Juan Cole was the first US expert of any authority to counter an emerging consensus that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had called for the, presumably nuclear, genocidal destruction of Israel. That is how Israel's supporters characterized Ahmadinejad's statement that the Zionist regime would be removed from history.
Maybe a vast majority of Jewish people hate the idea that there will one day not be a Jewish state, the idea that Israel should or even can go the way Apartheid South Africa or Communist East Germany went. Given that hatred, which extends to any proponent of that idea, especially a prominent one, such as the president of a neighboring country, there is a strong urge to exaggerate negative statements, to present Iran in as threatening a light as possible.
To counter that urge is to invite accusations of anti-Semitism that can have tangible effects on one's career and that also are psychically stressful to endure. Ahmadinejad's statement in his 2005 speech was clearly aimed at the regime, and it was clearly drawn in parallel to his other examples in that speech of the Shah's Iran, Hussein's Iraq and the USSR - none of which was ended by any genocidal nuclear attack. It took substantial courage in 2005 and 2006 for Cole to, in making what should have been a non-controversial translation, have placed himself in a position to be seen as defending Ahmadinejad.
Cole recently has revisited this role, and says that, contrary to a clearly false and deceptive statement of Israel's ambassador Michael Oren, Ahmadinejad has not called for the physical annihilation of Israel. Non-Americans would be stunned to learn how commonly held the view is in the US that Ahmadinejad has expressed an intention to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons.
Cole makes one statement that while true doesn't address the dispute over Zionism.
Personally, I see Zionism as just a garden variety form of modern romantic nationalism not different in any way from scores of other nationalisms (including Arab nationalism, Serbian nationalism, and Iranian nationalism).The problem with Zionism isn't that it is a nationalism. The problem with Zionism when it was conceived was that to be implemented, it required changing the demographic makeup of a territory against the will of the inhabitants. The problem with Zionism today is that its perpetuation requires the subjugation of the rest of its region.
Serbian nationalism isn't necessarily evil in itself. But we can't make a Serbian nation in Japan, moving Japanese people out to make way for a Serbian homeland to be the embodiment of that nationalism, then trying to ensure that a tiny Serbian state be militarily, technologically and economically dominant over its much larger hostile neighbors as a matter of strategic security.
Zionism requires the extension of classical Western indirect colonialism in the Middle East nearly 100 years after it began declining in the rest of the world. That is tremendously harmful for the people of the region, and there are tremendous costs it imposes on the United States as its primary sponsor.
But other than that, Juan Cole now acknowledges, also ahead of most of the US foreign policy establishment, that a two-state solution that maintains a Jewish homeland is becoming impossible and that a one-state solution is now eventually the most likely outcome to the dispute over Zionism.
In any case, now that a two-state solution has been made virtually impossible by Israel's determined colonization of the West Bank, a one-state solution is the most likely outcome of what will probably be a 50-year struggle for basic Palestinian rights to citizenship in a state. The rest of us are going to be mightily inconvenienced by this unnecessary and stupid conflict, and the inconvenience will only be increased by equally stupid propaganda from unreliable narrators like Oren."Mightily inconvenienced" is a reference to the cost the US pays and that he expects it to continue to pay for its role in the conflict. That may be an understatement, but it is a rare direct acknowledgment.
Overall, Cole is taking very courageous positions here in challenging the emotionally-inspired misrepresentation of Ahmadinejad's position on Zionism, and now on the viability of Zionism itself. These are the two particular issues on which he is most ahead of the rest of the US foreign policy establishment.