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Monday, March 02, 2009

Roger Cohen hits bottom, digs deeper

A New York Times op-ed by Roger Cohen last week hit bottom by claiming that Iranian Jews are hostile to Israel and not to the Mullahcracy and that reality in Iran is that Jews have freedom of worship - after the vast majority of Iran's Jews have escaped over the last thirty years.
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.”
For his service as a useful idiot to the Ahmadinejad regime, Cohen was lambasted by bloggers around the world.

You would think that would have been enough to shut him up. But Cohen is back again and this time he again puts his foot in his mouth and digs it in deeper (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
I was based in Berlin for three years; Germany’s confrontation with the Holocaust inhabited me. Let’s be clear: Iran’s Islamic Republic is no Third Reich redux. Nor is it a totalitarian state.

Munich allowed Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland. Iran has not waged an expansionary war in more than two centuries.

Totalitarian regimes require the complete subservience of the individual to the state and tolerate only one party to which all institutions are subordinated. Iran is an un-free society with a keen, intermittently brutal apparatus of repression, but it’s far from meeting these criteria. Significant margins of liberty, even democracy, exist. Anything but mad, the mullahs have proved malleable.

Most of Iran’s population is under 30; it’s an Internet-connected generation. Access to satellite television is widespread. The BBC’s new Farsi service is all the rage.

Abdullah Momeni, a student opponent of the regime, told me, “The Internet is very important to us; in fact, it is of infinite importance.” Iranians are not cut off, like Cubans or North Koreans.
Iran may have more than one party, but all of them are based upon its being an Islamic state and are required to be Islamic. Why Cohen doesn't consider that fascist is left to him to explain. But the Iranian regime is certainly totalitarian. Last week in Tehran, there was a bloody crackdown on students who were protesting the burial of 'unknown martyrs' from the Iran-Iraq war on their college campus. The purpose of the burials in such an inappropriate place is to "preserve the culture of fighting in fronts."

What matters most about Iran and the comparison between it and Nazi Germany is not how repressive its government is but that it shares Germany's genocidal goals. Time and again Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has threatened to wipe out the Jewish state with nuclear weapons while denying that Germany attempted to exterminate the Jews 65 years ago. So has Ahamadinejad's alleged 'moderate' opponent Mohammed Khatami. The fact that he 'once spoke in a synagogue' - according to Cohen - is about as relevant as the Klansman of the '60's who said "some of my best friends are black." That Klansman was still a racist. For some examples of what Khatami has said about Jews and Israel, please go here. He's not a 'moderate.'

I don't know when Cohen was based in Berlin but I would bet that it was after World War II and probably even after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Germany was occupied by the wartime powers for several years after the War, during which, at least on the western side, the country was de-Nazified. What is accepted discourse in Germany today or even 20 years ago is far different than what was accepted there during the Nazi regime. There is no comparison. The German people are generally contrite about their role in the attempted genocide against the Jews. The Germans have a very different type of discourse than the Iranian mullahs.

But what may be most egregious in Cohen's article is his attempt to compare Avigdor Lieberman and the 12.5% of Israeli voters who voted for him with the mullahs.
It’s worth recalling that hateful, ultranationalist rhetoric is no Iranian preserve. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s race-baiting anti-Arab firebrand, may find a place in a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. He should not.
Lieberman has not called for anyone to be murdered. He has not called for genocide and he has not called for the Israeli government to become fascist. He has suggested that since much of Israel's Arab population considers itself to be 'Palestinian,' in the context of establishing a 'Palestinian state,' it would behoove Israel to exchange the land on which those Arabs live and the people on it for land within Judea and Samaria (which the 'Palestinians' consider to be theirs) on which Jews live, together with those Jews. A lot of people may not like that proposal, but it certainly is not one that calls for genocide.

Oh and by the way, Iranian democracy supporters are not crazy about al-Beeb's new Farsi service. Maybe Cohen should talk to some Iranian expatriates who are free to speak before he raves about it the next time.


At 3:19 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

This imbecile didn't interview any Bahrainis. They're terrified of Iran's recent expansionist threats to their little state. (Kind of reminds you of Saddam's threat - then occupation and rape - of Kuwait.)


At 3:20 PM, Blogger Comrade Tovya said...

I know what you mean. The left tagged Lieberman as the "neo-Kahane" as well and he's nothing like Kahane was.

He's just another sensationalist politician under investigation for corruption. He's a shock-jock looking for headlines.

It's all political planning though.

They knew that if Likud won enough mandates, they'd probably be forced to deal with Lieberman to bring a right-wing coalition together.

So, call Lieberman the neo-Kahane, bigot, and a racist, and now you can call Netanyahu one next for "dealing with the devil".

All propaganda, and no substance--as usual. Just another day in politics.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Roger Cohen does his best to explain away genocidal, institutional and legal anti-Semitism in a country whose official policy is the elimination of Israel from the region. Iran is a threat not just to Israel but to the Arabs and to the entire world. The ancient Persians were defeated by the Greeks at Thermopylae. In contrast, no one seems willing to stand up for freedom in the face of modern Iran's imperial ambitions. Cohen overlooks the fact the Nazis in their early years in power in Germany dissembled and put forward a mask of peace-loving moderates to the world. It was only a mask and we all know how it eventually turned out. Iran is doing the same thing to buy time for getting a nuclear weapon.

The man is a useful idiot!

At 6:33 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

As for the much bally-hooed "Internet connectivity," of which Cohen makes so much of, its worth noting that William Shirer pointed out in his classic history of Nazi Germany, that Germans could listen to foreign radio and travel abroad and the Nazi authorities did not seem worried they would be infected by liberal ideas from the outside the country. So the fact that Iranians are exposed to the West means nothing more than it did when the Germans were exposed to views from England and America. Iran's farcical elections have candidates approved only by the regime - they are about as free as the one party list election in the Nazi time in Germany which they are. Only Islamist candidates are permitted run for office.

Iran is as totalitarian as Nazi Germany was and shares the same genocidal impulse. For Cohen to dismiss it is testimony to the inability of a journalist to see the real picture. Its worth nothing, even Shirer, who knew the real face of Nazism, found it hard to separate the truth from the lies when he reported from Germany.
Why should Cohen believe Iran is any more truthful about either its foreign policy goals or what goes on inside the country?

The real picture is much more menacing than what Cohen chose to see when he was in Iran.


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