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July 18, 2006

Holocaust revisionism at the WaPo

[ UPDATE: Ben has a unique take on Cohen's argument. ]

Great, now we have Richard Cohen in the WaPo questioning Israel's legitimacy, using the threadbare revisionist history of 30 years of Islamist-funded university Middle East Studies Departments. How many errors can you count in the first paragraph?

The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.
First big whopper which torpedoes Cohen's credibility, because it is an easy fact to check: Half of Israel's Jewish population is Arab Jews, not European Jews. How come there are Arab Jews? Because they were in Israel/Judea before Arabs became Muslim. In fact, they were the Jews before various historical events scattered and exiled some of them, one destination being Europe. (And yes, European Jews and Arab Jews are all Jews. The tracing of Ashkenazi Jewry from their origins in Judea are clear, their holy language, religious rituals, liturgy, and even genetic markers are the same, all dating back to where Israel is now, and they all regard each other as Jews and always have. So let's not even start with that particular nonsense.)

The earliest verifiably Jewish artifacts in Israel date to 1500 years before it was conquered by Islam. Contemporary documents and archeological finds verify some Biblical history, and show evidence of Jews in Persia 1000 years before it was conquered by Islam, in Babylonia (later Iraq) 1000 years before it was conquered by Islam, and in Egypt (especially Alexandria) during the Roman Empire, before Egypt was conquered by Islam. Even the Koran acknowledges that Jews were living in Arabia before Mohammed decided to create a new religion, and there is evidence for Jewish residence in what are now Arab countries dating back to Solomonic times.

To assert that "a nation of European Jews" was created in "an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians)" is to turn history on its head. In fact, the first area of Muslim control outside Arabia was created in what had been the Jewish homeland, renamed "Palestine" by the Romans. Then Islam went on to conquer North Africa, half of Europe, Byzantium, and points East.

"And some Christians," says Cohen. Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that Jesus was a Jew and grew up in a Jewish nation which happened to be where Cohen places "an area of Arab Muslims." Right before the Muslims invaded Palestine, who did it belong to? Byzantium. What was Byzantium? The remnants of the Roman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople, seat of the first Christian nation and what became the Eastern Orthodox rite. Palestine was therefore officially Christian, but some Jews still lived there, mostly in the Gallilee.

So that's how there happened to be "some Christians" in "an area of Arab Muslims."

Cohen plays the Holocaust card to show he magnanimously understands the temptation to insert the mistaken state of Israel into "an area of Arab Muslims":

In 1905 there were pogroms in 660 different places in Russia, and more than 800 Jews were killed -- all this in a period of less than two weeks. This was the reality of life for many of Europe's Jews. Little wonder so many of them emigrated to the United States, Canada, Argentina or South Africa. Little wonder others embraced the dream of Zionism and went to Palestine, first a colony of Turkey and later of Britain. They were in effect running for their lives. Most of those who remained -- 97.5 percent of Poland's Jews, for instance -- were murdered in the Holocaust.

Whoa. "Palestine, first a colony of Turkey and later of Britain." As those of us trying to fight the Big Lie (which Cohen has swallowed whole) have to keep repeating, "Palaestina" was an old name for the coastal region where Gaza is now, and the Romans renamed Judea "Palestine" to erase Judea's identity as the Jewish state after ethnically cleansing it of its people.

"Colony" implies a nation or self-identifying people being ruled by another country. There were no ethnic groups or peoples beside the Jews who claimed Palestine as their homeland, although various peoples lived there. (The Arabs who now call themselves "Palestinians" came to that identity in reaction to the return and increasing nationalism of Jews.) Until 1948 when its people got to restore their nation, Palestine was an amorphous administrative area, first under the Romans, then under the Byzantines (the heirs to the Romans), then under the new Islamic empire, which also conquered Byzantium, which became the Muslim Ottoman Empire, then under Britain as a result of the Middle East nation-creations post-WWI.

(And on the subject of made-up nations: Winston Churchill knew Saudi Arabia was a mistake. Don't blame the Brits for letting Jews finally have tiny Israel back after they had repeatedly returned and gotten slaughtered and exiled again and again for 2000 years. Blame the Brits for giving Arabia to the Wahabis, arguably the mistake which has shaped the last 100 years more than any other.)

The final insult is Cohen's quote from Tony Judt.

Another gifted British historian, Tony Judt, wraps up his recent book "Postwar" with an epilogue on how the sine qua non of the modern civilized state is recognition of the Holocaust. . . .

That's rich. Tony Judt - who thinks Jews in the Middle East should once again be placed under the rule (which is what a bi-national state of "Palestine" would amount to) of the people who conquered them 1400 years ago and offered to help Hitler with his project - waxes sanctimonious about the Holocaust.

Ironically, Cohen engages in his own Holocaust denial. He erases the history of the peoples brutally conquered by Islam, and then characterises them as latecomers to a Muslim land. This is Orwellian revisionism, propagandized by the radical Islamists to the Western intellectual elite, eventually becoming conventional wisdom by the time it filters down to Cohen. Like Pravda airbrushing people out of photographs, the Islamists not only rewrite history books but destroy evidence to the contrary, including their own history. They turn remnants of the Jewish Temple into a parking lot, blow up huge Buddhist sculptures and demolish ancient mosques in Mecca and Medina and Bosnia. Like all totalitarians, they hate the stubborn persistence of facts.

These folks could teach David Irving a thing or two.

Cohen is not nefarious, just ignorant, so somebody please buy him a copy of Andrew Bostom's book. Also the Historical Atlas of the Jewish People; all he has to do is look at the maps. I'm serious. If you have some disposable income, make him a gift package from Amazon.

[ I just wanted to put this up before I went to bed tonight, because I hate this shit. It never ends, and I'm used to hearing it from DU and Indy habitues, but a WaPo pundit reciting it is just a bit too much. I'll add links to some of the historical stuff tomorrow. I wrote this off the top of my head and I know enough history to know I got the broad outline right and the approximate dates. If you catch any errors or want to fill in any details, email me or leave a comment. UPDATE: In progress. All links are historical (using primary sources) rather than polemical. ]

PS. A companion piece to this could examine Cohen's misunderstanding of the deep rage of the Muslim world at the effrontery of a Jewish state in their midst. It's not exactly because Israel was forced upon "Muslim land" by the Europeans. It's because they know Israel is historically the land of the Jews, they believe Muslims are supposed to rule over Jews (and everyone else), and the existence of a Jewish state where Jews rule themselves in their original homeland which they wrested back from the conquerors is intolerable, and the Europeans enabled this to happen.

It is exactly the same deep rage and humiliation felt by the former slaveowners in the post-Civil War South toward their former slaves, and toward the Northerners who enabled freed blacks to walk among their former owners. Why anyone wants to defend this attitude is beyond me.

Judith | 07/18/06 at 01:58 AM | Categories: Competing narratives

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» MidEast War: XIV from Pajamas Media
July 18, 2006 06:00 PDT Frequent updates. Scroll down for more stories. Previous coverage links in right sidebar. Links to Lebanese and Israeli bloggers covering the conflict are @ Truth Laid Bear, plus a map view with pointers to the... [Read More]

Tracked on July 18, 2006 11:44 AM


Pending my learning Movable Type, I'll comment here: what Cohen should have mentioned is not "some Christians" but "fewer and fewer Christians." When I lived in Israel in the mid-seventies, for example, Bethlehem was about three-quarters Christian. It's not about one-quarter and dropping, and they haven't left because of the depredations of the IDF.

Detroit has a substantial population of what are locally referred to as Chaldeans, Iraqi Christians. That is an ancient community being squeezed out. All over the Middle East Christians, whose ancestry in the area goes back as far or farther than Moslems, are being persecuted and pushed out.

This explains why the ire and indignation of their co-religionists, like the Episcopalians and Presbyterians, is directed towards...oh, wait, it's Israel.

Alex Bensky | July 18, 2006 08:50 AM

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