While its faced its fair share of knee jerk reactions, unpleasantnesses, accusations of ethnocentrism, and other semiorrhea, Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary last month. I just came across an interview with Dissent editor Mitchell Cohen from last month. Cohen touches on a number of interesting questions and issues. There are some particularly interesting exchanges:
Daniel Buarque: You point out in your article, “Anti-Semitism and the Left that Doesn’t Learn” (check it out, a fine article-SO), that Israel’s legitimacy is often questioned in the world because of conflicts in the Middle East and because of Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians. Should the rest of the world celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Israeli independence? Why?
Mitchell Cohen: One of the points I tried to make is that Israel is subjected to double standards, especially on the left. Saying that gives me no joy: I identify with the left so my criticism comes from within the left. I celebrate the birth of the state of Israel because it represented the success of a national liberation movement. Here you have a people, the Jews, who had been persecuted for centuries, who had been the internal “Other” of the West. Their suffering culminated in the Nazi slaughter. From its origins in the late nineteenth century, the Zionist movement was pessimistic about the future of the Jews in the West and in Russia. Many liberals and leftists told them that they were too “particularist” and should put all their faith in universalizing political movements—communism or liberalism, for examples—but nobody can look back at the last century and say that the Zionists were wrong in seeing that emergency was at hand and that what might be called political Esperanto was wrong. Continue reading