As a long-time co-editor of Dissent, Mitchell Cohen knows all about heated intellectual disputes. Recently, Cohen, professor of political science at Baruch College and CUNY’s Graduate Center, has plunged headlong into controversy himself. Cohen argues in recent lectures, interviews, and essays that an insidious form of anti-Semitism has crept into intellectual and academic circles. “There is a campaign these days from within parts of the western intellectual world, especially within parts of the left, to de-legitimize the Jewish state,” he stated during a recent interview with Reset, an influential monthly published in Rome.
When the Turin Book Fair decided to honor Israel on the 60th anniversary of its statehood, there were calls in both Europe and the Middle East to boycott the event — a manifestation of anti-Israeli sentiment Cohen finds both misguided and offensive. Invited to give this year’s Gold Foundation Distinguished Lecture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Cohen chose as his topic “Israel, Anti-Semitism and the Left.”
In the lecture, subsequently repeated at Stanford University, Cohen drew a sharp distinction between critics who object to Israeli government policies, and those who would like to abolish the Jewish state in its entirety. Though he concedes that “in principle” anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, he argues that these days, there is a “considerable and disturbing amount of overlap.”
Contact: Zane Berzins