Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another Defense of Richard Cohen

Why he's great:
In due course we will be told that what Hamas has been insisting on for years -- the utter destruction of Israel -- is not really a serious goal. Hamas should not be taken literally, and anyway it will be forced to moderate both its platform and its policies by the reality of governing. When, for instance, it repeats the words of its charter -- "The solution of the problem [Israel] will only take place by holy war" -- we will be assured that it is just throwing red meat to what in America is called "the base." As for its truculent anti-Semitism -- not to be confused in this case with anti-Zionism -- it, too, will be dismissed as without consequence. Hamas will have to deal with reality -- and Israel, in the region, is the mightiest reality of them all. Yasser Arafat came to understand that.

But Arafat's Fatah movement was secular and nationalistic. In this sense it was modern -- another secular nationalistic movement, much like Zionism. Hamas, on the other hand, can be traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood and its 1928 declaration: "The Koran Is Our Constitution." It is not modern; it is medieval. It gleefully sends people off to their death as suicide bombers, spackling the walls of Tel Aviv restaurants with the flesh of the innocent while assuring the bombers a place in paradise. This is loathsome. This is terrifying. That is the whole idea.

The mistake of the Bush administration is to think, based on not much thinking to begin with, that people are people -- pretty much the same the world over. This is why the president extols democracy. It must be what everyone wants because it is what everyone here wants. To denigrate this kind of talk suggests racism -- You mean we are not all the same? -- or a musty neocolonialism. But the hard truth is that culture and religion matter, and we should not expect moderation just because that's how we would react. Toto knows the truth. The Middle East is not Kansas.

So hot.


Ralphie said...

Fatah, that "modern" movement (if 50s Stalinism can be called modern), also "gleefully sends people off to their death as suicide bombers." Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Anonymous said...

RE: Richard Cohen and "Why He's Great" -
what is that they say about a stopped clock?
Your saying that he is great tell us more about you that it does about Cohen.

Anonymous said...

Well anonymous, he also likes John Wayne, so he can't be all bad. I too have been amazed at some of his columns (see below). Jonathan's definition of greatness has to do with being capable of writing a cogent piece idealogues would not expect.


Anonymous said...

"Jonathan's definition of greatness has to do with being capable of writing a cogent piece idealogues would not expect."

And you know this how?

Jack Rich said...

I'm a regular reader of Cohen's, and for a left-leaning denizen of some virtual upper West Side, he's more than ok.

Although this particular column looks like he got Charles K. to write for him.

Look, what can I say...Cohen is my landsman...

Anonymous said...

An ok article, but I don´t buy the second part.

Secular Fatah raised a generation of would-be martyrs. Nationalist Fatah never did anything to create the conditions for statehood. If their ideology of hate really was more modern than Hamas´ideology of hate, then it was more dangerous as well. While the western world was fooled by Arafat and is ready to be fooled by Hamas, dealing with true fanatics may clarify thing. Real believers are impatient to tell their truth, as we see in Iran.

In any case, this does not invalidate the attempt to spread democracy (besides, Palestine was a democracy already – wasn´t Arafat the elected president? Just kidding). However, it does invalidate the mantra that we will have peace once we give the Palestinians a state. The conditions of Hamas coming to power were created by western money, UN indulgence and Arab and Iranian support for terrorists, plus decades of pro-war propaganda. The result was utterly predictable. And the biggest culprit is Fatah itself, for not passing their "modernism" and "secularism" to the Palestinian people.