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Richard Z. Chesnoff Headshot

Did Ya' Hear The One About Cohen & The Iranian Jews?

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Ever notice how often the reputedly astute prove amazingly naïve if not downright dumb? Take the New York Times much lauded op-ed columnist Roger Cohen.

In a long rambling piece datelined Esfahan, Iran, wandering analyst Cohen recently told his global readers that the remnant of Iran's once thriving Jewish community is doing just fine - in fact, it's actually living the life of Reza side by side with Islamists, enjoying freedom of worship, business and family life and just dying to join other patriotic Iranians in angry anti-Israel street demonstrations. To back up his contentions, Mr Cohen quotes that esteemed expert Morris Motamed, the man who once served as the mullah endorsed Jewish stooge in Tehran's rubber stamp parliament.

It all reminded me of my 1990 Baghdad visit to the remnants of Iraqi Jewry - a disapora community older and once larger than even Iran's. Like most Iranian Jews, the vast majority of Iraq's 150,000 Musawi or ""Mosaics" wisely fled for Israel and the West in the early 1950s. Of course, they had to leave behind everything they owned. By the time I visited Baghdad, there were less than 300 Jews left in a city where Jews once comprised 25% of the urban population. These Jews also prayed in their synagogue on the Sabbath where their communal president assured
me with great flourish (while Saddam Hussein's omnipresent agents listened to every word) that he and his fellow worshippers were "proud to be both faithful Jews and loyal Iraqi patriots".

The truth was very different - as it is in Iran where the Jewish community is under constant surveillance, where teaching Hebrew is prohibited, where Jewish women are forced to follow the same modesty laws their Muslim sisters do, where Jews are barred from certain jobs and some imprisoned or hung on trumped up charges of contact with "Zionists".

Another journalistic sin of Mr Cohen's piece was his insistence to use Iran's supposed tolerant treatment of its remaining Jews as an excuse to take another of his nasty jabs at Israel. After all, Cohen tells us, perhaps Iran's threats to destroy the Jewish state are merely a "provocation to focus people on Israel's bomb, its 41 year occupation of the West Bank, its Hamas denial, its repetitive use of overwhelming force."

He then goes on to ignore the hard fact that Iran is behind Hamas as well as Hezbollah and most of the terrorism that currently confronts Israel , the very terrorism that frequently obliges Jerusalem to invoke its "overwhelming force".

Mr. Cohen also attacks "some American Jewish circles" for their "misleading and dangerous...'Mad Mullah' caricature of Iran".

In other words we really shouldn't worry about Iran's race to obtain a nuclear weapon - even though such a weapon would not only threaten Israel, but the rest of the world including the United States.

And as if to underscore its increasingly perverted sense of journalistic balance, today's NY Times runs a second Iran focused op-ed piece alongside that of Cohen's. This one by Iranian born journalist Ali Reza Esraghi is oddly entitled "Our Friend in Tehran" and urges President Barack Obama to stop wasting time and "seize the opportunity to shake the Iranian President (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's) outstretched hand".

Lord protect us from the reputedly astute!