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Ben S. Cohen
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Blog Entries by Ben S. Cohen

An Iranian Suicide

Posted May 3, 2011 | 05/03/11 10:54 PM ET

In his essay, "The Myth of Sisyphus," the French philosopher Albert Camus depicted suicide as an abdication of one's responsibility to confront the absurdities, disappointments and frustrations that accompany human existence. Our inherent freedom, Camus believed, confronts us continually with the question of whether life is worth living. To answer...

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Time to Reset the Human Rights Agenda

Posted March 20, 2011 | 03/20/11 04:30 PM ET

There was a time when the very phrase "human rights" represented, for a great number of world leaders, an insidious "western," not to say "Zionist," plot to undermine their titanic efforts to build utopia. Some of these leaders were communists, a few were Ba'athists, many more were populists and revolutionaries...

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Gadhafi and the LSE: A Cautionary Tale

Posted February 22, 2011 | 02/22/11 07:32 PM ET

In Britain, where acerbic humor rules the roost, it was inevitable that the venerable London School of Economics would be rechristened the "Libyan School of Economics" the instant it embraced the financial largesse of the Gadhafi family.

In recent years, the LSE has been readily co-opted into the process of...

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Bahrain: The Missing 'A' Word

Posted February 17, 2011 | 02/17/11 09:26 AM ET

In all the coverage of the freedom protests in Bahrain, a certain word beginning with the letter 'A' has been strikingly absent.

I don't mean 'autocratic.' Nor 'authoritarian.' Both of those have been invoked, and rightly so.

I refer to the word 'apartheid.' The Afrikaner term for 'separateness,' apartheid...

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Don't Forget Iran

Posted February 2, 2011 | 02/02/11 04:50 PM ET

Watching this new video produced by the human rights NGO Iran 180, I was struck by Congressman Barney Frank's pithy summation of what good governance involves. "No government ought to consider itself threatened by its citizens wanting to express themselves," Frank said. "And no truly popular government...

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"The Second Time as Farce": Lebanon's Al Akhbar newspaper

Posted December 30, 2010 | 12/30/10 04:43 PM ET

Marx's observation, proffered in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, about history repeating itself first as tragedy, then as farce, has been regurgitated so often that one feels a sheep-like silliness in reciting it again. But that's the thing about transcendent quotes: there are times when no other words capture...

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The PA's Choice: Palestinian State or Palestinian Cause

Posted December 18, 2010 | 12/18/10 01:26 PM ET

In 1716, Francois de Callieres, an emissary of King Louis XVI, made this pithy observation about powers great and small in one of the foundational texts of modern diplomacy, On the Manner of Dealing with Princes:

The blunder of the smallest of sovereigns may indeed cast an apple of discord...
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Another Israel Divestment Hoax

Posted November 19, 2010 | 11/19/10 04:12 PM ET

When I read this report on the Electronic Intifada website claiming that the largest pension fund in The Netherlands had divested from the Israeli companies in its portfolio, it struck me that the campaign to subject Israel to a regime of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions - BDS for...

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UNRWA Shames Andrew Whitley

Posted November 5, 2010 | 11/05/10 09:41 AM ET

Recently, I wrote about the case of Andrew Whitley, who is the New York Director of UNWRA, the UN agency tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees. Whitley told a conference in Washington that the so-called "right of return" is unlikely to ever be exercised, and that efforts would be...

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The Palestinians and Israel: Just Say No

Posted October 28, 2010 | 10/28/10 04:31 PM ET

I wonder how many of those commentators who diligently monitor the "muzzling" activities of the "Israel Lobby" will note the story of a UN official who made a perfectly reasonable observation at a recent conference, and now has everyone from Hamas to the government of Jordan demanding his head on...

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Rethinking Israeli-Palestinian Talks

Posted October 12, 2010 | 10/12/10 01:26 PM ET

Watching the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians fizzle out over the last week, I was reminded of Conor Cruise O'Brien's observation that "conflicts don't have solutions -- they have outcomes." For nearly two decades, the contours of a final compromise that would enable the State of Israel to...

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Press TV: Ahmadinejad's Mouthpiece

Posted September 21, 2010 | 09/21/10 07:16 PM ET

With tiresome predictability, the Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is again in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. And again, he is performing to type. Rambling, inchoate speeches about the decline of capitalism, facile equations of the Iran's judicial system with that of the United States, ranting about Israel...

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Iranian Human Rights Advocate Faces Execution Threat Amid Indifference

Posted September 1, 2010 | 09/01/10 12:38 PM ET

Like the Lubyanka prison in Moscow during the Soviet period, or the Prinz Albrecht Strasse headquarters of the Gestapo in Nazi-era Berlin, Tehran's Evin Prison is indelibly linked with the most gruesome abuses of human rights, involving Iranian dissidents foolhardy enough to resist ideological conformity by thinking and acting for...

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Anti-Zionists Plumb New Depths: Cliona Campbell's Story

Posted August 19, 2010 | 08/19/10 05:42 PM ET

It's very rare that you come across someone deserving of the title "hero" - or "heroine," for that matter - but I just did.

Cliona Campbell is a 19-year old student from Cork, in Ireland. She is something of a prodigy; in 2008, she was a finalist in the Young...

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A Deadly Game in Lebanon

Posted August 3, 2010 | 08/03/10 07:14 PM ET

If today's attack by Lebanese forces on Israeli troops does lead to a full-scale war, then Lt. Col. Dov Harari, the 45-year old IDF reservist who will be laid to rest tomorrow at the military cemetery in the coastal town of Netanya, will have been its first victim.

...
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What Antisemitism Is (And Isn't)

Posted July 30, 2010 | 07/30/10 06:51 PM ET

This morning, I received an email from a reader informing me that I was "a chicken hawk Jew." For good measure, I was then urged to perform an act with my yarmulke which doesn't bear repeating in polite company.

What roused this person's ire was a short post of...

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Omar al Bashir and the Problem of Whataboutery

Posted July 20, 2010 | 07/20/10 06:16 PM ET

One of the linguistic innovations brought about by the internet is the term "whataboutery." For those who still haven't encountered it, whataboutery describes a fairly transparent argumentative technique, designed to derail debate of one issue by raising another.

I should know -- like others who defend Israel from the...

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Libya Launders its Reputation

Posted July 12, 2010 | 07/12/10 02:12 PM ET

If you happen to be running an authoritarian regime which practices torture, routinely locks up dissidents and muzzles the press, there are few causes better than Palestinian solidarity to polish up your public image. One might say that it's a political form of money laundering; just as one would wash...

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Progressive? Then Don't Boycott Israel

Posted June 25, 2010 | 06/25/10 06:50 PM ET

It was an expose in the best traditions of investigative journalism: Commerce Department documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that detailed how, between 1965 and 1977, more than one thousand American corporations colluded in the economic boycott of a small, embattled country, in a bid to please a...

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The Hezbo(ti)lla

Posted June 18, 2010 | 06/18/10 03:41 PM ET

Behind the rush to send further flotillas to the Gaza Strip, a power game between Islamists of various stripes is emerging. While Turkish, Palestinian, Iranian and Hezbollah flags have all been spotted at rallies and port side gatherings in support of the flotillistas, these scenes of apparent unity belie a...

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