Roger Cohen: If Russians and Poles Can Make Peace, So Can Israelis and Palestinians
They announced the Pulitzer Prize winners yesterday and someone who truly deserved one was not among the winners: Roger Cohen. His brave reporting in June from the streets of Teheran after the allegedly fraudulent presidential election was absolutely riveting. You felt like you were there at a crucial moment of Middle Eastern history. And Cohen’s humanity and decency shone through all the violence and lies of the Iranian authorities.
Cohen proved once again with today’s column about the Polish airliner tragedy at Katyn, why he deserved that Pulitzer. He writes movingly of the difficulty of reconciliation between Poles and Russians considering the suffering inflicted on the former by the latter in places like the Katyn Forest, where Stalin murdered 20,000 of the cream of the Polish nobility and armed forces. Out of the flames of this plane crash, comes the certainty that if two bitterly opposed peoples like Poles and Russians can find common ground, then there is no such hatred that cannot be soothed:
Watching him [Vladimir Putin] beside Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, I thought of François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl hand-in-hand at Verdun in 1984: of such solemn moments of reconciliation has the miracle of a Europe whole and free been built…
I thought even of Willy Brandt on his knees in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1970, a turning point on the road to a German-Polish reconciliation more miraculous in its way even than the dawning of the post-war German-French alliance. And now perhaps comes the most wondrous rapprochement, the Polish-Russian.
…96 lost souls would be dishonored if Polish and Russian leaders do not make of this tragedy a solemn bond. As Tusk told Putin, “A word of truth can mobilize two peoples looking for the road to reconciliation. Are we capable of transforming a lie into reconciliation? We must believe we can.”
Poland should shame every nation that believes peace and reconciliation are impossible, every state that believes the sacrifice of new generations is needed to avenge the grievances of history. The thing about competitive victimhood, a favorite Middle Eastern pastime, is that it condemns the children of today to join the long list of the dead.
…So do not tell me that cruel history cannot be overcome. Do not tell me that Israelis and Palestinians can never make peace. Do not tell me that the people in the streets of Bangkok and Bishkek and Tehran dream in vain of freedom and democracy. Do not tell me that lies can stand forever.
Ask the Poles. They know.
18 thoughts on “Roger Cohen: If Russians and Poles Can Make Peace, So Can Israelis and Palestinians – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
Oh dear, Richard. You are exaggerating. Cohen does it get it right once in awhile, when the subject is uncontroversial like this one. But usually he is so off base, rather than a Pulitzer, he should be crammed into a Wurlitzer. On Iran he was full of crap. The fact that he still writes for the NYT shows that he’s among the propagandists.
Schulman, like always and in this case too is way off base regarding Cohen.
The hatred between Poles and Russians is a historic given, not unlike similar conflicts between other peoples. But Russians and Poles do not share or claim the same Liebestraum in living spaces as Israelis and Palestinians, and in that context not really applicable to the I/P problem.
rfjk, do you know what a non sequitur is? You just wrote one.
Not quite true. Some territory has changed hands so often there’s an old Yiddish saying that you could be born in Russia, get married in Poland and die in Lithuania and never have moved from the same place!
It is “Lebensraum” (space to live) not “Liebestraum” (dream of love). If only that were true…
There was peace when the Russians gave up their desire to occupy and control Poland upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union. If the Arabs decided they no longer wished to dissolve and occupy Israel, the problem would indeed be solved. I think Roger is comparing Apples to Oranges.
If Israelis decided they no longer wished to deny Palestinian rights & occupy Palestine, then there could be peace. Turned the tables on you.
LOL! You can either dissolve a country or occupy it. You cannot do both. Nor have “The Arabs” ever wished to occupy Israel. But by all means do not allow reality to get in your way.
Getting back to the Middle East:
If Sunnis and Shiites can make peace (that lasts)…
Sunnis and Shi`as have lived in peace for approximately a millenium and a half, you ignoramus. You might want to study some actual history, and try to learn the difference between political power struggles aided and abetted by foreign powers, and religious conflict.
Ah, so the period between the peaceful battle of Karballa,followed by the takeover of North Africa (and more) by the Fatamids (Shiites) against the Sunnis, the revolt of the Abassids (Shiites, at least for a while) against the Ummayads, then the change in Iran from Sunniism to Shiism (obviously peacefully done), and then the rise of calm Sunni Wahabbiism was done with great gentleness.
Of course all these events happened by the influence of foreign powers
Richad, regarding your claim that you represent “mainstream” Jewish opinion in the US and Israel, see this poll by the American Jewish Committee:
Note a large majority opposes dividing Jerusalem, believes that the goal of the Arabs is to destroy Israel (not to set up a “prosperous democraticy Palestinian state which will live side-by-side with Israel”) and that Israel should keep some if not all the settlements-which means they don’t view them as illegal as you do. Seems like you are NOT in the “mainstream”.
Are you forgetting the JPost poll which shows a majority of Israelis favor sharing Jerusalem & allowing Palestinian sovereignty over the Arab neighborhoods. I concur w. the majority of yr fellow citizens & am proud to say that they share my views.
The Camp David accord would have allowed Israel to keep some of the settlements so I’m actually in accord w. my American Jewish brethren on this one as well, as long as the number of settlements was roughly similar to what was proposed there & the Palestians accept the proposal.
You neglect to mention all the other questions on the survey in which my views are parallel to those of American Jewry. I wonder why would that be?
In future, pls don’t publish comments that are off topic, which this one is.
Well, it is very nice prose, but there is simply no analogy there. Poland is not being asked to make nice with Russia even as Russia is killing, maiming, torturing, and oppressing Poles on a daily basis. Poland is not being asked to make nice with Russia even as Russia is gobbling up Poland at an ever-accelerating rate. Poland is not being asked to make nice with Russia on the same day that Russia is announcing implementation of a new law clearly intended to further ethnically cleanse Polish land of Poles.
Pretty prose without any real relevance, I am afraid.
All of those things DID happen in the past history bet. Russia & Poland. What Cohen is trying to say is not that Russia is doing this to Poland now. He’s trying to say that Poland suffered much evil at the hands of the Nazis and Russians (don’t forget the untold millions of Poles killed during WWII of whom 3 million alone were Jewish) and yet (admittedly decades after the worst of it ended) they have found a way to reconcile.
And let us not forget the example of Japan and the USA. The two countires were bitter enemies during WW II and are now staunch allies. If we could only find out what the United States did to achieve peace with Japan and then encourage Israel to do the same with the Palestinians.
That’s an easy one. They bought the emperor, rebuilt the economy and gave them protection. And the Japanese are not sharing the same property. You can rest assured, the US treated the Japanese like untermenschen during the war, and vice versa.
The Israeli situation is hardly comparable. The Zionists invaded Palestine and requisitioned their property and have no intention of sharing it with them. They, too, are untermenschen. They tried to buy Arafat, and now Abbas, but they don’t recognize that the Palestinians do not want to leave the land. It’s interesting that everyone in the world refers to them as Palestinians, except Israel. To Israel, they’re all Arabs. They still will not recognize the existance of Palestinians. And they wonder why the Palestinians can’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
If you want t make those kinds of comparisons, how about Germany and Israel? If anyone has reason to be bitter…..!
But Gene, how did we get to that point? We nuked ’em into peace.