Blogs > Liberty and Power > Response to Peter Cohen

Dec 15, 2006 5:47 pm


Response to Peter Cohen



DRCNet has published a review by Phil Smith of Arnold Trebach’s latest book Fatal Distraction: The War on Drugs in the Age of Islamic Terror in the most recent issue of Drug War Chronicle. The piece has sparked a number of published comments including one by Dutch drug policy expert Peter Cohen which I wish to address here.

While Cohen praises the author’s acumen as a student of drug prohibition he takes strong exception to Trebach’s support of Israel. Cohen writes “I happen to be one of those Jews who thinks that the creation of Israel is one of the desperate mistakes that came out of WW2. No concentration camp and no Nazi horror legitimizes that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were chased out of their homes and farms to make the existence of Israel possible.” Now, it is important to point out that the overwhelming majority of the people living in Israel today were either small children or not even born when the events of that state’s founding took place. They cannot possibly bear any moral responsibility for any wrongs committed at that time, yet, it is they who will be slaughtered if the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah achieve their most cherished goal.

Yes, the government of Israel sometimes acts in stupid, brutal, or unjust ways, but, we must remember that it is the only government in the world whose populace lives under the constant threat of extinction by it neighbors. When the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran talk about driving the Zionists into the sea they are not speaking about regime change, they are talking about genocide. And, it is not as though there are no historical precedents for mass killings of Jews.

Though the focus of Cohen’s comment is almost exclusively on Israel, Trebach’s manuscript is much more concerned with the wider threat to the world in general. The word Israel is mentioned on only fifteen of three hundred ninety eight pages. Instead, he deals with such subjects as the 9-11 commission, assassinations in the Netherlands, bombings in London, the often violent intimidation of voices speaking out against any aspect of Islam, and the inculcation of the philosophy behind the terror.

Lastly, it is implied in both the review itself and Cohen’s comments that Trebach seeks to replace the war on drugs with a war on terror. This can not be true because the war on terror, or more correctly the terrorist’s war on us, exists independently of drug policy. People in New York City, Madrid, and London have terrible first hand experience that Islamic terrorism is indeed very real. Trebach’s point is that we need to use all of our available resources to deal with it competently. It is too important not to.

Cross posted on The Trebach Report


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Mark Brady - 12/18/2006

No, they haven't. Give me a single instance when leaders of either Hezbollah, Hamas, or Iran have said "We shall exterminate all Israeli Jews."


Aeon J. Skoble - 12/18/2006

"Why should we assume that the leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran are resolved upon the extermination of all Israeli Jews"
Because they've said so frequently.


Mark Brady - 12/18/2006

1. Why should we assume that the leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran are resolved upon the extermination of all Israeli Jews because of what Hitler did to European Jewry?

2. You assert that "when it comes to anti-Semitic propaganda displaying absolute visceral hatred of the Jews the Germans of the 1930s have nothing on the modern day Arabs." It sounds as if you haven't looked at, say, Volkischer Beobachter. Go here to learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkischer_Beobachter

3. I don't understand your last remark. Please clarify. For more on how the state of Israel discriminates in favor of Jewish citizens and against Arab citizens, go here: http://www.jkcook.net/Articles2/0292.htm


Mark Brady - 12/18/2006

Jewish citizens of Israel do not face the discriminatory law that restricts the right of Arab citizens of Israel to bring a Palestinian spouse to Israel.

For more examples of how Arab citizens of Israel encounter discrimination, read Jonathan Cook here: http://www.jkcook.net/Articles2/0292.htm#Top


E. Simon - 12/17/2006

It is also a model that, incidentally, advances the Anglo-American version of a larger culture that we call "Western Civilization". It is a liberalized, universalizing model, but insofar as language is still a predominant feature of ethnic groups, it is hard to argue that the U.S. is indifferent to Anglo-American culture, as through various mechanisms (and at least one inherently liberal mechanism, i.e. capitalism, is a part of that) it spreads the seeds of that culture and its language further and wider than has any other. In fact, it has, consciously or not, intentionally or not, enshrined it as the norm - so much so, that most Americans (except for perhaps Pat Buchanan) don't even feel compelled to promulgate the U.S. as the homeland for WASPS. It already is the country it is because 18th-century English colonialists made it that way, and that won't change. Yes, they emphasized certain values, but to pretend that they set up a country whose British cultural roots disappeared due to some kind of supposed complete displacement by the English enlightenment values that grew out through those roots is absurd. Again, context is relevant, especially to a historical understand of the development of American liberal values. For better or worse, culture is a part of that context - even going back to the Anglo-Saxons, their common law and Magna Carta - as mentioned it is so frequently referred to in SCOTUS decisions regarding constitutional law.


E. Simon - 12/17/2006

I think your last paragraph makes sense, and puts together some of the context whose relevance you dismiss earlier in the post, especially in the second-to-last paragraph regarding the lesser of two evils. I'm, as yet, not so much a fan of making the perfect the enemy of the good.


Bill Woolsey - 12/17/2006

How exactly does "culture matters" lead to the notion that states should be "for" specific ethnic groups? I will grant that the ideologies of socialism and nationalism play important roles in most parts of the world. Too bad.

The U.S. isn't a homeland for republian WASPS, even though our politicians mostly speak English to their constuents. We manage to have a state that isn't based on either religion or ethnicity. (And, of course, the same viruses of socialist and nationalism have had their impact here, so the U.S. is hardly perfect on these accounts.) Still, it is an excellent model. As a libertarian, I believe it is the only proper model. It is the only model consitent with individual rights.


E. Simon - 12/17/2006

Maybe you use a different dictionary than I do, Mark, but I find it unlikely that most people would not understand the difference between the word "citizen" and the concept of "a likely immigrant aspiring to citizen status".

Look into the laws regarding religion and citizenship in neighboring Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and we'll see if context can't help elucidate the problems of applying reasoning as if in a vacuum.


E. Simon - 12/17/2006

But it is the height of nonsense to then leap to some sort of conclusion, that claims that just because the rights of individual human beings are equally important, that all cultural settings will therefore embrace this idea equally.

(In case the wording was confusing).


Bill Woolsey - 12/17/2006

It is only in Simon's imagination that I am a sympathizer or supporter of any Arab regime.

All I have done is point out that the property rights of individuals are not sacrified because because "leaders" ask people to flee, or else because they do actually flee. They have every right to return to their property.

And, yes, if someone commits some crime against person or property, then they can be arrested and punished in some way.

What other Arab states have done to their Jewish subjects is irrelevant.

Of course, from a Socialist and Nationalist perspective, these matters are relevant. Some Arabs have stolen the property of some Jews, and so, it is somehow just for other Jews to steal the property of still other Arabs. Hey, if all property belongs to ethnic groups, then this makes perfect sense. It makes no sense if one believes in individual rigths to property.

Of course, I beleive that the the various nationalist and socialist (or islamic) arab regimes should return any property stolen from their former Jewish residents.

But whether or not I mention this (or even believe it) is not relevant to the injustice done to the Palestinians.

It is just one excuse after another.

But their leaders told them to leave...

The arab regimes are worse...

And what about the Jews who lost their property in other countries...

And...and...

I will gladly accept that every Arab regime is worse than Isreal. But Israel remains bad, and the fact that it is less bad gives it no more right to exist than any of those worse Arab regimes.

I don't favor having the U.S. invade Israel and force it to reform. Nor do I favor invading any Arab regime and forcing it to reform. And finally, I see no need for the U.S. to choose sides and support the lesser evil.

The tragedy is that if Israel fixed all of its failings and became a liberal and secular state instituted to protect the indivual rights of all its residents (instead of marshalling collective resources to be a homeland for the Jews), it would have great difficulty surving in a such a bad neighborhood.




E. Simon - 12/17/2006

...and every which plank in what ultimately amounts to your manifesto above ("Of course Israel should give up the notion that it is a state for a specific ethnic group or religion, just like all the other states in the world that have such ideologies should change") ignores the fact that culture matters. Yes, human beings matter. And ideologies are important. And political liberalism is important. But it is the height of nonsense to then leap to some sort of conclusion that claims that just because the rights of individual human beings are equally important, all cultural settings embrace this idea equally.

Dissolving nation-states that exist along ethnic lines is about as nonsensical as saying that political organization cannot use a common mode of communication - as language is one of the predominant characteristics of defining an ethnicity. Short of enforcing a global Esperanto (efforts at which are still ongoing, I'm sure) most people are more pragmatic and accept that political leaders be organically linked to the people they represent by being able to understand what they're saying when they speak. And to go a step further, taking advantage of regional, ethnic diversity around the world encourages the perpetuation of smaller states that tend to be closer to the people and less likely to consolidate even more power, over an even larger geographic range, in an even more authoritarian and unitary manner (see the Soviet Union, modern China for examples). But maybe that's just the silly federalist in me talking.


E. Simon - 12/17/2006

Your points actually might make more sense, if only you were willing to account for the context of chronology, war, politics, diplomacy and - in short - history.

The expulsion/exodus took place at a discrete time point ~ i.e. around 1948. Whatever the Zionist government's role, population transfers occur not uncommonly during war, as it did for hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees of Arab countries shortly thereafter. Had there been some sort of agreement at that point among the aggressors to respect that government's right to protect the rights of its own citizens - an agreement that could have also included whatever process of reconciliation that would have made it unlikely for returning Arab refugees to commit widespread insurrection against that population and the government entrusted to protect its rights - then perhaps a return could have worked out. But as it happens, it didn't.

As a libertarian, I'm sure you could appreciate that had the refugees been allowed back and then committed riots, uprisings, killings, destruction of property, then a resulting loss of some freedom would be generally justified, at least on an individual basis.

But while pre-emptive use of the latter point you would take to constitute a sort of unfair, predictive reasoning, dismissing the former points that I refer you to above also conflates cause and effect in an ahistorical way - in a way that ignores that rights are more likely to be realized and respected by governments that aren't unreasonably put under threat - especially by those that are less liberal. And as long as we are to engage in ex post facto reasoning, if descendants of Arab refugees should claim compensation, then so should the descendants of Jewish refugees. But people seem to care less about rights that are successfully compensated than about the claim to rights that can be used as a political tool.

Solve or fairly address the problem about the Jewish refugees' loss of property and you can address the Palestinian refugees' descendants' claims - perhaps even through an exchange. But as one who seeks equity must do equity, we can see that fairly resolving or even addressing the issue of abrogated rights here is not on the Arab countries' agenda. Just on those of their supporters or sympathizers.


Keith Halderman - 12/17/2006

Jesse Walker talks about the balance of power being in favor of Israel and this is true. However, this does not mean that the threat of extinction does not exist merely that it is for now being prevented. Also, his analogies to Korea, Taiwan, and the India/Pakistan conflict are not apt. Korea and Taiwan because the disputes are between parties that are ethnically the same and India/Pakistan because both recognize each other’s right to exist. In addition, there is no history of genocide directed at those groups.

Mark Brady asks for my evidence that “driving the Zionists into the sea” means the mass slaughter of Jews and he is correct in saying the leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran do not say explicitly that they will kill all of the Jews now living in Israel. Well, in Mein Kampf Hitler did not explicitly say that he would kill every Jewish man woman and child that he could get his hands on but that is what he more or less did. Also let us remember that when it comes to anti-Semitic propaganda displaying absolute visceral hatred of the Jews the Germans of the 1930s have nothing on the modern day Arabs. Maybe this hatred would not translate into mass slaughter but if it was me, given recent events such as 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and London, I would not want my government to put much faith in the humane instincts of the Arabs. Mark also writes that, “The threat is to the exclusive Jewish identity of Israel.” I do not think someone living in Israel with a family member killed by one of those suicide bombs that seem to go off on such a regular basis would agree.


Bill Woolsey - 12/17/2006

Let's see. We have gone from Haldeman's assertion that "pushing Israel into the sea," means that the rejectionists of various sorts openly state that they plan to kill all the Jews in Palestine, and then Skobles assertion that Iranian interest in Holocaust revisionism is obviously based upon a desire to kill all the Jews, to a claim that Arabs are likely to misrule Palestine to such a degree that Jewish residents will not have respected the limited rights they have under Arab socialist-nationalist law or else Islamic law.

That is an important concern, though the injustice of such regimes is bad enough--even when they enforce their laws. Personally, I think that any Jews remaining in an Islamic or Arab socialist nationalist Palestine would be persecuted because they would be assumed to continue to support Zionism. And, of course, such national security threats, real or imagine, generate very harsh treatment under such regimes.

By the way, anti-Zionists are interested in Holocaust revisionism not because they think killing Jews is a good idea, but rather because they believe that the Holocaust is the excuse used by the West to settle the Jews in Palestine. If the Holocaust wasn't real, then the excuse doesn't exist.

Of course, from a libertarian point of view, Hitler's mass murder of Jews in Europe due to some crazed socialist nationalist ideology provides no justification for creating a socialst and nationalist Jewish regime in Palestine, much less violations of the property rights of the Arabs who resided in Palestine.

In ,my opinion, the sad reality is that the best solution is for all the Jews in Palestine to come to the U.S. Maybe, if the spirit of liberalism finally takes hold in the middle east, Jews can move there if they really want. Of course, forming a socialist and nationalist state for Jews in Palestine always was and will always be unjust. But of course Jews _should_ be able to move to Palestine and live in peace and feedom (just like everyone other human being.)

Of course Israel should give up the notion that it is a state for a specific ethnic group or religion, just like all the other states in the world that have such ideologies should change. But is it really possible for a secular and liberal Palestine to survive? Is it possible for a liberal state to use some kind of ideological test to determine residency and voting rights? It is just a very bad neighborhood.

A real tragedy...especially for all of the Jewish people born and raised in Palestine, people who are blameless for the foolishness of their parents and grandparents. And really, for the contructivist hubris of the West in the 20th century. That would include both post-WWI British Imperialists and post-WWII...well, constructivists..



Bill Woolsey - 12/17/2006

Libertarian or not, it is important to be honest.

Just because Palestinians are likely to support an unjust regime is no reason to pretend that they lose their property rights because of what their leaders told them to do.

Or that they lose their property rights because they evacuated their homes and became refugees from war.

Sure, we know that the truth was that some Zionists "said" that the Arabs should not flee, while others were undertaking a program of ethnic cleansing.

But the point is that it doesn't matter. Even if there was no real threat to Arab civilians, so that their leaders had no reason to tell them to flee, and that those that did flee did so for no good reason, well, none of that means they have given up their rights to their homes and farms.

Why not admit it? Repeating this bit of Zionist propaganda makes no sense for a libertarian.

Instead, you must make some other kind of argument. Stealing people's property is justified because, other arab states are tyrannies, and so being arabs, Palestian arabs are likely to support some similar tyranny. Therefore, their property rights are forfeit. Admittedly, a difficult argument for a libertarian to make.

In my view, the entire situation is tragic. Palestine was and is a very bad place for a libertarian to reside. The problem is the neighbors.


Mark Brady - 12/17/2006

http://www.counterpunch.org/gowans12162006.html


Mark Brady - 12/17/2006

I agree. Israel is not exclusively Jewish. Nonetheless, Israel privileges the rights of Jews over all other ethnic, religious and national groups inside the same territory. The existing Law of Return guarantees any Jew anywhere in the world the automatic right to Israeli citizenship. Yet a law in 2003 makes it all but impossible for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to bring a Palestinian spouse to Israel. So much for being "citizens with exactly identical rights."

Regarding the conference on the Holocaust recently hosted in Tehran, read Stephen Gowans' who explains that "No Matter What Ahmadinejad Does He'll be Portrayed as the New Hitler" at http://www.counterpunch.org/gowans12162006.html/


E. Simon - 12/16/2006

Your supposed clarifications don't address whether or not this hypothetical government would harbor enough corruption, anarchy and basic deprivation of rights as to make widespread massacres of Jews or even Arabs - if not possible - likely, or even the norm. For you to even mention the Kurds of Iraq (I assume you mean Baathist Iraq?) as if such status would be merely a minor inconvenience is strange, to say the least. And then we can look at the condition of non-Muslims in the most liberal country (by regional standards) of Lebanon. And none of this even begins to address the atrocious situation regarding the rights of even majority groups within the Palestinian-administered territories, where elements of the ruling party Hamas recently gunned down three young children of a rival Fatah member.

I can understand if my pointing out these troubling facts is uncomfortable to someone so willing to label the picture they paint as "Zionist propaganda".

But you're right on one thing: open killing by the government is one thing, and encouraging the outsourcing of such killing to vigilante mobs is quite another - except to those being killed, of course.

Consider me unimpressed at your naivite at recognizing a cunning Holocaust-denier's P.R. skills, and how such ploys aren't really at odds with any ultimate aims at sufficiently legitimizing hatred enough to mobilize a hateful or murderous agenda. But maybe you know of more honest Holocaust-deniers than I do.


E. Simon - 12/16/2006

Because that libertarian would not be smoking so much crack as to believe that his rights would be better maintained under the sorts of governments brought about under Palestinian rule (Fatah, Hamas) than under the sorts of governments brought about under Zionist (i.e. Israeli) rule.

cf:

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&;year=2006&country=7104

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&;year=2006&country=6989

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&;year=2006&country=6985

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinui#Ideology


Bill Woolsey - 12/16/2006

While the government of Iran's interest in Holocaust denial is troubling, this doesn't prove that they favor killing the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. That this is the only "evidence" that Skoble can find, shows how weak is his claim.

It is "regime change" that Hamas (and Hezbollah) demand. They favor an Islamic regime for all of what is now Israel. Jews can live under an Islamic regime (like Christians,) as second class citizens.)

The Arab nationalists who take the rejectionist position have not claimed that their goal is killing all the Jews in Palestine. It is rather that any Jews in Palestine would be a minority in an Arab nationlist state. Rather like Copts in Egypt or Kurds in Syria or Iraq.

In my opinion, the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine should not be forced to live under either sort of regime. (On the other hand, the U.S. government isn't responsible from protecting them from that fate.)

Even more troubling, there is support for deporting Jewish "settlers." And who counts as a settler, is unlikely to be determined on libertarian grounds.

But to claim that either the Islamists or the Arab nationalist rejectionist openly propose killing all the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine is false. As Brady asks, where is the evidence?

By the way, I would think that someone who openly called for the killing of all the Jews in Palestine would have little interest in denying that Hitler killed millions of Jews in Europe. Wouldn't they congratulate his good work?

Please, try to rework the Zionist propaganda so that it at least makes a little sense.


Bill Woolsey - 12/16/2006

Why are the property rights of former Arab residents of what is now Israel dependent on what the "leaders" of the Palestinians suggested that anyone do?

If I go on a trip, even if I do so because my supposed leaders suggest that I should flee to avoid violence, I have every right to return to my property.

I can understand that some socialist nationalist (that is, Zionist) would think that what the Palestian leadership said was important, but why would any libertarian?


Jesse Walker - 12/16/2006

...oh, and what about South Korea? The only nation that borders it -- North Korea -- beleves that the country is rightfully part of its own territory. It has tried to seize the country before. It is run by a sabre-rattling totalitarian who either has or is trying to get nuclear weapons, and who just might be nuts enough to use them.

The big difference between South Korea and Israel isn't that Israel has unfriendly neighbors. It's that South Korean has no equivalent to the Palestinians.


Jesse Walker - 12/16/2006

Balance of power has everything to do with it. Pakistan is far more capable of destroying India (and vice versa), and India is much more likely to actually destroy Pakistan (and vice versa), than any of Israel's neighbors are of successfully bringing it down. Lebanon, like Israel, is wedged between countries with a history of attacking it and wreaking havoc; unlike Israel, it also has a history of failing to fight them off. And for the record, I don't see the People's Republic of China recognizing the Republic of China's right to exist.

in fact, the Arabs who left did so at the urging of their leaders

The Israeli historian Benny Morris, among others, has made it harder and harder to sustain that position. While I don't think the current problems of the Middle East are going to be solved by refighting the debates of 1948, I also think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that Palestinians were driven out of Israel and their property expropriated.


Aeon J. Skoble - 12/16/2006

Mark, you imply that Israel is exclusive Jewish. It is not. It has, and has always had, Arab citizens. Not residents with second-class status, but citizens, with exactly identical rights. Some even sit in their legislature.

As to your bizarre request for evidence, why not have a look at the "conference" in Iran, where "scholars" are "discussing" whether or not there was a holocaust. I don't see why Keith has a special responsibility to document what it is in the news pretty much on a weekly basis.


Aeon J. Skoble - 12/16/2006

Balance of power has nothing to do with it. Only Israel has neighbors publicly committed to its destruction. Israel has never claimed that Lebanon had no right to exist and ought to be eliminated. The destruction of Israel is official policy of most of its neighbors. Cohen misrepresents the founding of Israel pretty drastically: in fact, the Arabs who left did so at the urging of their leaders, so as to facilitate their attempt to destroy Israel on the eve of its birth. Those who stuck around had (and have) full citizenship.


Mark Brady - 12/15/2006

"Now, it is important to point out that the overwhelming majority of the people living in Israel today were either small children or not even born when the events of that state’s founding took place. They cannot possibly bear any moral responsibility for any wrongs committed at that time,"

True enough, but do they not bear moral responsibility for wrongs committed now?

"yet, it is they who will be slaughtered if the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah achieve their most cherished goal."

Where _precisely_ is your evidence that this is the "most cherished goal" of the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah?

"Yes, the government of Israel sometimes acts in stupid, brutal, or unjust ways, but, we must remember that it is the only government in the world whose populace lives under the constant threat of extinction by it neighbors."

The threat is to the exclusive Jewish identity of Israel.

"When the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran talk about driving the Zionists into the sea they are not speaking about regime change, they are talking about genocide."

And where _precisely_ is your evidence that they "talk about driving the Zionists into the sea"?

Palestinians seek a right of return and why shouldn't they?

It is incumbent on you to substantiate your claims, not just repeat the nonsense circulated by the Israeli state and its supporters in the West.


Jesse Walker - 12/15/2006

Yes, the government of Israel sometimes acts in stupid, brutal, or unjust ways, but, we must remember that it is the only government in the world whose populace lives under the constant threat of extinction by it neighbors.

Given the current balance of power in the region, I'm not so sure that that's true. But assuming for the sake of argument that it is, how is Israel the "only" country in such a situation? What about Taiwan? Or India and Pakistan, each of which could extinguish the other? Hell, what about Lebanon?

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