Jewish dissident chides Zionism
Robert Cohen said Thursday evening in Fort Wayne that he has “picked up quite a lot of flak” for accusing Jewish nationalists of racism.
But the British blogger and Jewish dissident insisted his argument is valid because of Israel’s laws he said discriminate against Palestinian citizens on land ownership, education, marriage and employment : and the support for what he called a “partial democracy” from Zionists there and in the United Kingdom and United States.
Cohen assumed what he regards as the mindset of a Zionist during a speech sponsored by the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace.
“Whether consciously or not, we are suspicious of” Palestinians, he said at Plymouth Congregational Church. “We don’t trust them. ... We see ourselves as vulnerable, we see them as a threat. We act in good faith, while they are deceitful.
“We ask only for what is right for us, while they make unreasonable demands. We protect ourselves, while they only seek our destruction,” he said.
“It is a set of attitudes and dispositions that I think adds up to racism,” Cohen said.
“The question I always want to put back to those that insist on defending their religious nationalist identity is this: What happens to your sacrosanct understanding of being Jewish when it becomes another people’s catastrophe?”
Cohen, who writes the blog Micah’s Paradigm Shift, rejected claims that he is anti-Semitic and “a self-hating Jew.” And he said he is not absolving Palestinian leaders of blame in the constant friction and frequent violent clashes in Gaza and the West Bank.
“But there are plenty of other people around more than happy to criticize Palestinians, whereas Jewish critics of Zionism are in short supply. So I know my job, and I’m sticking to it,” Cohen said, hearing applause from many of the roughly 90 people in the audience.
He called for “a further evolution of Judaism” that “draws on the contributions it’s made to the understanding of a God-created universal human equality and dignity. Now that means dropping some language and ideas or perhaps respecting them as part of our heritage but not necessarily part of our future.”
But when asked by an audience member what will happen next in Israel, Cohen replied, “I suspect more of the same.” He predicted “a long haul” ahead for Palestinian rights activists.
“If the comparison is apartheid South Africa, then I suspect we are in the 1950s and not the 1980s stage of the struggle,” he said.
Later, Cohen said: “Remember, this is not a conflict of equals. We Jews hold the power, we have the superpower backing. The onus is on us, not on them.”