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Jewish World Review
Feb. 25, 2009
/ 1 Adar 5769
Did ya' ever hear the one about Cohen and the Iranian Jews?
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Ever notice how often the reputedly astute prove amazingly naive 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
It all reminded me of my 1990 Baghdad visit to the remnant of Iraqi Jewry a
Diaspora 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 community president told 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
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
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
Lord protect us from the reputedly astute!
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JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff was Senior Correspondent at US News & World Report, and is now a columnist at the NY Daily News and the Huffington Post. A two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. The paperback edition of his critically acclaimed book, "Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews & Committed the Greatest Theft in History" is now on sale. (Click on cover above to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.
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© 2009, Richard Z. Chesnoff