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Monday, March 16, 2009

Cohen on Iran: Is this how Barack Obama thinks too? (with video)

Earlier today, I ripped yet another New York Times article by Roger Cohen, the reporter who believes that Iranian Jews 'don't have it so bad' and that the Iranian regime is 'pragmatic.' In previous articles, Cohen had argued that Hamas and Hezbullah don't really want to destroy Israel, that Iran is an 'open society,' and that Iran's Jews hate Israel and love the Mullahs.

In today's column, Cohen mentions that he visited a Los Angeles synagogue, where he was confronted by Iranian Jews who fled the Islamic regime. The following is a videotape of the public portion of that confrontation. It runs a bit more than an hour and a half, and you may wish to watch it in parts, or to skip to the text below before watching it.

But in the meantime, let's go to the videotape.

I got to this videotape through an article at Huffington Post by Rabbi David Wolpe, the rabbi of the synagogue at which Cohen spoke (Hat Tip: Memeorandum). Rabbi Wolpe confirms what we all suspected:
At dinner - with among others Jimmy Delshad, former Mayor of Beverly hills and novelist Gina Nahai, Cohen heard again and again that the Jews he spoke to in Iran were well aware that their words were monitored. Indeed, Cohen said his own translator told him in no uncertain terms that he (the translator) would file a report of all his movements after he left. Well, people pointed out quite reasonably, might that intimidate the interviewees just a wee bit?

There have been arrests, even executions in Iran of Jews, both at the time of the revolution and following. But increasingly I came to believe that Iran was not Cohen's sole concern; he wanted it as a stick with which to beat Israel over Gaza, whose incursion he wrote left him ashamed.

The evening began with a long, reasoned statement from Cohen. But to my mind the challenges I offered him, and the audience offered, were met with restatements of the same position, and little acknowledgment of the force of the argument. I asked "You advocate negotiations with Hamas and Hizbollah, arguing that they can be pragmatic. What if Hamas and Hizbollah had the arms of Israel and Israel had their force of arms. What do you think would happen?" To my amazement, he said he didn't know. Well, I do. And so does he. For all the thoughtless and ignorant cry that Israel is committing 'genocide' no one doubts the true genocide that would befall the Jews of Israel if Hamas had a superior force of arms. As Iran moves closer to a nuclear weapon, such a question becomes less and less theoretical.
Yes, Roger Cohen is trying to beat Israel into submission. He's trying to sell us a bill of goods that tells us that we have nothing to fear from Iran or Hamas or Hezbullah, and therefore Israel should immediately give them whatever they want and step back from the brink of war, as if that's simple.

But what really struck me was the last paragraph of Rabbi Wolpe's post:
It is, as Dr. Johnson said in another context, the triumph of hope over experience. Of course, as the Iranian Jews pointedly said over and over again that night, the relevant experience is not Mr. Cohen's two week trip in the region. The deep experience is theirs, burned into their minds. And it is not, alas, one that suggests a solution any time soon.
Isn't that what the Obama administration's foreign policy is all about - the triumph of hope over experience? The President, who has been in Israel twice for a total of three days, is trying to tell us and the rest of the world that we have nothing to fear from Iran, Hamas and Hezbullah. Does Obama think like Roger Cohen? I suspect that he does.

Although he posted an excerpt of Rabbi Wolpe's remarks without comment, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who is a mutual friend of Rabbi Wolpe and Cohen, noted in his post's title that Cohen, "came, listened, learned nothing." Does that describe Barack Obama's approach to the Middle East as well? I fear that it does.

Read the whole thing.


At 12:02 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

You might have added that Hassan Nasrallah said as late as last Friday night his group would never, not even in a 1,000 years recognize Israel and added for good measure Israel could be uprooted and wiped out. I wonder what the Roger Cohens of the world think of that kind of view. It is plain as day Israel has enemies who want to see her destroyed and all he has to offer are platitudes that don't even address their determination to remove Israel from the Middle East.

And there's the CIA report you probably heard about already, Carl - that predicts Israel will fall within the next 20 years. And you see what the Jewish State is up against in today's international climate.

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Cohen is no different from Naturei Karta,...how?

At 1:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cohen is a pseudointellectual idiot

"i dont like to hear educated palestinians called terrorists"

wasnt arafat college educated???

"i dont like a highway only for jews"

first, the highway is open to iraelis...that includes non jewish israelis....second, that highway has been shut down to the arab palestians because of terrorism


At 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, just one more, where Rabbi Singer has some words for Jews like Cohen.

At 7:32 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Cohen would probably say that Nasrallah doesn't really mean it or that Nasrallah could moderate his position if only we offered him an outstretched hand. Of course, Cohen's rear end is not on the line to take the chance that he's wrong.

Yes, I read about that CIA report....


It's Afghanistan. Mrs. Carl's father was the Rabbi (real Rabbi) of an Iranian synagogue for many years. After the 'Islamic revolution,' there was a large influx of people who escaped from Iran. That's how they all came.

I was not familiar with the Temple, and couldn't really tell in the video whether the rabbi wears a yarmulka to figure it out.


Don't forget the 'moderate' Dr. Mazen's PhD thesis denying the Holocaust....

At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I'm not happy with some of what I said, so I'm deleting what I think is the worst of it. If I have time later, I'll repost the information in the deleted sections that I think should stay.


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