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Contentions

Juan Cole’s Curious Lexicon

Juan Cole is a Middle East history professor at the University of Michigan. By virtue of his blog he has become, in recent years, a foreign policy go-to guy for the Left. For all the preening that Cole does about the nuance and sophistication of his Middle East expertise, he remains a leaden and predictable commentator whose opinions flow from the inviolable premise that the only thing one must understand in order to make sense of the world is that American and Israeli transgressions are root causes. Understanding this, all the rest—terrorism, Islamism, Arab rage, etc.—falls tidily into place.

And so yesterday, Cole posted the following bit of invective, nasty but typical:

When we cannot understand why Arab audiences, who are perfectly aware of what the Israeli army has been doing to Palestinians for decades, are outraged, it leads us into policy mistakes in dealing with the Middle East. No one in the U.S. media ever talks about Zionofascism, and the campus groups who yoke the word “fascism” to other religions and peoples are most often trying to divert attention from their own authoritarianism and approval of brutality.

Standard Chomskyite fare, for the most part—except for the word “Zionofascism,” which caught my eye. I’ve read a lot of this kind of invective, but I hadn’t seen that one before. The word doesn’t appear in a Google News search, except for one hit from a French news site that published Cole’s post. Doing an Internet-wide Google search turns up about 600 hits, and almost every one of them links to a particularly nasty anti-Semitic blog that traffics in such conspiracy theories as Israeli involvement in September 11 and a “Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline” (i.e. that the Iraq war is being fought to provide oil to Israel). The blog also conveys a predictable litany of comic-book theories about Jewish plots to dominate the world. That word—”Zionofascism”—is scarcely to be found anywhere on the Internet other than on the Zionofascism blog, or on a small group of hate sites that link to the Zionofascism blog.

Cole wonders why the U.S. media never talk about Zionofascism. The answer is that Zionofascism is a term invented by anti-Semites, for anti-Semites, that so far has seen regular use only by anti-Semites. Cole, who uses words and makes distinctions for a living, presumably knows this. Aside from the question of what Cole is reading—I doubt “Zionofascism” is a Cole neologism—there is the question of the readers to whom he is pandering. Why does he give a nod to anti-Semites?


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