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High Morals

A condescending moral double standard allows Western thinkers—notably Times foreign-affairs columnist Roger Cohen—to praise the Middle East’s worst regimes

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Roger Cohen. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

It is a peculiar fact that the region that produced so many of the doctrines that govern our moral life—from the Code of Hammurabi to the Hebrew Bible to the teachings of Christ to the Quran—should cause so many of us to founder morally. But such is the case with the Middle East.

Look around the region: Every bloody government and non-state actor has attracted a cohort of Western fans who feed off of the brand of gore in which those institutions specialize. Some people, like former British intelligence official Alastair Crooke, praise Hamas and Hezbollah as proud resistance organizations. As Michael Young, the Lebanese journalist and author of The Ghosts of Martyr Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle, says, “To many Westerners it represents an Arab authenticity, in contrast to the pro-democracy March 14 movement whose members too much resemble Westerners like themselves.” An entire Beltway industry, including former and current U.S. policymakers, diplomats, and intelligence officials, is devoted to rapprochement with Syria’s vicious and kleptocratic regime, the importance of which to U.S. regional policy they wildly overstate lest anyone scrutinize too closely how Damascus targets U.S. citizens and U.S. allies. Then there are the cheerleaders for the Islamic Republic of Iran, for whom the country’s leaders and security services are incapable of any rape or murder so vile that would lose it the support even of fans like Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.

And let’s not forget the many hundreds of professional and amateur Middle East analysts who have argued since 2003 that Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein. They knew that the Baathist regime prosecuted sectarian wars against Iraqi Kurds and Shia, massacred its neighbors in Iran and Kuwait, used terrorism as an instrument of its regional and international strategy while pursuing a policy of rape, torture, and murder at home.

The more prestigious the forum, the more this kind of moral blindness to the suffering of others and the norms of justice is presented as proof of sophistication. Roger Cohen of the New York Times recently suggested that Hezbollah should be rewarded for killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. With indictments expected soon in the U.N.-sponsored Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating Hariri’s assassination, Hezbollah has, as usual, threatened violence in the event any of its foot soldiers are named—meaning, in Cohen’s view, that “It’s time to drop either-or diplomacy to address a many-shaded reality.”

Yet there can be no real stability where the rule of law is subsidiary to the rule of the jungle—a fact no less true in Lebanon than in the United States. The entire point of the special tribunal is that the international community seeks to hold assassins as accountable for their crimes in the Middle East as they would be anywhere else. So, why does Cohen believe that Hezbollah should be granted impunity for political murder and the Lebanese should forget about justice? Because like many other Western observers of the Middle East, he uses the region as a kind of virtual reality screen on which to project a self-congratulatory vision of a world in which superior beings like himself can naturally expect to live under the sign of law, civility, and morality while lesser beings in other parts of the world are quite naturally ruled by violence. “The sort of justice that Westerners demand as their due seems faintly inauthentic to them when it comes to Middle East. There’s a distaste for people who make these demands,” says Young, the Lebanese journalist. “In this view, there is a double standard; justice is variable; if it creates problems, let’s not go all the way, this is the Middle East after all. But if this were the U.S. or Europe, justice would be much more straightforward.”

Hezbollah presents an interesting problem for the Roger Cohens of the world. The organization he wants to excuse for killing a Lebanese politician is also responsible for the deaths of American civilians, diplomats, and military personnel. “According to reports, members of the special operations unit of Hezbollah will be indicted in the Hariri murder,” says Andrew Tabler, a Lebanon and Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The U.S. government believes that the late leader of this group, Imad Mughniyyah, was the mastermind behind the kidnapping and killing of U.S. educators, officials, and journalists in Beirut in the ’80s and the bombing of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks. In the 1990s we were told this group no longer existed, or was never really part of Hezbollah. But their tune has changed since Imad Mughniyeh’s 2008 assassination in Damascus. Now Hezbollah repeatedly holds him up as a key member of their organization. If for no other reason, the administration is right to support the tribunal because letting these Hezbollah members off the hook would amount to an enormous victory for a group that killed Americans.”

What are the origins of a worldview that would hand over the world to murderers? “For many intellectuals there is a sense of weakness toward the pre-modern,” says Hazem Saghieh, a Lebanese journalist with the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. “There is a political nostalgia in looking to the past. This manifests itself as a progressive tendency, but it is in fact very reactionary.”

The paradox is that while it is man’s ability to tell good from bad that makes him most human, certain Western intellectuals take the unwillingness, or inability, to do so as a sign of the genius to rise above the small-minded morality of the masses. Excusing Hezbollah may seem like the rational decision-making of a thoughtful intellectual who is observing a society ostensibly different from his own, but in reality the moral universe of the Middle East is no different from in the rest of the world.

It is the parasitic nature of the relationship between Middle Eastern reality and the narcissism of the Western intelligentsia that helps explain the other half of the Middle East’s moral equation: While the murders by Hezbollah, Saddam, and Iran are justified, even celebrated, Israel is censured for actions for which even the United States is normally excused as a matter of course. People like Roger Cohen have no hesitation in holding Israeli soldiers and civilians to a higher standard than he holds the United States. But logical or moral consistency is rarely the point. In the end, the pleasure of holding other people to a higher standard is perversely the same as arguing that they should be held to no standards at all. Both postures elevate the person making such judgments to a godlike place above the antlike creatures whose daily sufferings and misfortunes have meaning only according to the author’s personal whims.

Consider, for instance, Tony Judt, the late historian of modern Europe, who argued that it would be a good thing for the Jewish state to disappear and for millions of other human beings to forfeit their political rights because he was personally frustrated by Israel’s post-1967 political direction. Because the reality of Israel did not fulfill his psychological needs, others were to pay for his disappointments.

In their own minds, Westerners like Cohen and Judt have risen above the facile judgments of their peers in order to understand deeper truths. They are the supermen who rose in place of the idols. However, their problem is that even if the gods did perish, moral judgment was not in their power to take away since is was not them who gave it to us in the first place. These intellectuals who feed their egos with the suffering of others are not gods. They are simply people who are lucky enough to live in the West, where the consequences of their moral blindness are visited on other people, who live far away.

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dani levi says:

When you have societies that condone stoning because of copulation it becomes a free for all. It reminds me of the Spanish Civil war, where the Soviets would “cleanse” those deemed impure on the battle field. Rational in order to ensure a free and open society is replaced by intellectual acid dreams for the bored scribes of the lost West. I encourage all who think that there are valid arguments in certain Arab nations to send there daughters there for boarding school or maybe go native for half a year and see if they still enjoy talking to dissidents who’s lives have been made hell. Hell, many thought Mr. Hitler had a few good points in the early 30s. That is the beauty of a free society, you can actually think and articulate any nonsense. Power is nothing without control.
After the Shoa we have ” Der wehrhafte Jude” and I would not wish it any other way. Everything else is mental masturbation.

Barry Meislin says:

Wide-Eyed Admiration for Totalitarianism, Redux.

(AKA eggheads hot for thuggish certainties….)

Compare with the left-of-center intellectual attitudes towards the murderousness of the Soviet Union (coupled with deep suspicion and distrust of the West, particularly the US) in the 30s but especially post-WWII.

It’s there, spelled out in all its gruesome perversity, in the writings and speeches of George Orwell and Arthur Koestler.

As for Roger Cohen, having proven to be spectacularly wrong on any number of issues, he probably views himself as a (moral?) pragmatist worth heeding….

The leftist intellectuals are also the ones who make excuses for the likes of Castro, Chavez and every other socialist torturer that exists or has existed.(In fact the more the dictator is a Jew-hater the more these individuals embrace them.) They also have never met a Islamic terror nation or group that they did not love and did not make excuses for. Where are their voices for women abused under gender apartheid, honor killings, fgm and misogynistic Sharia law? These so-called leftist intellectuals are the ones who are truly morally bankrupt. It is absolutely sad that these western intellectuals are so willing to deny the freedoms they enjoy to those they consider too inferior to appreciate them. They call it pragmatism,and cultural relativism. I call it Jewish self-hatred (to make excuses for the murder of your fellow Jews or wish death on millions of your fellow Jews is not a valentine’s card) and true western-elitist racism.

Dottie says:

“Der wehrhafte Jude.” Guns rather than argument. So much for 2000 years of Jewish tradition. Maybe guns + argument is the way to go. But then you have to be willing to argue, use reason and reasons. Not slam your opposition in silly, ad hominem ways. “For instance” is not an argument nor is it a proper analogy. Tony Judt and Roger Cohen, for all their sins, stand for very different positions.

As for the analysts (and probably some of the journalists also), follow the money. Many of them are on the payroll in one form or another of Arab regimes or organizations.

dani levi says:

Der wehrhafte Jude stands after the Warsaw ghetto and three attempted wars of destruction. Die wehrhafte Demokratie needs to be able to defend itself. It is not a case of shoot first. It is a case of common sense. Because once you have been stoned, there is no argument Dottie. Walk softly and carry a big stick, Western Europe survived because of NATO not because of arguments screamed across the Berlin Wall. Otherwise we could do away with all police forces and hold hands skipping through daisy fields. But touching each other is forbidden in Iran and South Lebanon. A good reason, Dottie, is a missing second election in Gaza and the blood gargling unarmed female demonstrator on the asphalt in Tehran “for instance”. Go native. The Jews tried and the bill was Auschwitz.

Western intellectuals enjoy an amazing freedom of expression and liberty (literally) that is not enjoyed by “free” thinkers living in the clutches of these regimes. A few moments living in situ would quickly divest them of naive support for such leaders…

I think it’s time to stop using extenuating terms like “moral blindness” and call these people what they are: evil. The fact that Roger Cohen lives in a fantasy land where cold-blooded murder and all kinds of barbarism in the Middle East is always “complicated” doesn’t let him off the hook. His propaganda on behalf of Iran and Hezbollah is not simply well-meaning but misguided, it is grossly immoral.

Most of the worst evil acts perpetrated by men throughout history can be explained by saying things like “he really thought he was in the right”, “he really believed he was building a better future”. What applies to acts of great evil also applies to petty little evil, committed by self-aggrandizing “intellectuals” like Roger Cohen and Tony Judt.

Brad Schwartz says:

It always astounds me to see leftist demonstrators holding signs like “queers for Palestine” and the like. Do they not realize that if they were to set foot in *any* of the lands they claim to support that they would be arrested, beaten and executed simply for their sexual orientation? And do they realize that Israel is the one place in the region where people are actually free to be liberal in every sense of the word and to live a modern, free lifestyle? These groups are morally bankrupt and have done much to harm the true champion of democracy, freedom and progress in the Middle East: Israel.

Mike Shapiro says:

IMO (and it is not anything but a personal opinion), much of this admiration for those in the Middle East who are among the most vile of human rights violators stems from the writings of Richard Burton (no, not the one married to Liz T) and T. E. Lawrence. Both of them romanticized the, even by 19th century standards, primitive essence of the Arab/Bedouin societies. Maybe it was a carryover from the writings of J. J. Rouseau.

Somehow many of the intellectuals who live in the world of the foreign correspondent or the insulated towers of Acedeme, don’t seem to be able to plug in the racism of the Janjaweed, the fanaticism of Moslems who live in the tradition of 9th century religious/tribal leaders, or the greed of those who use rich resources to rape the citizenry and keep the results for themselves.

The truly unfortunate fact is that verifiable proof means nothing to these people. It is truly a case of I know what I believe and don’t bother me with facts.

sharon says:

It is worthwhile to read Aayan Hirsi Ali’s book “Nomad” to get a true picture of the cultures being defended by people like Roger Cohen. Certain
factions on the left engage in the fantasy of equivalence when it comes to different cultures. My mother, when trying to get a point across to me would quote “there are none so blind as those that will not see”.
This is a perfect fit for those on the left doing see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil. They will be the objects of their own destruction. By the way, I am a liberal Democrat, but as Mayor Koch used to say, “with sanity”.

Roger Cohen wishes he were Roger Rosenblatt. So do we.

The problem is that such people like Roger Cohen have the possibility to express their views to the readers of NYT (and to the listeners of BBC, CNS, CNN, etc) while those who disagree with him – cannot. No surprise then why there are so many people who support tyrants, oppressors and mass murderers.
(These people represent the middle part of the society. Ignorant people don’t read newspapers, don’t read articles of such “journalists” like Mr. Cohen and therefore don’t have leftist ideas. The other part of the society is looking beyond shallow and trivial articles in NYT, collecting knowledge from the other sources as well, trying to establish deep understanding of the situation. They also, as a rule, called “rightists”. These are only those who consider themselves to be extremely intelligent just because they read articles in NYT and listen BBC – only they belong to the (what they called themselves) “progressive camp” – the camp of “useful idiots” )

B”H By measuring the standards of Mesopotamian culture by occidental standards of government policy one may miss the reality he seeks to discern. One dasn’t discredit the Arabian mentality by proclaiming the virtue of law and order as it pertains to the citizens of modernity. The law of survival on the Middle East had always made warfare its first condition; as populations increased the need to overcome control by others into whose domain one migrates dictated – and so it was with the Imperialists who left a wake of bloodshed and destruction in the lands they pillaged for the natural and human resources. The Western criticism of Saadam from Iraq was a publicity stunt to pull the wool over respectable people’s heads they should see not the travesty for what it is until this day. This does not come to say that those who perpetuate injustice are thought righteous but to disclaim the value of Occidental polemics when proclaiming their righteousness in comparison, not until they have wandered the desert as nomads in lands never governed by flesh and blood, survived the industrial, technological, and military opposition to their retaining the ownership of their resources – and with the wave of a wand rulers to beg at their feet for a generous distribution of their craved consumer poisons. The way to battle this is to compete with Green energy but it is not he Mesopotamians that thwart efforts to do so, but the econo-maniacs who have assumed control over more than 95% of the world’s material wealth. They create scenarios to make people oppose kosher slaughter so their meat factories churn out more profit. They ruined family agriculture so they can charge exorbitant rates for produce and dairy products. We should be tearing up streets and returning the dark and silent privacy to our home and residences, and using the plots for community gardens. Talk is good only when is come from the heart, don’t believe anything else. Prayer is the silent energy of love pulsing home.

The writer and commenters say not a single word about the killing of American servicemen aboard the USS Liberty. I suppose killing by Israelis -even of Americans is justifiable even if explained by the most transparent lies. Why? Because Israel can do no wrong.
Now the organized effort to release Jonathan Pollard, a traitor to the United States! Since when has it become a patriotic action in this country to launch an effort to release a traitor from prison. The secrets passed on to the Soviet Union caused untold damage to the United States. Jonathan Pollard betrayed his trust which American placed in a fellow American. And now he should be excused because he is a Jew who assisted Israel? Would a single voice be raised for the release of an American Muslim who stole secrets and passed them on to Iran? Would the intellectual hypocrites condemning Roger Cohen raise their voices to free that Muslim on humanitarian grounds because he had served 25 years in prison?
Look inwardly to the treatment a nuclear armed Israel subjects Palestinians because teenagers throw stones and occasionally launch ineffective rockets.
It is inevitable that Iran will develop nuclear weapons and an effective means to deliver them. It may take 1, 2 or 3 decades but it will happen. Doesn’t it make more sense to start now, when Israel is in a position of strength, to launch a program of co-opting the arab world through commerce, trade, science, technology and medicine. Jews have brains. Israel cannot survive long term by military power. It cannot count forever on the support of a Congress bribed by campaign funds. It must find a better way.

asherZ says:

LaLa above is living in Lala land. In every war there have been inadvertant firings on allies, including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. US planes have killed members of other allied forces in error. The USS Liberty was a tragic occurence during the 1967 Six Day War where IAF sorties were going out around the clock. It was a tragic mistake and America’s close ally since its founding, Israel, would never have perpetrated this act intentionally and no one has ever come up with conclusive evidence to prove otherwise.
Jonathan Pollard was guilty of spying and deserved punishment. The problem is that the punishment does not fit the crime. Spies for hostile governments have served much shorter terms than Pollard who spyed for an ally (LaLa probably thinks Israel is not an ally).
A Muslim who bombs the World Trade Center should not be freed after 25 years, an act not comparable to Pollard’s.
Roger Cohen who finds every reason to excuse Iran, Venezuela and Hamas has a moral compass pointing to the South Pole.
And finally rockets being lobbed by Palestinians at Israeli kindergartens should be shown no quarter for the perpetrators.

Raymond in DC says:

LaLa is living in a hateful “lala land”. The incident of the USS Liberty has been investigated to death, including by the Congress, the NSA and the Defense Department. All came to the same conclusion: the attack was a “fog of war” incident, with the Liberty – in the wrong place, at the wrong time – misidentified as Egyptian. IDF tapes declassified a few years ago confirm this. Yet those like LaLa insist on seeing evil (or evil JOOZ) behind it. Using his own logic, I suppose the US deliberately attacked and killed those Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan a few years ago, while the US Army deliberately attacked and killed Pat Tillman.

That same ignorance and bigotry continues as he uses the “Pollard” card, claiming he passed secrets on to the Russians, when there’s no evidence he did so. No doubt he’s relying on the report Aldrich Ames himself wrote, attributing to Pollard the crimes for which he was in fact responsible (and for which he was ultimately convicted). Weinberger’s classified “victim impact” statement to the court was, no doubt, based on the Ames report. And until that statement is made public, it will be impossible to address its claims. But LaLa’s claims are without foundation.

Thank you Marshal Mosh Micker for the only comment in this thread that goes beyond tired polarization and brings some actual wisdom of the heart to the “conversation” Gut gezokht!

Yael Taubman says:

I shames me that so many Jewish writers, academics and so-called intellectuals are so blatantly anti-Israel and anti-semetic self-hating people. It’s like well, maybe they won’t hurt ME if they think I am on their side, just like a little kid.
It’s disgusting. And Lala is just a stupid, leftie who must be quite unread and illiterate.

emily says:

what a problematic article!

the author’s argument is based on the concept that two wrongs make a right. western intellectuals are critiqued for not being critical on middle eastern regimes and for not critiquing israel because they conduct similiar human rights abuses as the states. we should be critiquing ALL human rights abuses, from the US, to Israel to the Middle East.

the author is replicating the political perspective they are critiquing.

Larry Z says:

Lee Smith’s essay is entirely specious. First, he sets up a veritable army of straw men and then he counts Roger Cohen among them. Where is the connection? Where is the evidence? Smith doesn’t actually quote what Cohen wrote about Lebanon. He merely distorts it and then backs up his distortion with quotes from “experts” who aren’t even commenting on Roger Cohen’s writing. It is simply not true that Cohen “wants to excuse” Hezbollah for killing Hariri just as Smith’s claims about Tony Judt are a crude distortion of Judt’s arguments. Yet from there, Smith generalizes about “the Roger Cohens of the world.” Who are these people? They are a concoction of Smith’s prejudices. This is a particularly vile pretense of journalism. I am surprised that Tablet would publish it. You may disagree with Cohen’s views but there is no disputing that there is a much higher level of intellectual honesty and journalistic integrity in Cohen’s columns than in this one by Smith. What is particularly sad about Smith’s essay is how transparent his agenda is (Israel Israel Israel) and yet he tries so hard to hide it. Why doesn’t Smith simply say that Israel’s critics are wrong because as bad as Israel’s actions are at times, many other countries in the Middle East are worse? I think he doesn’t write that because he knows it is a tired and irrelevant argument. Those of us who love Israel want it to live up to the highest ethical standards of the Torah. We don’t pine for a state that murders and tortures a hair less than other countries do. Yes, we hold Israel to a higher standard, as we should. Tablet should hold itself to a higher standard and force Lee Smith to observe basic journalistic ethics.

“Roger Cohen of the New York Times recently suggested that Hezbollah should be rewarded for killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.” Smith’s assertion that Roger Cohen and others are blind to the immorality of current Middle Eastern leaders is a distortion at the very least and a slander at the worst of Cohen’s words. I find that nowhere in Cohen’s piece. Instead it is reported in this way so as to further a pro-right Israel agenda. Cohen in fact is pointing out how a right wing militarist agenda continues to get the West into trouble, as it has in Iraq, making things worse in the region, giving immoral leaders platforms for hatred and creating a more dangerous climate for Israel.

JCarpenter says:

Those who live by the sword, die by the sword—substitute your weapon of choice.

truth says:

Larry Z,
Thanks for the spot-on logical analysis. Regardless of the whether the essay is a thinly veiled presentation of a failed argument or not, the author’s logic is surely a fail.

sharon says:

Wow–it’s about time someone finally let Roger Cohen have it! Cohen is shameless–he actually wrote a column calling Iran a “Paper Tiger” who has no intention of turning Israel into a radioactive toxic wasteland! Cohen relentlessly bashes Israel for no reason at all. Cohen is a shameless apologist for every single crackpot dictator around the world. In Roger Cohen’s warped universe Israel is a hideous oppressor squashing the noble aspirations of the Palestinians. Cohen makes all sorts of impossible demands that Israel cannot possibly meet. In one memorable column Cohen wrote about his indignation that his Israeli friends (yes, he really has some) would rather relax after dinner watching TV instead of discussing the dead in the water peace process! Israelis get bashed for doing normal activities like watching TV.

Actually Roger Cohen is a first rate schnorrer. Alot of his columns also revolve around cocktail parties, breakfast meetings and “exquisite lunches”. (You can’t make this stuff up) Cohen will go anywhere as long as he’s fed. Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

dani levi says:

Don’t they kill Bahia for being Bahai in Iran? and being gay in Iran is a non issue for there are no gays in Iran. Well that solves that polarizing argument. Easy peasy.
This juicy story Cohen must have just missed as a 75 year old made haste across the mountains fleeing Iran’s hospitality
http://www.latimesmagazine.com/2011/01/backstory-out-of-iran.html

sharon says:

Anyhow it’s no secret that the NY Times has always had a very serious Jewish problem.

“….admiration for those in the Middle East who are among the most vile of human rights violators stems from the writings of Richard Burton (no, not the one married to Liz T) and T. E. Lawrence. Both of them romanticized the, even by 19th century standards, primitive essence of the Arab/Bedouin societies. Maybe it was a carryover from the writings of J. J. Rouseau….”

Rousseu. Definitely.

Dietz Ziechmann says:

This is an inherent tension in foreign policy between one’s own idealism and practical power politics diplomacy, and a sliding and often hypocritical scale of justice and open criticism is often involved. Hypocritical sometimes because candor and persuasion do not always track easily or exactly. From my perspective “Larry Z” has made the pithiest comments. Lee Smith has applied what seems like a tarbrush to Roger Cohen, Tony Judt, etc. denouncing them impressionistically and indiscriminantly as a bunch of “self-hating leftists”. It would be much more useful if he and those who have written uncritically in his support had focussed on a particular case or incident and honed in on the dialetcs involved. Harder work, but not so conducive to an emotional rush. B’shalom to all.

Richard Z. Chesnoff says:

Cohen is the worst of the lot – if only because he should know better. Here’s my Huffington Post column from almost 2 years ago about his ridiculous appraisal of the condition of Iranian Jewry:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-z-chesnoff/did-ya-hear-the-one-about_b_169351.html

RACHEL B says:

Liberalism is a mental disorder.

shimshon says:

Above Barry states:
“Compare with the left-of-center intellectual attitudes towards the murderousness of the Soviet Union (coupled with deep suspicion and distrust of the West, particularly the US) in the 30s but especially post-WWII.

It’s there, spelled out in all its gruesome perversity, in the writings and speeches of George Orwell and Arthur Koestler.”

He may be interested to know, that Orwell was a left of center social democrat. he hated the right.

Just goes to show how lost the righ is today. They aprovingly cite the thought of a leftist in an attempt to demonize the left.But if Orwell was right, then the left that he represented must also not be that bad. infact, it is the center left which has always had the most reasonable views. Orwell’s thought was/is shared by Rosevelt, Kenedy, Clinton, Obama.

Funny how the right, whose representatives tend to be vastly more ignorant and infinitely less thoughtful than Cohen (Aayan Hirsi Ali is a crass polemicist at best), never come in for the same criticism from the left as leftists do from the right. Perhaps it has to do with the left’s ability to tolerate criticism and challenge without calling their opponents “evil” or resorting to labels like “anti-Semitic” and “self hating”. Congratulations to Cohen, and a newly emerging cohort of leftist Jews, no longer willing to be silenced by bullies. We may never log as many responses as the right (which seems to have a lot of time on its hands!), but it is quality, not quantity of opinion that counts. As a Jew currently living in an Arab country, I can attest to the fact that Roger Cohen’s writing reflects the realities on the ground much more than any of the hyperbolic and often ridiculous reactions to it I read on this site.

Cohen makes a big deal out of Jumblatt changing his position. But Jumblatt is just doing what he has to do to keep his community alive and in one piece — ally himself with the strongest power. For a brief moment, it seemed that might be freedom and democracy. When that moment passed, he did the only sensible thing he could as a leader of a tiny sect in Lebanon.

Western leftists have always been in love with authoritarianism especially when the authoritarians hate Jews.

dani levi says:

enough said.
http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=202574
Cohen should move his family to Gaza and open a tea shop.

Martin K says:

HLee SMith writes: “The entire point of the special tribunal is that the international community seeks to hold assassins as accountable for their crimes in the Middle East as they would be anywhere else.”

But thats excellent news! Does this mean that Smith supports such international panels for all ME assassins? How about we sit down and discuss Israels campaign of “targeted assasination” as last seen internationally in Dubai? Does this mean that Smith now supports the english laws for arresting Israelis accused of war crimes?

dani levi says:

Dubai? Who was in Dubai? I think Jews are not welcome there. I heard the real estate market is down and the whores are aplenty, nothing like a large breasted Ukrainian with Urine blond hair, sexxy time. . David Beckham bought a house and Indian slave laborers need to hand in their passports upon arrival. Lest they run away. BUT the tennis courts are tip top, if you play before 11 AM and after 6 PM and meet your opponent in the lift. Game, Set & Match.

bashmann says:

What is most interesting here that Mr. Lee Smith and Dani Levi who are attacking their co-intellectuals like Mr. Cohen and Judt for “rising above the facile judgments of their peers” in the words of Mr. Smith, have themselves exercised “moral blindness” for years when it comes to the violent, grossly immoral, and barbaric actions of the State of Israel against civilians under occupation in the West-Bank and Gaza. It reminds me of the popular saying “look who’s talking”.

Cheers

Yetwave says:

Comment by EH “Perhaps it has to do with the left’s ability to tolerate criticism and challenge without calling their opponents “evil” or resorting to labels like “anti-Semitic” and “self hating”.”
How right you are, EH. The left smears its opponents with taunts of racism and ethnocentrism. Witness the witless influence of the left in US university campuses where no wavering from leftie party line is acceptable. The epithets with which you credit the right applying to its opponents tend to be directed at those of the Jewish faith, like Cohen, Chomsky, Pappe and Judt who advocate for policies inimical to their own interest. Self-loathing, certainly. Evil? Not in my book; but certainly twisted, all cheering for the crocodile, hoping it will eat them last.

dani levi says:

Bashman, the world is not black and white. Many of these arguments manifest in an intellectual vacuum which has nothing to do with Realpolitik and how things actually play out on the ground. Comparing Iran with Israel or say the IDF with Hezbollah is mental masturbation. It serves no practical purpose. When dealing with people who kill in the name of Allah most “intellectualness” simply finds no traction. Especially since brains like Cohen and Judt would meet a grisly end were they to engage Islam on its home turf. So asking for tolerance in order for authoritarianism to unfold its “democratic” right is naive at best. It is an appeasement. It is a luxury that can only happen in pages like these. I am by far no rightist, but the idea that Israel , after three won wars it never started has no right to its security is silly. When one is on the ground, the reality hits one in the face. As do the mortars of today next to Gaza. I refer you to the Hamas Charter. Or the excellent interview with the PAL ambassador to DC. The man could not get himself to admit to a historical Jewish presence at the Kotel. All else follows from that. Peace was on the table in 2000, but Arafat thought it better to start the second intifada. He thought he could twist Israel’s arm, instead of taking his people to freedom. You have got to get your priorities right.
Meanwhile the PALs arrest bloggers for disrespecting Allah. I mean WTF?

Barry Meislin says:

Shimshon,

Orwell may, as you say, have hated the Right (though it would be specious to equate, as you seem to do, the Right that Orwell hated with the neo-cons of today—moreover, it would be absurd to believe that he opposed Churchill’s efforts to counter totalitarianism, whether of the Right or the Left).

On the other hand (and I don’t understand quite why you appear to have ignored this), Orwell (and Koestler) utterly despised the dishonesty of the Communist-sympathizing Left, their blindness and their naivety with regard to the systematic corruption of language, suppression of freedoms and expansionist aims of the Communist regimes that these members of the Left supported.

Both Orwell and Koestler strongly and unequivocally opposed Communism’s fellow-travelers in he West and the perversion of their so-called humanistic values. And just as those fellow-traveling intellectuals insisted on supporting totalitarian regimes, one sees an alarmingly similar attempt on the part of thinkers such as Tony Judt and journalists such as Roger Cohen (e.g.,) to understand, to rationalize and to accommodate Islam’s totalitarian impulse and practice, while decrying efforts of the West and particularly Israel to resist them, all the while insisting that countering and resisting these “legitimate” expressions of Arab/Islamic political aspirations are not only morally wrong but futile (or perhaps morally wrong because they are futile—which is the very definition of appeasement).

You might (or might not) be interested in reading Nick Cohen’s views on the issue.

Israel needs to protect herself from the mideast’s evil regimes. Holding the high ground is the way to do it.

Read all about Israel’s strategic Samaria here:

http://shomroncentral.blogspot.com/

David Stolow says:

While it’s always fun to beat up on liberal Western intellectuals (and Lord knows that Cohen and Judt deserve it), let’s not forget to add that it was the right that invented the distinction between totalitarian regimes (governments who opposed the US, supported the Soviets or simply did not do much business with US-based corporations) and authoritarian regimes (those who supported the US, opposed the Soviets and did lots of business with US-based corporations). Yes, various right wing dictators (including Saddam back in the day when he was waging war against the Iranian Islamic Revolution) may have murdered priests, reporters, dissidents and civilians who happened to be born in the wrong place or time, but, hey, the regime was helpful in America’s struggle to make the world safe for democracy (and US-based corporations doing business in “authoritarian” countries), so let’s cut them some slack. Oh heavy is the heart that must bear the white man’s burden.

I’ve said that least 3555332 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

High morals? This is an article written for fools and ignorant people, or for like minded Zionists. Of course, Hezbulah has to be awarded for kicking the American and Israeli militaries and occupation out of Lebanon. The brutality and barbarism if Israel has been proven time and again in the past few years. In the past Israel could rely on the mass media in the West to hide the truth of its atrocities.

but now with the advent of social media people can learn about the facts and Israel can no longer hide behind the lies of the past. Flynt Leverrett is a fair minded American who understands the realty on the ground in the Middle East. He knows better how to save Israel and the Jewish people, because left to Netanyahu and the likes, Israel gears itself more and more towards weakness and Isolation.

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High Morals

A condescending moral double standard allows Western thinkers—notably Times foreign-affairs columnist Roger Cohen—to praise the Middle East’s worst regimes

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