Across the Bay

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Cole Slaw

You can't expect Juan Cole to go for too long without one of his "neocon" seizures. Sure enough, Cole was right back in his comfort zone with this marvelous statement:

"Neoconservatives tend to be far-right Zionists in the Jabotinsky tradition, whether they are Jews or Christian Zionists, and they are associated with a desire to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the West Bank or at least to so circumscribe their existence there as to render them nonentities. The latest Neoconservative to enlist in the cause is Zell Miller, and he typifies the anger, recklessness and disregard for open, democratic values that characterize the movement."

Let's see... "far-right Zionists in the Jabotinsky tradition." Now try to square that one with Cole's following line:

"Neoconservatives have gained allies for themselves... in some cases in the far left (Christopher Hitchens is another example)."

Hitchens!? Far-right Zionist in the Jabotinsky tradition!? Colito has lost the one grey cell he might have once had.

Here's what Hitchens really thinks about the neocons and Paul Wolfowitz specifically:

"The thing that would most surprise people about Wolfowitz if they met him is that he's a real bleeding heart. He's from a Polish-Jewish immigrant family. You know the drill - Kennedy Democrats, some of the family got out of Poland in time and some didn't make it, civil rights marchers? He impressed me when he was speaking at a pro-Israel rally in Washington a few years ago and he made a point of talking about Palestinian suffering. He didn't have to do it - at all - and he was booed. He knew he would be booed, and he got it. I've taken time to find out what he thinks about these issues, and it's always interesting."

Paul Wolfowitz in fact has many sympathizers, friends and admirers among liberals and libertarians in the ME, like Michael Young, Iraqi liberal Kanan Makiya (see his comments on Wolfowitz here), and Iranian novelist Azar Nafisi who dedicated her book to Paul Wolfowitz (see also this piece by Reason's Tim Cavanaugh). In fact, it turns out that Mr. Wolfowitz is involved with Shaha Ali Riza, a Tunisian-born senior World Bank official. Here's a snippet of what she's been up to:

"Ms Riza's childhood in Saudi Arabia did much to shape her commitment to democracy, equal rights and civil liberties in the Arab world as she experienced at first hand the kingdom's oppressive regime, particularly for women. She has long pursued those beliefs in adult life and joined the World Bank in 1997 as the senior gender co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, a role that involves extensive travel in the region.

She previously worked for the Iraq Foundation, set up by expatriates in 1991 to push for democracy and human rights in that country after the first Gulf war, and then established the Middle East programme at the National Endowment for Democracy, a federal agency created under Ronald Reagan in 1983 with the ambitious goal of promoting American political values internationally.

So Mr Wolfowitz and Ms Riza are not just close personally, they have also both long espoused the same deeply held conviction that democracy should be spread across the Arab world. With his ear, she is one of most influential Arabs in Washington.

"A desire to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians?" "A diregard for democratic values?" On the contrary. But this is Juan Cole after all, so one shouldn't have high expectations.

Then comes this sorry remark:

"Some have attempted to argue that the very term "Neoconservative" is a code word for derogatory attitudes toward Jews. This argument is mere special pleading and a playing of the race cared, however, insofar as only a tiny percentage of American Jews are Neoconservatives, and only a tiny percentage of Neoconservatives are Jews." (emphasis added.)

Really? That's not what Cole wrote last month in one of his many tirades against Larry Franklin. Cole said that despite having "a strong Brooklyn accent," he (Franklin) himself "is not Jewish" (imagine that!) "despite his strong association with the predominantly Jewish neoconservatives. I know that he is very close to Paul Wolfowitz. He seems a canny man and a political operator..." (emphasis added.)

"Derogatory attitudes toward Jews?" You bet your sweet Colo.

But I have a feeling these comments will soon come back and bite Cole in the aforementioned colo. For instance, see this piece by Lee Smith. I'll keep you posted.