Roger Cohen has been writing in the New York Times for some time about the responsibility of Jews not to remain silent in the face of Zionist occupation and violence. It’s a rare voice in the American mainstream.
His latest missive, while dismissing boycotts as apparently morphing into anti-Semitism which ignores the failure of the political process to end the occupation, is nonetheless a strong challenge to the Jewish mainstream:
Where then should a Jew in Britain who wants to speak up stand? Not with the Knesset members who have met in Israel with European rightists like Filip Dewinter of Belgium in the grotesque belief that they are Israel’s allies because they hate Muslims. Not with the likes of the Jewish writer Melanie Phillips, whose book “Londonistan” is a reference for the Islamophobes. Nor with those who, ignoring sinister historical echoes, propose ostracizing Israeli academics and embrace an anti-Zionism that flirts with anti-Semitism.
Perhaps a good starting point is a parallel pointed out to me by Maleiha Malik, a professor of law at King’s College London. A century ago, during the Sidney Street siege of 1911, it was the Jews of London’s East End who, cast as Bolsheviks, were said to be “alien extremists.” Winston Churchill, no less, argued in 1920 that Jews were part of a “worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development.”
The lesson is clear: Jews, with their history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people. They must be vociferous in their insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank will increase Israel’s isolation and ultimately its vulnerability.