontation with both Jewish and Muslim ultras.

There is then a strong criticism of those liberals who camouflage forms of anti-Semitism under a cloak of anti-Zionism.

Here it seems to me that it is fruitful for the left to avoid such dangers by clarifying what we understand by the use of the concept of “anti-Zionism”. For it is possible to adopt forms of Zionism and anti-Zionism at the same time.Zionism was initially a movement to establish a Jewish State in Palestine. With the establishment of a State of Israel with its widely recognised borders and its theoretical rights for its Arab citizens as embodied in its Constitution, a major element of the initial project has been achieved.Without recognising the rights of settlements on the West Bank nor of Israel’s freedom to act at will in Gaza and the Lebanon, those of us who recognise the right of Israel to exist and to take reasonable action to defend itself have, in fact, come to accept a partial Zionist position.

Many of us have not done this from ideological positions, but mainly as a matter of coming to terms with what we saw as the politics of the situation. Although those of us who were young children at the time of the holocaust, may have developed Jewish sympathies which gave little consideration at the time to the Arab Question.

On Zionism, we need to be clear that we are opposed to its expansionist form and to any desire to treat Arabs as second class citizens.

Many anti-Zionists obscure the distinction I have made. Their ill defined form of anti-Zionism allows them to gain the acceptance of those who wish to destroy the State of Israel, whilst telling the rest of us that they aren’t anti-Semitic as they actually favour a two State solution to the Palestine problem.*

Clarity on what we mean by anti-Zionism might not be everything, but it sure is an important starter.But whilst we have a three card trick being played by some to obscure the distinctions we need to have in our mind between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism, Zionist lobbies (of both the types I describe) can also be used to hide counter criticism of un-praiseworthy acts by Israel or its supporters. We should avoid being fooled by the language tricks on both sides of this divide.
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* The author is refering to only a part of the Left in this description. For the ultra left-- the kind that defines itself as the "anti-globalist, anti-racist" movement (best manifested in the anti-Israel boycott movement in Britain)-- the two-state solution is a clearly pro-Israel position, which they refuse to accept. Their goal is expressly the dissolution of the Jewish state. What redeems them from outright complicity with genocidal organizations like Hamas or Hizzbala is coy reluctance to expound upon the form in which their express goal will be achieved.

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