Raymond Cohen on Israel in the EU

by Yule Heibel on June 15, 2003

Dave Winer suggested that I was male-bashing in my blog of yesterday, which is why today I’m thinking about Israel in the European Union. Non-sequiter? Not quite. Dave’s comment got me thinking about a terrific political science course I took at UBC as an undergraduate in the early 80s. It was taught by a visiting Israeli professor, Raymond Cohen, who had written a book called Threat Perception in International Relations. It’s been years since I read the book, but I recall that it was a very smart inquiry into how our perceptions — on a nation-state level — influence policies. See, I thought that Dave was perceiving something that I wasn’t really saying: I think I was, in part, system-bashing, but not male-bashing. (Disclaimer: I don’t think that there is a state of Dave — or a state of Yule — here. I guess it’s just that men saying women are male-bashing conjures up threat perception issues.. ;-). )

Professor Cohen was a sharp lecturer, and he ran a tense tutorial. There were students who supported the PLO, and it was clear that Raymond Cohen, who seemed hawkishly pro-Israel, was more than impatient with any milquetoast Canadian students who were going to argue Israeli security concerns with him. Hence, imagine my surprise when, looking for his book online, I found that he spoke to the European Parliament in Brussels in March 2002 in support of Israeli membership in the EU. His speech was called Israel: A Return to Europe?

(N.B.: You can find the speech also on the website of the Transnational Radical Party, which it seems sponsored the motion before the EU. However, it’s impossible to link to individual pages directly on their site since they all have the same URL; hence, you need to go to the main page, scroll down to the “Israel in The E.U. – special page” section, click on that and then scroll on the page that opens to Cohen’s link. The “special page” link includes lots more information, photos of the meetings, backgrounders.)

I don’t remember hearing anything about EU membership for Israel last year, but perhaps I wasn’t paying attention. Today I looked around a bit more on Google, and realized that it’s a debated, ridiculed, and championed topic. I wonder what other people have heard about it, what they think? Is this a completely fringe phenomenon? Cohen’s speech is beautiful and very convincing — I’m ready to endorse it. Naturally, some of the opposition points out that the whole idea is like flying pigs: ain’t gonna happen, what’s to become of the law of return, and so on and so forth. What do other people think?

Some quotes from Raymond Cohen’s speech:

“At present, Israelis are locked into a conventional nationalist and strategic mindset more suited to the nineteenth than to the twenty-first century,” but “the prospect of Israel’s entry into Europe could encourage moderate forces, rejuvenate public discourse, break the near-monopoly of chauvinist ideas, and provide a set of incentives for creative thinking in the peace process. ” At present, Cohen continues, “the agenda of Israel politics is almost completely dominated by Revisionist ideas reinforced by fundamentalist and mystical religious themes. Fearful stereotypes from the Diaspora have also resurfaced. Settlers in the occupied territories are viewed as the heroic heirs of the Zionist pioneers. Occupation and settlement are presented as expressions of a sacrosanct historical right and essential to Israel’s survival. The Palestinians are anathematized as a reincarnation of Amalek, the quintessential enemy of the Jewish people from time immemorial. Critical external agencies, such as the European Union, are viewed with suspicion as a modern version of the Poritz, the Jews’ East European overlord and oppressor.”

What would inclusion in the EU bring into the mix? “…the promise of Israel’s inclusion in the European Union would transform a disheartening anticipation of national contraction and vulnerability into a more confident prospect of incorporation into a wider community of nations. Psychology is everything in a nation’s self-image and identity.” With that last sentence, Cohen shows that his research into threat perception still productively informs his thinking.

As for the Transnational Radical Party: can someone enlighten me as to who they are? Their website indicates pre-Iraq War support for Saddam’s removal; they are against the prohibition on drugs; their membership is mostly Italian and Albanian, but growing; Mussolini’s granddaughter is a member, but so are some leftwingers; they sponsored the movement to get Israel into the EU; and their plan is to get members of Parliament in all countries across the globe to join their group so that these members can then vote, in concert, on important global issues: a transnational, nearly virtual fifth column turned toward the good?

Questions upon questions, and all because Dave said I was male-bashing…. PS: Later today I’ll write a conciliatory response in yesterday’s comment box. Male-bashing, moi? Nah.


Dave Winer June 15, 2003 at 11:53 pm

I didn’t say (or think) that you were male-bashing, the article that you pointed to was. I thought your comment was not responsive, you commented as if men were complaining, but in the article it was just a woman complaining (and bashing).

Yule Heibel June 16, 2003 at 12:29 am

Ah, point taken. Admittedly, misunderstanding caused by laziness on my part: I know there are articles out there about men complaining that feminism is doing them in, but I couldn’t find just the right one, and I took Michele Landsberg’s (I do like her columns, you know).

So, listen: now that I’m not going to comment on your comment in the last post: congrats for quitting those cigarettes! My father quit in his early/mid-50s (quite a bit older than you) going from 2-3 packs per day to zero overnight. He keeled over at nearly 87 from an aneurism — if he hadn’t been so fat, he perhaps might have lived longer?, but he was active, especially mentally, to the end. He didn’t have to be hospitalized: boom, gone. My mother died at around the same age (so much for women living longer, although, yes, statistically they do), but her last years were spent with Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s. Length of life, vs. quality of life. Hmmm. Who could choose? Keel over suddenly? Die like Steve Gelin (it is with one “l”) at 58, but have a larger-than-life life? (I’m too much of a coward, and cried my eyes out when he passed.) Or live to be a 100 but lose your faculties when you’re 85? I don’t know; I latch on to some kind of idealism, tempered by humour. When I was pregnant with Adam (my 1st born), I was told (on the basis of an alpha-feto protein test — a blood test) that he probably had Down’s syndrome (he didn’t). But I refused to have the needle test (amniotic fluid) because I wouldn’t have aborted him anyway — Nazis do that: eliminate “unworthy,” “unfit” life. (I volunteered as a 10-year old at an “institution” that my demented girlfriends dragged me to because they wanted to see the “water-head babies.” I stayed & came back to help out for a few weeks. It forever after made me sick to my stomach to hear idiots talk “eugenics.” Those kids were doling out strange gifts with both hands, strange, but gifts, nonetheless.) Now, was I happy that Adam turned out ok — in fact, more than ok? You bet. Did I have any idea what having a disabled child might entail? Nope.

Quality of life. That’s on my mind all the time.

I’m thrilled to think you’re reading this blog.

I should be sending this in an email instead of via web. I have no manners!

So what do you think? Should Israel work towards joining the EU?

Yule Heibel June 16, 2003 at 3:53 pm

Just a quick amend to my comment, above, to forestall further misunderstanding. To live for another 30-40 years in robust health, into a high old age, after quitting a heavy smoking habit that lasted for over a quarter of a century, should encourage any smoker to quit. You will improve your life tremendously, and live longer. (I brought this up because Dave mentioned mortality rates in the previous post, and he has mentioned it a bit on Scripting.) Also, I think quality often comes in unexpected packages and that trying to guarantee perfection doesn’t work. Also, I’m pro-choice. Repeat: strongly pro-choice. At the same time, I disagree with (public) attitudes towards medicine (esp’y obstretics) that suggest it’s about delivering perfection. And disability is a two-way street: accept only perfect people because you’re so afraid, and you diminish your own humanity.

Dave Winer June 17, 2003 at 6:12 am

I think we should be nice to each other while we’re alive, and let everyone have a chance to be a nice smart generous person, and don’t judge people by external appearances.

BTW, my mother is 70, never been sick a day in her life. My father is 73, has had to fight for his life twice in the last three years.

Don’t dismiss statistics so easily. As your gender have gotten rights, you have started to behave exactly like the people you didn’t like. When you talk about men, remember you’re really talking about men of my father’s generation and grandfather’s. I’m no more responsible for what they did and believed than you are.

Yule Heibel June 17, 2003 at 3:26 pm

Dave, please accept my apologies for using your comment to my previous post as a framing rhetorical device for the subsequent (this) post. I did this in good faith because I thought you did mean that I was male-bashing, and because it really was because of your comment that I came across the issue this post points to (Raymond Cohen, et al.) I’m sorry I upset you, particularly via this rhetorical device, and that I publicly put you in a spot you weren’t supposed to be in. I’m willing to put a “pre-script” on this post to that effect, or take your name off entirely. But I’m not sure if that wouldn’t be, on my part, a kind of falsification after the fact…? Blog-etiquette: new territory.

I agree that we should be nice to each other while we’re alive, and I hope you’re not suggesting that I’m not. It also would puzzle me if you thought that I “dismiss statistics so easily” because I truly wouldn’t understand what that opinion could be based on. I don’t understand the umbrella term “your gender,” or that I’m behaving “exactly like the people [I] don’t like.” It’s partly the word “exactly” I have trouble with.

The only people I am willing to judge by external appearance are the ones who get paid to be, or who profit from it. If you’re a Madonna fan, for example, and don’t like my sarcasm in regard to her, say so. But I really do think that models, Mrs. Bush, Madonna, and others who get paid to be seen are available for critical scrutiny on the basis of their appearance and what it’s put in service of, especially what it’s put in service of. That’s called critique, and it’s part of what UBC & Harvard trained me in.

I will remember what you said about personal responsibility for our father’s and grandfather’s generation’s actions and thoughts. Based on ideological beliefs, mine did things the civilized world will never forgive them for, and as a German I do feel a great deal of responsibility to keep a consciousness of their deeds, to problematize them historically. I am comforted, if not let off the hook, by your comment.

So, once again, please accept my apologies for misappropriating your comment. Now we know why Plato disliked rhetoric, eh?

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