Monday, April 27, 2009

Hope in the Middle East? Read Roger Cohen.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen has really been ripping into the obfuscations of Israeli leaders lately, and he does it again today with a very interesting piece focusing on Hillary Clinton's recent experiences on the West Bank. It is hard to accuse either the Times or Cohen of anti-semitism (a last name like Cohen provides a bullet-proof shield against such charges, although there is still the disgusting and intellectually dishonest charge of "self-hating Jew" to be thrown around.)

I think that Clinton has always understood the real situation in Israel and Palestine, although her opportunistic chasing after the Israel lobby and currying favor with what she assumed was majority Jewish opinion has kept her from playing a positive role in the Middle East debate. Until now, that is, according to Cohen:

The criticism of the center-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come from an unlikely source: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s transitioned with aplomb from the calculation of her interests that she made as a senator from New York to a cool assessment of U.S. interests. These do not always coincide with Israel’s.

I hear that Clinton was shocked by what she saw on her visit last month to the West Bank. This is not surprising. The transition from Israel’s first-world hustle-bustle to the donkeys, carts and idle people beyond the separation wall is brutal. If Clinton cares about one thing, it’s human suffering.

In fact, you don’t so much drive into the Palestinian territories these days as sink into them. Everything, except the Jewish settlers’ cars on fenced settlers-only highways, slows down. The buzz of business gives way to the clunking of hammers.

The whole desolate West Bank scene is punctuated with garrison-like settlements on hilltops. If you’re looking for a primer on colonialism, this is not a bad place to start.

Most Israelis never see this, unless they’re in the army. Clinton witnessed it. She was, I understand, troubled by the humiliation around her.

Now, she has warned Netanyahu to get off “the sidelines” with respect to Palestinian peace efforts. Remember that the Israeli prime minister and his right-wing Likud party have still not accepted even the theory of a two-state solution.

Read the whole article. I hope Cohen is right; but most importantly, he is a new and important voice for the kind of even-handed American policy towards the Middle East that we desperately need.

Photo of Roger Cohen: Earl Wilson/The New York Times


Anne Gilbert said...

Everything I hear of, coming out of the West Bank and Gaza is horrible! It's basiccally indescribably horrible, and I'm glad Mrs. Clinton has finally seen that, too. Of course, this is not going to make for a cozy relationship between the US and Israel, but if there is ever to be any peace in that area, we had better start going in there with our blinders off. Not to "demonize" Israel as has happened with Iran, but rather to build peace from actual, on-the-ground realities.
Anne G

Richard said...

It's nice that Hillary Clinton has actually seen for herself a little of the reality on the ground in the West Bank,though I doubt that she was forced to give birth at an Israeli checkpront in front of a bunch of laughing teenage soldiers, which might have been more of a reality check.

Thirty years ago, Jimmy Carter visited the 'Holy Land' (when it wasn't so horrendous)and came back raving about the 'Holy sites'. It's taken him a quarter of a century to get real, which thank God, he's done, in spades.