Cohen misses the point — again


Here’s my latest beef with Roger Cohen: He ignores the JTA (and thumps Israel again in a column that misses the point on Iran).

In his column Sunday, the veteran New York Times writer cites critical reaction to his Op-Ed last week on Jews in Iran from the Jerusalem Post, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and even the American Thinker. But he ignores the JTA (we called him naive on Iran). What are we — chopped liver?

More importantly, Cohen misses the point — again — in a column that focuses on what Iran isn’t, rather than what it is, and takes some more gratuitous swipes at Israel.

Cohen devotes nearly his entire missive to arguing that Iran isn’t a totalitarian or fascist state, and that equating it with Nazi Germany of 1938 is a mistake. This misses the point. Iran may treat its Jews well (though, as I noted last week, this doesn’t mean they don’t live in fear of the regime), but it is simultaneously fighting a war against the 6 million Jews that live in the Jewish state — to say nothing of Jews around the world — through proxies in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Gaza (Hamas).

Cohen call for "thinking again" about whether Hamas and Hezbollah should be terrorist groups. He writes:

The equating of Iran with terror today is simplistic. Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into broad political movements widely seen as resisting an Israel over-ready to use crushing force. It is essential to think again about them, just as it is essential to toss out Iran caricatures.

I return to this subject because behind the Jewish issue in Iran lies a critical one — the U.S. propensity to fixate on and demonize a country through a one-dimensional lens, with a sometimes disastrous chain of results.

It’s worth recalling that hateful, ultranationalist rhetoric is no Iranian preserve. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s race-baiting anti-Arab firebrand, may find a place in a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. He should not.

Nor should racist demagoguery — wherever — prompt facile allusions to the murderous Nazi master of it.

Cohen’s argument, it seems, is not that Iran doesn’t fund Hamas and Hezbollah, but that their activities do not constitute terrorism. What would Cohen call Hezbollah’s intentional targeting of civilians in Israel and in Lebanon? Hezbollah has attempted to cast itself as a Lebanese political party, but its actions in Lebanon (including assassinations, car bombings and the maintenance of a militia that rivals the Lebanese Army) and its refusal to end its aggression against Israel despite Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 belies that notion.

As for Hamas, which has orchestrated suicide bombings on Israeli buses and at Israeli malls but nowadays fires rockets daily at Israeli towns and cities within its reach, what more can Hamas do to demonstrate that it’s a terrorist group? What would Hamas have to bomb in your neighborhood, Mr. Cohen? If buses filled with civilians and private homes are not enough, what is? A bookstore? A Starbucks?

Finally, Cohen again finds space in his column on Iran to move the focus back to Israel. Speaking of ultranationalist rhetoric, Cohen writes, don’t forget Avigdor Lieberman.

I don’t want to be in the uncomfortable position of defending Lieberman, who has called for drowning Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea, among other repugnant measures.

But there’s a big difference between a country that has a minority politician like Lieberman who captured about 12 percent of the vote and a country whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rails against the existence of another country. There’s a difference between a minority voice who calls for loyalty oaths by the citizens of his country and an Islamic state that requires its Jewish citizens to denounce the Jewish state from time to time and bars them from many public positions. There’s a difference between a country that sends its air force to bomb Gaza to end rocket attacks on its civilians (Arab and Jewish alike) and a country that orchestrates attacks on Jewish community centers like the 1994 bombing of the AMIA center in Buenos Aires, Argentina (85 killed).

To suggest otherwise is to be dangerously naive.

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