Roger Cohen is a fool.

If you don’t know him, he is considered by the leftist and pro-Palestinian circles one of the enlightened and humane Jews that find many occasions to criticize Israel and its supporters in America. He is especially a darling of the extreme Jewish Left who think his foolishness is actually wisdom.

Having read some of his articles with my head shaking in utter disbelief, I thought today would a propitious one for showing what happens when a philosophy rooted in goodness that actually ends up turning against the side of justice clashes with reality. After all, it’s clear why members of the far Jewish Left have voiced sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs, sympathy that has often turned into hostility and hatred of Israel’s supporters. Life is hard for the Palestinians and can be very unpleasant at times. They have ended up with the short end of the historical stick of this conflict and Israel’s continued military presence in their midst is not all chocolates and roses. It can be harsh at times but always places pressure upon this society.

But drawing the wrong conclusions from this complex and difficult situation is foolishness. It actually weakens Israel and causes its many enemies to gain power and steam against it. One of the best examples of this is the article Roger Cohen wrote about Iran’s Jews in February, 2009.

Back then, he wrote:

Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric [he is referring to inflammatory rhetoric of the Iranian leader].

That may be because I’m a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian TV, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the “Mad Mullah” caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 — a position popular in some American Jewish circles — is misleading and dangerous.

You can see right away how the events of the past week show the prescience of this man. After all, the caricature of Iran after an election stolen by the mullahs who clearly support the inflammatory rhetoric of their chosen dictator seems to be less a caricature and more true by the minute.

After glossing over the challenges the Iranian Jewish community faced in the past, Cohen, a man who writes for the venerable New York Times for a living, informed his readers:

I asked Morris Motamed, once the Jewish member of the Majlis, if he felt he was used, an Iranian quisling. “I don’t,” he replied. “In fact I feel deep tolerance here toward Jews.” He said “Death to Israel” chants bother him, but went on to criticize the “double standards” that allow Israel, Pakistan and India to have a nuclear bomb, but not Iran.

Double standards don’t work anymore; the Middle East has become too sophisticated. One way to look at Iran’s scurrilous anti-Israel tirades is as 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. Iranian language can be vile, but any Middle East peace — and engagement with Tehran — will have to take account of these points.

Green Zoneism — the basing of Middle Eastern policy on the construction of imaginary worlds — has led nowhere.

Realism about Iran should take account of Esfehan’s ecumenical Palestine Square. At the synagogue, Benhur Shemian, 22, told me Gaza showed Israel’s government was “criminal,” but still he hoped for peace. At the Al-Aqsa mosque, Monteza Foroughi, 72, pointed to the synagogue and said: “They have their prophet; we have ours. And that’s fine.”

Well, today the Iranians have shown their goodwill towards Israel and their justified hostility toward the state of the Jewish people that enjoys those supposed double standards. Yes, today after several days of violently attempting to quell non-violent public protests against the theft of the election, the tolerant and civil Iranian mullahs – not mad mullahs these – have found their solution for explaining away their perfidy. Blame the Jews.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry on Thursday claimed to have foiled an Israeli-linked terror plot to plant bombs in mosques and other crowded places in Teheran during last week’s presidential election.

State broadcaster IRIB quoted a ministry statement as saying several terrorist groups had been discovered, adding they were “in contact with Iran’s foreign enemies, including the Zionist entity.”

“Members of one of the uncovered networks were planning to plant bombs on election day at various crowded Teheran spots, including the Ershad and Al-Nabi mosques,” the statement continued.

Yup, it’s going to be that time again. They’ll trot out a few unlucky Jews from the same community that compelled Cohen to write that op-ed that flies in the face of reality and they will charge them with espionage. Then they will compromise on a couple of them and release them but keep one or two incarcerated or perhaps even killed for supposedly causing this electoral crisis. Of course that isn’t what happened here, but in a couple of years when the Iranians have nuclear bombs pointed at Israel, Saudi Arabia and Western Europe, perhaps Roger Cohen will write another piece about how it’s the “occupation” and Israel’s nuclear capability that has brought this about. He’ll write that one right after he excuses Palestinian violence because of Israel’s behavior and probably soon after his article about why Arab countries have despotic regimes. Israel, of course.

The folly of the extreme Jewish Left hurts Jews in America. It makes this public debate about Israel into an open attack on the character of Israel’s supporters. They, the good humane Jews of the far Left, get to brand Israel’s supporters with language and attacks that are often used by the Jews’ worst enemies. Reading Stormfront is sometimes not much different than reading Mondoweiss or Silverstein. At York University and at Concordia University, Jewish activists drove the public campaigns against Israel and at those students, particularly Jewish ones, who support Israel. Activists like Tony Judt scream about Jewish censorship and the evils of Israel even as they move from one public speech to the next national op-ed. And the supposed “Israel Lobby?” In their world, the far Jewish Left treats this myth as a known reality.

We can see how powerful that supposed “lobby” is by watching how Obama is running scared of it along with the Democrats of the House. Oh wait, they’re not.

Yup, the ultimate success of the far Jewish Left is that their ongoing attacks are playing a serious and real role in the negative attention being directed towards American Jews by growing segments of American society, helped by the current financial crisis and by people like Walt & Mearsheimer. And what exactly have Israel’s supporters done to deserve this? We support a beleaguered democratic state that seeks to define itself as a Jewish state but has been forced to fight war after war for decades. Yes, it’s far from perfect but it’s also far from the evil monster that it is made out to be.

I’m not sure whether there’s a God, but if there is one, I hope he helps the Jews who are about to be arrested by the Iranian government for crimes they didn’t commit. And if there is a God, perhaps she would be kind enough to have Roger Cohen write an apologetic op-ed in the New York Times where instead of vilifying those of us who understood what was going on, he actually treats Israel’s supporters with some respect. Because Cohen is no less wrong in his other expressed opinions about the Middle East than he was about Iran and its Jews.

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  • Words and words and words from Mr Middle will not obscure the fact that Cohen understands that the Iranian regime, society and political system was far more complex than the Neocons cared to to admit. Complex enough, in fact, to allow the people of Iran a chance to rise up and show that it can be challenged, and that it may now be cracking at the seams. But you go on demonizing the Iranian regime and ignoring/dismissing the reformist forces who were, incidentally, inspired and empowered by the same reformist forces you belittled in America last year.

    If G-d has as much control over free will as you propose in your last paragraph, then perhaps – if the Iranian revolution turns out to be a success and turns out to install a moderating stance in Tehran, then the deity will get you, and Krauthammer, and everyone else who gets their rocks off by obsessing over a scary, ugly Ahmedinejad as the face of a scary, parochial regime, to write an apologetic retraction as well.

    You are not motivated by realism but by myopia and fear.

  • “You are not motivated by realism but by myopia and fear.”

    And so must be Barack Hussein Obama:

    In an interview with CNBC, Obama was asked about the continued unrest in Iran following last week’s election.

    “First of all, it’s important to understand that although there is amazing fervor taking place in Iran,” Obama said, “the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised.”

  • Obama has wisely distanced himself from demonstrating overt support so as to deny any allegations of American interference in the current Iranian political struggle.

    And a very shrewd move it was, given how ridiculous Khamenei now sounds when trying to blame the protests on “America” at his Friday sermon, thereby further delegitimizing the credibility of the Supreme Leader.

    If Mousavi is successful, then Obama’s statement puts the new Iranian president in the rather difficult position of having to defy it – given the fact that he ran on, and was elected on, a platform of decreasing international tensions.

    There is a difference between taking account of multiple realities as a responsible head of state and being personally motivated by any one of them in particular.

    We will know in less than two months how well or how poorly Obama handled this – and how honestly the criticism of him now was voiced out of an appeal to: intellectual honesty, patriotic concern, or partisan bullshit.

  • You may wish to read the following interview very carefully:

    They don’t make a difference since both of these candidates have hardline histories in their fundamentalist loyalties to the discriminatory Islamic Republic of Iran constitution as well as documented anti-Israeli policies and military planning. Mousavi, for example was not only the initiator of the current nuclear program In Iran but he was among the leading officials as Prime Minister in the 1980s behind the creation of the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group and the deployment of thousands of Revolutionary Guards in Southern Lebanon and Baalbek area.


    The “reformers” were the ones who initiated the using of minorities for major foreign propaganda, but Ahmadinejad took this to a higher level and was behind the continuous efforts for bringing sympathetic or bought off journalists to Iran to report on the “ideal” conditions of the religious minorities in Iran. Ahmadinejad, forced the removal of the old and obedient Jewish leadership in Iran since they finally refused to accept his Holocaust denying statements. The “reformers” as some in the West like to call them, will certainly do the same and appoint Jewish “representatives” according to their needs.

  • I wish I could find a more convincing case to be made in your citation. But I don’t. Here’s why:

    1. Mousavi’s stances on foreign policy twenty years ago don’t make a convincing case for why he would foresake his widespread support, which is based on a completely different stance, today.

    2. The assertion that Ahmedinejad “took (the use of minorities for foreign propaganda) to a higher level”, is in itself an admission that Ahmedinejad is worse in this regard and not to be preferred over Mousavi.

    3. Is “JewishJournal” the least biased source you can find regarding the treatment of minorities in Iran? And is the status of Jews in Iran really something that concerns you more than Iran’s foreign policy?

    4. Wasn’t there some way you could tie in incompetence/idiocy/dissimulation/a nefarious plot on Obama’s part into your last comment?


  • Well, let me ask you a question since you’re such a big Obama fan. Don’t you think the Mousavi supporters which you call “reformers” desperate for American support? Did they get it from Obama?

    If Obama is not forceful about the question of democracy and the basic rights of people to express their political will – and he has now been relatively silent about Egypt and Iran in the space of a couple of weeks – why would the Iranians who rule the country have any concerns that he will stand up to their nuclear program?

    As for your other suppositions, I don’t have that much of a problem with Obama at this point. It’s too early to tell what he’s going to be like and he’s made some reasonable decisions.

    And this is We talk about Jewish topics here or try to tie general topics to Jewish life.

  • Oh, and it seemed to me that this was a serious interview with a serious individual, even if the publication is called “Jewish Journal.”

  • I don’t think they’re desperate for American support. I think they feel it’s nice to be acknowledged. But if they are serious about changing the regime, about legitimizing their vote, then they will avoid measures that would provoke the dictator and his reactionary supporters. The reform movement is not an anti-nationalist one. Nor does it wish to allow the opposition to portray it as one. That would not be smart.

    There are different kinds of support. At this point, I figure they think that if they had military support, that would be the most helpful. But I’m sure they’d prefer that come in the form of the Basij and other Iranian forces sympathizing with their cause. Rhetorical support from abroad makes for good propaganda – for us – and might make the demonstrators feel better. But the history of American support for the Shah and the overthrow of the more democratic regime that preceded him under Moussadeq (sp?) makes enough Iranians leery of American interference for the reformers and demonstrators to know that overly forceful rhetoric would be an entirely counter-productive measure. Any revolution that isn’t articulated and advanced primarily from within is bound fail. That’s what the Neocons didn’t get. And still don’t get.

    I think John Kerry’s remarks on this were pretty apt, actually.

    Further, most Iranians have bought into the nuclear rhetoric because they see it as an issue of national prestige. As I understand things, they honestly see it in terms of energy production, and not in terms of becoming an (illegally) armed state that is able to blackmail its neighbors. That is the way the Iranian populace sees the issue. And frankly, there is no legal structure for actually preventing them from developing nuclear power as an energy source. Maybe that worries you. But I would feel much safer knowing that, if nuclear development is going to occur – and it will – that the focus is NOT on weapons development, and that the regime is not a belligerent one. There is a real chance that a reformist-led Iran (albeit with a different Supreme Leader, or preferably none at all) would put an end to its export of terror and material and/or political support for Hizbullah/Hamas. It’s not for certain, but it’s a safer bet than pretending that the outcome of this movement would have no effect on Iran’s current trajectory.

    What does an interest in topics of interest to Jews have to do with not being biased about such topics – no matter how serious an interview or an individual is? By definition, that is how one determines a bias – when one has a strong interest in something. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Just that it’s not likely to be objective.

  • How stupid of me. If I wanted objectivity I should have read the NY Times where I could find reasonable and objective writers like Roger Cohen.

    Or maybe I should read reasonable blogs that don’t have a bias based on ethnicity or religion, like Juan Cole’s.


  • Cohen’s not objective. But he is useful in offering a glimpse into a less narrow perspective on things like Iran. Of course, he has actually been to the place and might have an idea on what things are like over there, so that’s helpful too.

    The NYT isn’t the most objective paper, either (and BTW, is there such thing?). But their reporting on developing stories involving conflicts like what’s happening in Iran right now is very good.

  • No, you missed the point of this post entirely. It’s not a “narrow” view of Iran, it is the accurate view. Cohen was flat out wrong with his views and we now have the evidence staring us in the face. Maybe you should open your mind a little. Just because something is in the Ny Times and something else is in the Jewish Journal, you still have to read both critically and know that prestige doesn’t trump truth. Cohen’s articles about Iran’s Jews were offensive foolishness and caused another in a long list of issues that divide Jews while giving additional nasty ammo to those who think the Jews want war unnecessarily with this innocent, lovely, sweet, warm and fuzzy country…that just happens to have a despotic theocratic regime leading it and it’s confrontation with the West with israel being the easy scapegoat under threat.

  • Read Cohen’s latest piece in the Times, and then say again that he’s a fool.

  • anon – he’s a bigger fool than ever. For months he has blatantly refused to admit that the evidence does not agree with his stance as a shill for the Iranian regime.

    But now he says – “Iran has waited long enough to be free.” I thought Iran was free already – and that Jews are only “treated with…consistent warmth…in Iran.

    He’s either a complete idiot – or a liar and a hypocrite. I say all three.

  • Oy vey. Go and kvetch and moan about Cohen’s blatherings about the treatment of Jews in Iran. To you, it’s not enough for me to say he’s not objective, apparently. It’s not enough to point out that this discussion is inextricably intertwined with the current revolution and how its outcome will impact a policy that affects many millions more Jews than the few thousand in Iran, apparently. (And if it’s not, why did you spend a half dozen comments entertaining these divergent threads?) It’s not enough to point out that the “freedom and democracy” agenda pushed by those great (if self-styled) friends of Israel, the neocons, might finally come to fruition, thanks to – among other things – our allowing elements in the Iranian political system to be inspired by a new approach out of Washington and a president who stands out of the way while they make their revolution in the only legitimate way they can – on their own, apparently.

    Apparently none of these things which Cohen can eloquently and more expertly comment on (despite his subjectivity) are of significance to you, Middle – all because of one tiny little word – “narrow”. With that utterance, you apparently feel that so much offense has been done to your effort – this cause to demonize Cohen, that you will avoid the incredibly larger picture which we have been discussing.

    Are all these other things regarding what is happening in Iran really less important to you than how Cohen flubs in his musings on the treatment of Iranian Jews? If so, maybe you should change your alias from “themiddle” to “The Extremist”.

    Or as Mr Miyagi said regarding a “so-so” knowledge of karate, “Walk on road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture] get the squish, just like grape.”

    A polemicist should actually take a side every now and then. Leave the middle to the voters.

  • Roger Cohen on March 16, 2009:

    “Were you paid by the Iranian government for your trip?” one audience member asked Cohen.

    No, Cohen said, though he paid an Iranian agency $150 a day for the services of a translator, who acknowledged that he would have to file a report on Cohen’s doings with the authorities.

    In his presentation, Cohen said that labeling Iran a totalitarian regime ready to destroy Israel and the West’s infidels is a “grotesque caricature.” Rather, he argued, Iran’s leadership is pragmatic and primarily concerned with assuring its own survival.

    Iran, he said, is the most democratic state in the Middle East outside Israel, and its leadership opposes the Taliban and al-Qaida.

    Roger Cohen on June 20, 2009:

    The world is watching, and technology is connecting, and the West is sending what signals it can, but in the end that is true. Iranians have fought this lonely fight for a long time: to be free, to have a measure of democracy.

    The same cry was heard in 1979, only for one form of absolutism to yield to another. Iran has waited long enough to be free.

    I’m sorry, did somebody say he wasn’t a fool?

  • Oh, and MUL, you sure do piss and moan about me quite a bit. I suppose it’s because I’m another critic of Obama’s. Your response, however, in trying to paint me as an extremist and not yourself with the blind support of a person who, last I checked, was not the Messiah but another human being who is capable of making errors, seems awkward at best.

    Let’s review: I support freedom and democracy. I especially support freedom and democracy for states where there is little of it. Iran is such a state. Iran also happens to be a state led by Muslim fundamentalists whose puppet leader has been calling Israel all kinds of nasty things and strongly stating that it must be eliminated as a state (I know, I know, Juan Cole says that’s not what was said, but that is in fact what was said and people like Cole and Cohen now look precisely like the fools they have been for a long time because the latest developments in Iran prove them wrong).

    So when Cohen first wrote about Iranian Jews being decently treated, we criticized him for it. However, as the sparring article linked to in the previous comment shows, it was hard to squash his stupid commentary because he could rely upon the fact that there was no substantive evidence that what he said is false.

    We can see now that he was wrong. He basically acknowledges it in his latest piece in the NY Times, without taking that last step and apologizing. He should have also been upfront in the op-ed about Iranian Jews and indicated that he had a translator with him and the translator was a government informant. He didn’t.

    Somehow, bringing up that Jews and other minorities in Iran have little freedom and that Cohen is a fool whose reports can’t be trusted is viewed as extreme by an Obama supporter who apparently also supports Cohen. Why? What is extreme about my views? That I see Iran as hostile and truly dangerous? That I believe it is a sponsor of terror and of the two militias on Israel’s borders that have engaged Israel in attacks and wars? That I don’t believe the Jews there have decent lives? That I speak out about it and claim their democracy isn’t real and their lies about nukes both warrant the approbation of the international community before they gain the impossible-to-defeat nuclear arsenal they so desire?

    I’m not even pushing for war or an attack on Iran. I hope that sanctions will do the trick. If somebody (like our new President) would get on it instead of playing the appeasement and oh-they’re-good-people-so-let’s-see-if-treating-them-politely-will-get-them-to-budge while they continue to build out their dream, maybe this could be stopped in time.

    People like Cohen undermine that possibility with their foolish articles. There is nothing extreme in anything I’ve written here at all. That is, there’s nothing extreme unless your views are so slanted to supporting a President that you have to tear down his critics in order to promote his views.

  • Cohen is very dumb. And a propagandist. I expect him to be referring to Mousavi as a liberal democrat any day now.