Goldberg on Cohen


Over at the Forward, J.J. Goldberg has a follow-up to his recent column on New York Times columnist Roger Cohen’s long magazine piece on Iran. Goldberg wants to straighten a few things out that might have been lost in the earlier column, but he winds up with what seems to me a pretty spot-on depiction of the current state of the game in American Jewish policy "debates" about Israel:

It used to be that the dividing line was between those who work toward Israeli-Palestinian compromise, which we might call the Labor-Fatah position, and those who believe Israel must inevitably push toward maximum boundaries and hence that the only question is whether or not Israel should exist, which is a view shared among religious fundamentalists of all three monotheistic faiths.

In the madness of the post-9/11 Bush years, things got so polarized that the pro-compromise position became marginalized in many parts of the culture, and the question was no longer Israel-Palestine compromise versus no-compromise but Israel legitimate versus Palestine legitimate. In this atmosphere, those who speak ill of Palestinians (or even of their defenders) are identified — by the newly dominant voices on both sides — as “pro-Israel,” and those who speak ill of Israel or its defenders are identified, again on both sides, as pro-Palestinian. Just about anybody who argues publicly that Israel is legitimate becomes part of “the Lobby,” and just about anybody who argues for Palestinian rights becomes an “Islamofascist.” It’s a simplistic, reductionist and increasingly a dangerous discourse.

I write a lot that is critical of Israel and the Jewish community, largely because they’re my family and I worry about them. So a lot of people on both sides see me as friendly toward the Palestinian side. On August 5 I wrote something critical — well, not even of the Palestinian side, but of someone who is seen lately as a champion of the Palestinian side — and suddenly I’m on the other side.

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