Commentary Magazine


Topic: Juan Cole

The Girl Scouts Aren’t Alone in Inappropriate Endorsements

During the holiday weekend, a story broke about how the Girl Scouts had directed its members to Media Matters, in a handbook about discerning bias in media. Here’s the page in question. The problem, of course, is that Media Matters, funded by George Soros, is highly political and quite controversial. While adherents of Soros’ political views may find the organization a useful website to take down some conservative pundits, a more detached reading of the website will find that it projects onto others its own politicization, and often prioritizes polemic over accuracy.

Alas, if only incidents such as this one were the exception, rather than the rule. Take National Geographic. My father and grandfather were subscribers, and so we had issues going back to the 1940s. I would grab the magazine whenever it came in the mail, and would sometimes find issues from the time of Woodrow Wilson during the occasional excursion to the Parnassus Book Service in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts—still, hands down, my favorite used book store.

Read More

During the holiday weekend, a story broke about how the Girl Scouts had directed its members to Media Matters, in a handbook about discerning bias in media. Here’s the page in question. The problem, of course, is that Media Matters, funded by George Soros, is highly political and quite controversial. While adherents of Soros’ political views may find the organization a useful website to take down some conservative pundits, a more detached reading of the website will find that it projects onto others its own politicization, and often prioritizes polemic over accuracy.

Alas, if only incidents such as this one were the exception, rather than the rule. Take National Geographic. My father and grandfather were subscribers, and so we had issues going back to the 1940s. I would grab the magazine whenever it came in the mail, and would sometimes find issues from the time of Woodrow Wilson during the occasional excursion to the Parnassus Book Service in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts—still, hands down, my favorite used book store.

How disappointing it was, then, in June 2004 when National Geographic featured an article on the Shiites of Iraq and proceeded to sully it by endorsing the website of Juan Cole, who had never been to Iraq but whose website regularly promulgated wild conspiracy theories, factual inaccuracies, and embraced the familiar anti-Semitic dual loyalty trope on an almost weekly basis. Such politicization should have no place in National Geographic, but when editors surround themselves exclusively with like-minded fellows, they no longer recognize the political consensus inside the office either has no place in their core mission or that the bloggers whom they read and embrace may—with a little distance and time—be little more than fringe peddlers of unscholarly inappropriate polemic.

The Girl Scouts, to their credit, say they will stop endorsing such a biased website, and will strive to be more neutral, or at least to avoid letting partisan politics seep into their core mission. As for National Geographic, their stain is permanent. It briefly made them a laughing stock among Iraqi Shiites, and it has permanently diminished their reputation.

Read Less

WikiLeaks Has Succeeded Only in Reinforcing a Culture of Secrecy

Regrettably, Pete, it looks like the answer is never (as Jennifer has noted). This, just in from the Guardian — a veritable barometer of the liberal mindset, at least as far as Europe goes. The best of the liberal crowd from the UK — a pro-Iranian campaigner, a leading voice of Bolshevik nostalgia who is also a dedicated promoter of Islamic radicalism, Juan Cole, and several other colorful opinion makers — weigh in on the significance of the WikiLeaks data dump on the Middle East.

For anyone harboring optimism about the ability of ideologues to change their minds, this is compulsory reading. I detect no mea culpa, no concession on the liberal animus toward Israel and America, no recoiling from the morbid sympathy for Iran and its nuclear ambitions, no hint of doubt.

Who knows, by the time all WikiLeaks documents have made their way into the public domain, perhaps even the die-hard Guardian ideologues will see the light. I am not holding my breath.

Colleagues may understandably dismiss the Guardian’s collection as a largely fringe phenomenon, but another reason I do not think the leaks will significantly affect people’s mindset one way or another is that the current U.S. administration, and many other liberals in Congress, the State Department, and various other agencies of the federal government, were privy to some, if not all, the content of the leaks before the public was — and that did not change their worldview or the policies they pursued.

Anyone who thinks that the WikiLeaks silver lining is in the “moment of truth” value should remember that WikiLeaks was irrelevant for the bigger picture — it revealed nothing we did not either instinctively or advisedly know about the world already. The information was entertaining in a tabloid way (as Max has said) — but again, gossip about Berlusconi’s lifestyle and Qaddafi’s erratic behavior were already available before this event. What value did we get out of this exposure that we had not already gotten out of a subscription to Hello! magazine?

Undoubtedly, the embarrassment from the exposure will eventually subside because, after all, governments made uncomfortable by these leaks must have similar documents in mind that their own diplomats have produced about U.S. leaders. Such is the nature of diplomacy, after all — to offer frank, unadorned assessments under the assumption that they will stay secret until long after they have become irrelevant.

In sum, the only enduring consequences of this affair are negative. First, there is the potential damage caused to sources of information — past, present, and future. Will the likelihood of being exposed as an informant in societies where such activity may be punished with death, loss of face or revenue, or damage to family, help or hinder the future recruitment of sources? Will current sources, seeing how they could easily be exposed, continue or discontinue their cooperation with American (and other) diplomats? Will they have the luxury of this choice, given that being exposed could lead to their death? And will they have continued access to information, given that they have now been exposed?

Then there is the real damage done to the quality of diplomatic communication. WikiLeaks stupidly boasts of serving transparency. The fact of the matter is that its irresponsible and puerile act of exposure will not obviate the need for discretion in the way governments conduct their affairs of state. To the contrary, it will force governments to build more impenetrable firewalls for their vital internal communications — with increased costs to the public coffers and with an increase in the kind of “culture of secrecy” that WikiLeaks so ardently wishes to undermine.

Regrettably, Pete, it looks like the answer is never (as Jennifer has noted). This, just in from the Guardian — a veritable barometer of the liberal mindset, at least as far as Europe goes. The best of the liberal crowd from the UK — a pro-Iranian campaigner, a leading voice of Bolshevik nostalgia who is also a dedicated promoter of Islamic radicalism, Juan Cole, and several other colorful opinion makers — weigh in on the significance of the WikiLeaks data dump on the Middle East.

For anyone harboring optimism about the ability of ideologues to change their minds, this is compulsory reading. I detect no mea culpa, no concession on the liberal animus toward Israel and America, no recoiling from the morbid sympathy for Iran and its nuclear ambitions, no hint of doubt.

Who knows, by the time all WikiLeaks documents have made their way into the public domain, perhaps even the die-hard Guardian ideologues will see the light. I am not holding my breath.

Colleagues may understandably dismiss the Guardian’s collection as a largely fringe phenomenon, but another reason I do not think the leaks will significantly affect people’s mindset one way or another is that the current U.S. administration, and many other liberals in Congress, the State Department, and various other agencies of the federal government, were privy to some, if not all, the content of the leaks before the public was — and that did not change their worldview or the policies they pursued.

Anyone who thinks that the WikiLeaks silver lining is in the “moment of truth” value should remember that WikiLeaks was irrelevant for the bigger picture — it revealed nothing we did not either instinctively or advisedly know about the world already. The information was entertaining in a tabloid way (as Max has said) — but again, gossip about Berlusconi’s lifestyle and Qaddafi’s erratic behavior were already available before this event. What value did we get out of this exposure that we had not already gotten out of a subscription to Hello! magazine?

Undoubtedly, the embarrassment from the exposure will eventually subside because, after all, governments made uncomfortable by these leaks must have similar documents in mind that their own diplomats have produced about U.S. leaders. Such is the nature of diplomacy, after all — to offer frank, unadorned assessments under the assumption that they will stay secret until long after they have become irrelevant.

In sum, the only enduring consequences of this affair are negative. First, there is the potential damage caused to sources of information — past, present, and future. Will the likelihood of being exposed as an informant in societies where such activity may be punished with death, loss of face or revenue, or damage to family, help or hinder the future recruitment of sources? Will current sources, seeing how they could easily be exposed, continue or discontinue their cooperation with American (and other) diplomats? Will they have the luxury of this choice, given that being exposed could lead to their death? And will they have continued access to information, given that they have now been exposed?

Then there is the real damage done to the quality of diplomatic communication. WikiLeaks stupidly boasts of serving transparency. The fact of the matter is that its irresponsible and puerile act of exposure will not obviate the need for discretion in the way governments conduct their affairs of state. To the contrary, it will force governments to build more impenetrable firewalls for their vital internal communications — with increased costs to the public coffers and with an increase in the kind of “culture of secrecy” that WikiLeaks so ardently wishes to undermine.

Read Less

The Afghan Study Group Opines

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

Read Less

Re: Assad’s “Full Reciprocity”

My contentions colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi astutely notes that, despite his alleged openness to peace negotiations with Israel, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is hardly prepared to accept the most necessary conditions of peace: distancing himself from Iran and cutting off its aid to Hamas and Hezbollah.

But Assad’s interview with L’Espresso contains a second stunning admission, this one by way of analogy. When defending Iranian-Syrian ties, Assad invokes U.S.-Israeli relations as a comparison:

It would be an absurd demand and there would be no more peace. How would Israel react if we demanded it breaks its relations with the United States?

For Assad–the last Arab leader whose legitimacy is framed in the ethos of Arab nationalism–this is a truly bizarre statement. After all, leaders of Assad’s ilk typically view U.S.-Israeli relations as comprising two unequal parties. Indeed, Assad was entreated to this very argument when, during his visit to Tehran last year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that U.S. policy in the Middle East “is just another effort to strengthen its own status and that of the Zionists.” In other words, Israel is dependent on the U.S., which uses the Jewish state as a tool for advancing its own regional hegemony. The logical conclusion of Assad’s analogy is that Syria is similarly dependent on Iranian support!

I’ll give Assad the benefit of the doubt on this one: odds are that he didn’t mean to imply Syrian subservience. Indeed, when it comes to drawing analogies, it’s possible that he suffers from a sad case of Juan Cole Syndrome. But with Hezbollah seizing control of West Beirut earlier today–a move that some Lebanese leaders are calling a coup–it may be only a matter of time before Syria is truly more dependent on Iranian good graces for its security than ever before. This would suggest that, by Iran’s own machinations, Assad is unlikely to make it to a bargaining table anytime soon.

My contentions colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi astutely notes that, despite his alleged openness to peace negotiations with Israel, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is hardly prepared to accept the most necessary conditions of peace: distancing himself from Iran and cutting off its aid to Hamas and Hezbollah.

But Assad’s interview with L’Espresso contains a second stunning admission, this one by way of analogy. When defending Iranian-Syrian ties, Assad invokes U.S.-Israeli relations as a comparison:

It would be an absurd demand and there would be no more peace. How would Israel react if we demanded it breaks its relations with the United States?

For Assad–the last Arab leader whose legitimacy is framed in the ethos of Arab nationalism–this is a truly bizarre statement. After all, leaders of Assad’s ilk typically view U.S.-Israeli relations as comprising two unequal parties. Indeed, Assad was entreated to this very argument when, during his visit to Tehran last year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that U.S. policy in the Middle East “is just another effort to strengthen its own status and that of the Zionists.” In other words, Israel is dependent on the U.S., which uses the Jewish state as a tool for advancing its own regional hegemony. The logical conclusion of Assad’s analogy is that Syria is similarly dependent on Iranian support!

I’ll give Assad the benefit of the doubt on this one: odds are that he didn’t mean to imply Syrian subservience. Indeed, when it comes to drawing analogies, it’s possible that he suffers from a sad case of Juan Cole Syndrome. But with Hezbollah seizing control of West Beirut earlier today–a move that some Lebanese leaders are calling a coup–it may be only a matter of time before Syria is truly more dependent on Iranian good graces for its security than ever before. This would suggest that, by Iran’s own machinations, Assad is unlikely to make it to a bargaining table anytime soon.

Read Less

Juan Cole: Illogic :: Michael Jordan: Basketball

Professor-cum-blogger Juan Cole’s habit of producing illogical analogies to evaluate events in the Middle East is legendary. As Martin Kramer has noted, Cole’s faulty analogies have been employed misleadingly to compare such dissimilar phenomena as the caliphate to the papacy; Saudi Arabia to Amish country; and the Sunni-Shiite divide to the Catholic-Protestant one.

Well, Cole is at it again:

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman called Carter a bigot for his diplomacy. Gillerman called Hizbullah, an Arab party, “animals” in summer of 2006. Would he like to expand the reference to include other races? … For Likudniks to call Jimmy Carter a “bigot” is sort of like the Ku Klux Klan denouncing Nelson Mandela for racial insensitivity.

Just in case you missed it, Cole’s stunning logic goes something like this: the Likud Party is to Jimmy Carter what the KKK is to Nelson Mandela. Or, as it would have been written on the old version of the SAT, “Likud: Carter :: KKK: Mandela.”

Still don’t get it? Let me help. To make sense of Cole’s analogy, one must accept the bizarre premise that denouncing Hizbullah–a militant group representing one extreme faction within one of twenty-one Arab states–constitutes KKK-like racism against all Arabs (and possibly against many other peoples). It therefore follows logically that, in protesting the anti-Hizbullah “Likud Light” Israeli government, Jimmy Carter is actually protesting KKK-like racism, much as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.

Yet, for Cole, the notion that criticism of Hizbullah constitutes anti-Arab racism is dangerously revealing of his true intentions. After all, Cole has often railed against the exact same logic when applied to Israel, arguing that accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s most vitriolic critics–such as himself–are “designed to silence.” Indeed, by accusing Dan Gillerman of racism for denouncing Hizbullah, Cole’s own internal logic suggests that he is trying to stifle one of Hizbullah’s most prominent detractors–an aim consistent with Cole’s legacy of apologias for radical Islamists.

Of course, Cole’s pollution of the blogosphere is nothing new. But, insofar as Cole’s students now hail from a generation that no longer studies analogies in preparation for the SATs, his distortions may be more dangerous than ever before.

Professor-cum-blogger Juan Cole’s habit of producing illogical analogies to evaluate events in the Middle East is legendary. As Martin Kramer has noted, Cole’s faulty analogies have been employed misleadingly to compare such dissimilar phenomena as the caliphate to the papacy; Saudi Arabia to Amish country; and the Sunni-Shiite divide to the Catholic-Protestant one.

Well, Cole is at it again:

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman called Carter a bigot for his diplomacy. Gillerman called Hizbullah, an Arab party, “animals” in summer of 2006. Would he like to expand the reference to include other races? … For Likudniks to call Jimmy Carter a “bigot” is sort of like the Ku Klux Klan denouncing Nelson Mandela for racial insensitivity.

Just in case you missed it, Cole’s stunning logic goes something like this: the Likud Party is to Jimmy Carter what the KKK is to Nelson Mandela. Or, as it would have been written on the old version of the SAT, “Likud: Carter :: KKK: Mandela.”

Still don’t get it? Let me help. To make sense of Cole’s analogy, one must accept the bizarre premise that denouncing Hizbullah–a militant group representing one extreme faction within one of twenty-one Arab states–constitutes KKK-like racism against all Arabs (and possibly against many other peoples). It therefore follows logically that, in protesting the anti-Hizbullah “Likud Light” Israeli government, Jimmy Carter is actually protesting KKK-like racism, much as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.

Yet, for Cole, the notion that criticism of Hizbullah constitutes anti-Arab racism is dangerously revealing of his true intentions. After all, Cole has often railed against the exact same logic when applied to Israel, arguing that accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s most vitriolic critics–such as himself–are “designed to silence.” Indeed, by accusing Dan Gillerman of racism for denouncing Hizbullah, Cole’s own internal logic suggests that he is trying to stifle one of Hizbullah’s most prominent detractors–an aim consistent with Cole’s legacy of apologias for radical Islamists.

Of course, Cole’s pollution of the blogosphere is nothing new. But, insofar as Cole’s students now hail from a generation that no longer studies analogies in preparation for the SATs, his distortions may be more dangerous than ever before.

Read Less

Nasrallah “Wipes” Juan Cole

In a fiery speech marking forty days since the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah declared that “The Zionist entity can be wiped out of existence!” Of course, by evoking the image of “wiping,” Nasrallah is adopting the rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who famously called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” at the 2005 “World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran.

Or did he? Just as Ahmadinejad’s “wipe” statement was drawing widespread international condemnation, Juan Cole insisted that Ahmadinejad had been mistranslated. According to Cole, Ahmadinejad’s quotation had come from a Khomeini speech, which stated that, “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.” Cole viewed this distinction as significant, writing that the media’s translation gave the false “impression that [Ahmadinejad] wants to play Hitler to Israel’s Poland, mobilizing an armored corps to move in and kill people.” Cole repeated his revisionist claim in a recent Washington Post article, saying that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the “Nazi-style extermination of a people,” but rather expressing his wish that the Israeli government would disappear.

Nasrallah’s speech demonstrates the complete irrelevance of Cole’s argument. Indeed, the Arabic phrase that Nasrallah employs is unambiguous in supporting the utter destruction of Israel, both as a state and a people. Nasrallah begins this section of his speech by declaring that the 2006 Lebanon war exposed Israelis’ weakness: whereas the Lebanese and Palestinians have endured 60 years of displacement, “the Israelis could not endure displacement or living in shelters for 33 days.” Israel’s “loss,” Nasrallah continues, has created “the possibility of a new answer” to the question “can Israel be wiped from existence?” Na’am, wa’alf na’am yumkin an tazul Isra’il min al-wujud (“Yes, and one thousand yeses, it is possible to wipe Israel from existence!”) says Nasrallah.

If Cole objects to my translation of “tazul . . min al-wujud” as “wipe . . . from existence”–”tazul” generally means “cease”–he will first have to correct Hezbollah’s al-Manar English website. The satellite news channel similarly embraced the terminology of “wiping” in its own translation of Nasrallah’s speech.

When Cole first disputed the translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech back in 2005, he accused “powerful political forces in Washington” of cooking up the “wipe” quotation as a pretext for war on Iran. Nasrallah’s speech should force him to rethink this conspiracy theory. After all, whether or not Ahmadinejad’s speech can be translated as having called for “wiping” Israel off the map, Hezbollah–which has already called for an “open war” on Israel and serves as Iran’s Lebanese appendage–has taken liberties to interpret it as such.

In a fiery speech marking forty days since the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah declared that “The Zionist entity can be wiped out of existence!” Of course, by evoking the image of “wiping,” Nasrallah is adopting the rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who famously called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” at the 2005 “World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran.

Or did he? Just as Ahmadinejad’s “wipe” statement was drawing widespread international condemnation, Juan Cole insisted that Ahmadinejad had been mistranslated. According to Cole, Ahmadinejad’s quotation had come from a Khomeini speech, which stated that, “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.” Cole viewed this distinction as significant, writing that the media’s translation gave the false “impression that [Ahmadinejad] wants to play Hitler to Israel’s Poland, mobilizing an armored corps to move in and kill people.” Cole repeated his revisionist claim in a recent Washington Post article, saying that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the “Nazi-style extermination of a people,” but rather expressing his wish that the Israeli government would disappear.

Nasrallah’s speech demonstrates the complete irrelevance of Cole’s argument. Indeed, the Arabic phrase that Nasrallah employs is unambiguous in supporting the utter destruction of Israel, both as a state and a people. Nasrallah begins this section of his speech by declaring that the 2006 Lebanon war exposed Israelis’ weakness: whereas the Lebanese and Palestinians have endured 60 years of displacement, “the Israelis could not endure displacement or living in shelters for 33 days.” Israel’s “loss,” Nasrallah continues, has created “the possibility of a new answer” to the question “can Israel be wiped from existence?” Na’am, wa’alf na’am yumkin an tazul Isra’il min al-wujud (“Yes, and one thousand yeses, it is possible to wipe Israel from existence!”) says Nasrallah.

If Cole objects to my translation of “tazul . . min al-wujud” as “wipe . . . from existence”–”tazul” generally means “cease”–he will first have to correct Hezbollah’s al-Manar English website. The satellite news channel similarly embraced the terminology of “wiping” in its own translation of Nasrallah’s speech.

When Cole first disputed the translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech back in 2005, he accused “powerful political forces in Washington” of cooking up the “wipe” quotation as a pretext for war on Iran. Nasrallah’s speech should force him to rethink this conspiracy theory. After all, whether or not Ahmadinejad’s speech can be translated as having called for “wiping” Israel off the map, Hezbollah–which has already called for an “open war” on Israel and serves as Iran’s Lebanese appendage–has taken liberties to interpret it as such.

Read Less

Juan Cole: Palestinians are Israel’s slaves

Apparently dissatisfied with the comparative leniency of apartheid rhetoric, Cole ups the ante and says the following in a post on Gaza:

The Israelis are going to have to live in the midst of the Palestinian people for the rest of the century. The Palestinians are not going away. The Israelis cannot wish them away or intimidate them into accepting statelessness, dire poverty, foreign domination and a condition analogous to slavery.

Keep in mind that this man is the preferred Middle East expert for much of the American Left.

Apparently dissatisfied with the comparative leniency of apartheid rhetoric, Cole ups the ante and says the following in a post on Gaza:

The Israelis are going to have to live in the midst of the Palestinian people for the rest of the century. The Palestinians are not going away. The Israelis cannot wish them away or intimidate them into accepting statelessness, dire poverty, foreign domination and a condition analogous to slavery.

Keep in mind that this man is the preferred Middle East expert for much of the American Left.

Read Less

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.

Read More

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?

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.