A great admirer of Israel’s self-realization sees inherent contradiction and impending disaster.
Washington Post columnist Cohen walks readers through Israel’s history of enormous accomplishment and unlikely creation and concludes that its survival is tenuous. Emerging as “the product of history’s most murderous century,” Israel was an “honest mistake,” Cohen wrote in a 2006 column—by which he meant that its creation was not a fault but a naïve dream to think that it would be accepted nestled among hostile neighbors resentful of its success and bent on its destruction. Cohen looks at some of the essential facts propelling Israel’s creation: The “crushing affliction” of being a Jew that founder Theodor Herzl wrote about in 1880s Vienna would not go away by converting; instead, it culminated in relentless anti-Semitism and pogroms and underscored his dictum that the greater the concentration of Jews, the more anti-Semitism. While the Holocaust provided the powerful impetus for the creation of Israel, Cohen reminds us of the anti-Jewish fever that occurred before and after—e.g., in America, where his own ancestors migrated from Poland in the early 1920s. Ironically, considering the forces against Israel, even militant Jewish leaders like Ze’ev Jabotinsky, father of what became the right-wing Likud party, did not advocate for “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians; instead, a defensive strategy Jabotinsky called an “iron wall” was erected, all hinging, presciently, on “the Arabs’ relationship to Zionism.” Moreover, considering its hostile ethnic minority, displacement of the imperiled Mizrahi community (Jews in Arab lands), growing numbers of ultraorthodox and global indifference (in the United States, “more than half of all Jews marry a non-Jew”), Israel “has run out of purpose.”
A newspaperman’s sharp focus and beveled prose lend emotional power to this debate.