Roger Cohen Is Appalled by Israel’s Killings—Now He Must Face What’s Really Led to “The Insanity at the Gaza Fence”


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Israel’s use of live fire against unarmed demonstrators at the Gaza border is generating outrage across the world. And the demand of the protests for the Palestinian “right of return” is shining a spotlight on the core nature of Israel as a settler state and bastion of Western imperialism, built on violent ethnic cleansing. This is also giving rise to deep distress, agony and unease among Israel’s supporters, particularly liberal Jews (see “Gaza Killings Spark Protests”).

One of those supporters is New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. His April 20 column, “The Insanity at the Gaza Fence,” gives voice to genuine agony. He acknowledges Gaza is an “open-air prison.” He writes, “Israel has the right to defend its borders, but not to use lethal force against mainly unarmed protesters in the way that has already left 35 Palestinians dead and nearly 1,000 injured.”

Cohen is worried about Israel’s future. He feels Israel’s ongoing military occupation and the rightward drift of its politics is untenable, but he continues to uphold Israel’s founding and its fundamental legitimacy:

“Palestinians lost their homes after Arab armies declared war in 1948 on Israel, which had accepted United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947 calling for the establishment of two states of roughly equal size—one Jewish, one Arab—in British Mandate Palestine. The resolution was a compromise in which I still believe, not because it was pretty, but because it was and remains better than other options.”

Instead, Cohen locates the problem in the lack of compromise on both sides—Palestinian “intransigence” and Israeli “overreach”—and their inability to agree on a real two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians—as if an oppressed people and their brutal colonial oppressors bear equal responsibility. And Cohen cruelly adds that Palestinian fighters and resisters have died for “nothing.”

He calls Israel’s military response “stomach turning.” But he also condemns the Palestinians’ demand for their right to return to their stolen land as “stomach turning,” condemning it as “flimsy code for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.” (Well, if returning stolen land threatens “Israel as a Jewish state,” doesn’t that raise profound questions about the legitimacy of such a state?!)

Cohen’s rendition of Israel’s history and nature is a distortion and whitewash, including of its essential nature as a racist settler state and outpost of Western imperialism, in particular the role it has played in helping violently maintain U.S. domination of the Middle East. There was nothing legitimate about the UN partition of historic Palestine, which represented the interests of Western imperialism. Israel then proceeded to violently expel 750,000 Palestinians—including through terrorist massacres like Deir Yassin—destroy their villages, and seize their land, including outside the partition boundaries. The Palestinian people had every right to resist this colonialist intervention!

And no matter how many compromises the Palestinian leadership has made or U.S.-brokered agreements (read sell-outs) they signed, Israel has continued its relentless, ongoing, genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, carried out through massive violence and a dehumanizing military occupation.

These are all towering crimes that must be squarely confronted and repudiated, not accepted as the politics of realism or “better than other options,” as Cohen puts it.

This is a moment to learn the REAL history of the state of Israel! You can find that in Revolution’s special issue: The Case of Israel – Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism?

Cohen and other Israel supporters are also wrong about something else. Israel is not the answer to the hopes and aspirations of millions of Jewish people, and it is definitely not in their interests. Instead, it has put them on the wrong side of the fight for human emancipation. As Bob Avakian has written:

“After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel. “(BAsics 5:12)

Revolution newspaper/, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, provides the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the whole process of carrying out our strategy for revolution. Through publishing works of Bob Avakian, and through many different articles, interviews, letters, graphics, and other features, Revolution enables people to really understand, and act to radically change, the world.

Originally published at




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