Continuing with the discussion between Mitchell Cohen and Andy Arato (see here) about the Left, the conflict in the Middle East and the Turin Book Fair, Cohen has written an interesting response to Arato’s accusation that supporters of Israel risk ethnocentrism. Cohen’s article, “Against Integral Cosmopolitanism,” begins with an analogy:
I delayed responding to Andy Arato in the hope that Tariq Ramadan and Tariq Ali might clarify some issues by demanding a boycott of the Olympics to protest the killings in Tibet, a poor land occupied brutally since 1951. Alas, I cannot report that Ramadan has called on members of the Arab League or Iran to act against Beijing, which is also a chief patron of Sudan’s genocidal government. Ali does not seem to be urging intellectuals to action on China comparable to his (and Ramadan’s) campaign to deny Israel honors at European book fairs. Perhaps sport must just go on, as did the Olympics in 1972 after the Israeli team was massacred. I’d like to know if they think that it was right for the games to go on then and why; and I’d like to know if Andy Arato thinks that it is no longer the right time for the Olympics to take place in Beijing as he thought it is “not the right time” to honor Israel in Turin and Paris. He says “it just so happens” that Israel occupies certain places. But it didn’t just so happen and that was why I said that definitions of states and laws must be contextualized. It has to do with the political impact of historical memory too, and so I do not quite understand how Arato can refer to an “aggressive Israeli war” of 1967 yet declare that it doesn’t matter who was at “fault.” I’d still like to know: What would you do if three states in a legal state of war with you mobilize their militaries? And one of them demands removal of the international buffer force that had prevented war for a decade. And the UN complies and your second largest port is blockaded. What do you do? Explain an ideal speech situation to a populist-nationalist dictator (Nasser) or an overtly fascist party (the Ba’ath in Damascus)? Wait until international law secures universal values?
The analogy is fairly clear and for the most part I think its quite effective. Why isn’t it fair game to demand the same human rights standards for other countries that we set for Israel, in this case, China? Once again, the question becomes why is it that Israel in particular is such a concern and has to meet standards demanded by the Left? Why is Israel under such a microscope? Why protest Israel–a democracy– but not other horrifically repressive regimes at work that Mikhail has been chronicling here for a while now? Why such a double standard? Unfortunately, the short answer may just be, as Cohen suggests, antisemitism. Moreover, this passage points to another issue lurking around in these exchanges, the issue of universal rights, whether the Rights of Man and/or Revolution, or cosmopolitanism. Continue reading