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Friday, March 04, 2011

Roger Cohen's latest anti-Israel screed a classic piece of propaganda

Roger Cohen in the NYT gives three reasons he thinks Israelis are anxious about the Arab world upheavals.

Israel is anxious. It preferred the old Middle Eastern order. It could count on the despots, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, to suppress the jihadists, reject Iran, and play the Israeli-Palestinian game along lines that created a permanent temporariness ever more favorable to Israeli power.
Notice "permanent temporariness." Cohen is implying that everyone knew deep down that there would be a wave of popular revolutions in the Arab world, and that Camp David was Israel's way of stopping that inevitability in order to impose its hegemony on the region.

I'd love to find the Roger Cohen columns from between 1979 and 2011 that gave us a glimpse of this inevitable Egyptian revolution.

Moreover, his very premise is that the Israel/Egyptian peace agreement was a means to ensure Israel's power. In the end, though, Israel is the only party that took a risk at Camp David - giving up a huge amount of territory for nothing more than a piece of paper. His characterization of the peace agreement as some sort of Israeli coup rather than a frightful gamble is ridiculous and borderline slanderous. (And nowhere in his article does he mention that likely Egyptian leaders are all calling to re-examine Camp David, something that gives great credence to the Israeli fears he likes to downplay.)
Israelis are doubly worried. They wonder, Mr. President, if you like them in a heart-to-heart way. You’ve been to Cairo, you’ve been to Istanbul, so what’s wrong with Jerusalem? Why won’t you come and kvetch with us, President Obama, and feel our pain?
What does this have to do with Egypt? It is true that Israel doesn't feel the same warmth from Obama that it felt from George W. Bush and from Bill Clinton. The reason is because it simply isn't there.
Israelis are triply worried. Elections are unpredictable — just look at Gaza — and now they may be held across the Arab world! There’s the Muslim Brotherhood talking a good line but nursing menace. And what if Jordan goes, too?
"Just look at Gaza?" Perhaps we need to remind this self-styled Middle East expert that Hamas was not only elected in Gaza but by Palestinian Arabs as a whole across the West Bank as well.

Here's a bit of education for Roger Cohen - the 2006 election results by district:

Hamas won in Jerusalem, Tulkarem, Nablus, Salfit, Hebron - and even Ramallah!

But Cohen ignores this and barrels on:
I find all the Israeli anxiety troubling for moral and strategic reasons. The moral reason is simple: What could be closer to the hearts of Jews than the sight of peoples fighting to throw off oppression and gain their dignity and freedom?

If Israel has come to such a pass that these noble struggles from Benghazi to Bahrain leave it not just cold but troubled, then what has become of the soul of the Jewish state?

The Middle East’s most vibrant democracy is missing the upside of the birth of new ones.

Cohen has now framed his argument by defining his list of Israeli fears and his criticism of those fears. And, like any good propagandist, Cohen does not base his framing on reality but on a skewed perception that serves his purposes.

Cohen does not deign to listen to what Israel's Prime Minister said explicitly.

Unlike Cohen's thesis that Israelis are against democracy in the Arab world, Netanyahu says flatly:

It is obvious that an Egypt that fully embraces the 21st century and that adopts these reforms would be a source of great hope for the entire world, the region and for us.

In Israel, we know the value of democratic institutions and the significance of liberty. We know the value of independent courts that protect the rights of individuals and the rule of law; we appreciate the value of a free press and of a parliamentary system with a coalition and an opposition.

It is clear that an Egypt that rests on these institutions, an Egypt that is anchored in democratic values, would never be a threat to peace. On the contrary, if we have learned anything from modern history, it is that the stronger the foundations of democracy, the stronger the foundations of peace. Peace among democracies is strong, and democracy strengthens the peace.
So much for Cohen's assertion that Israel opposes Arab democracy and "missing the upside of the birth of new ones."

But Cohen's list of Israeli fears ignores the actual fears that Netanyahu mentioned in his speech:

Far away from Washington, Paris, London – and not so far from Jerusalem – is another capital in which there are hopes.

In this capital, there are leaders who can also see the opportunities that change in Egypt could bring.

They also support the millions who took to the streets.

They too speak about the promise of a new day. But for the people in this capital, the promise of a new day is not in its dawn but in the darkness it can bring.

That capital is Teheran, and I assure you, that the leaders in Iran are not interested in the genuine desires of Egyptians for freedom, liberalization or reform, any more than they were interested in answering similar calls for freedom by the Iranian people, their own people, only 18 months ago...

The Iranian regime is not interested in seeing an Egypt that protects the rights of individuals, women and minorities. They are not interested in an enlightened Egypt that embraces the 21st century. They want an Egypt that returns to the Middle Ages.

They want Egypt to become another Gaza, run by radical forces that oppose everything that the democratic world stands for.

We have two separate worlds here, two opposites, two worldviews: that of the free, democratic world and that of the radical world. Which one of them will prevail in Egypt? The answer to this question is crucial to the future of Egypt, of the region and to our own future here in Israel...

Should the forces that wish to carefully reform and democratize Egypt prevail, I am convinced that such positive change would also buttress a wider Arab-Israeli peace. But we are not there yet .
Cohen also downplays the basic Israeli worry:
For over 30 years we have enjoyed peace on two fronts. One is a peaceful border with Egypt, and the second the peaceful border with Jordan... It has changed the world and it has changed the State of Israel. It changed our strategic situation.

That is why preserving the existing peace is vital for us.
Cohen does not even address Iran nor the basic problem of preserving the peace agreement - even though every frontrunner for Egyptian leadership has stated that they would revisit Camp David.

Instead, Cohen's solution for the Middle East is, yet again, to pressure Israel to give more concessions to a group that is increasingly anti-American and intransigent.

Cohen is knowingly ignoring facts, writing columns based on how he wants the world to be as opposed to how it is, and, as always, placing the blame on Israel.