Roger Cohen's World

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I don't have the time just yet to unpack Roger Cohen's column on his visit to David Wolpe's synagogue in Los Angeles. For now, I will just post one extraordinary exchange between Wolpe and Cohen (the video is below), in which Cohen shows himself to be something more than naive about the intentions of Hezbollah and Hamas. You will note that, at a key moment, the otherwise fairly polite audience of Iranian-American Jews burst out laughing at Cohen's response to Wolpe's question:

Rabbi David Wolpe: I grant you that this is not a perfect analogy to Iran and Israel, but right would you say that Israel is much more powerful than Hezbollah, much more powerful than Hamas. Let's say tomorrow, it were reversed. Let's say Hezbollah had the firepower of Israel and Israel had the firepower of Hezbollah. Let's say Hamas had the firepower of Israel and Israel had rockets---

Roger Cohen: We can say, we can say--.

DW: Wait, wait, wait, wait---

RC: We can---

DW: Let me finish my question. You don't know what to respond to until I've finished my question. What do you think would happen to Israel were the balance of power reversed? And the reason I'm asking that is because Iran is pursuing means by which they could actually in the end  be more powerful than Israel so it's not just hypothetical. If Iran gets several nuclear bombs, they have much more territory and they could be more powerful than Israel. What would happen if Hamas and Hezbollah -- which are Iran's proxies -- had that power tomorrow?

RC: I don't know what would happen.

[audience laughter]

DW: I do.

RC: I don't know what would happen and it doesn't matter I don't know what would  happen because it's not going to happen tomorrow, or within a year, or two years, or three years. It is somewhere into the future. What is important, I think, is to try and reach an agreement with Iran which prevents them from going to a nuclear bomb. And I think that's possible. What is important is to begin to think differently about the Middle East in ways that could actually advance the cause of peace and the two-state solution rather than dreaming up scenarios from hell, rather than dreaming up the ultimate nightmare, rather than dwelling on nuclear Armageddon. Let's try and build something better in the Middle East

Roger Cohen doesn't know what would happen if the situation were reversed and Hamas and Hezbollah had military superiority over Israel. The mind reels.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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