I was traveling for lectures last week, and so am only catching up on my reading now. I came across this column by the New York Times’s Roger Cohen entitled “What Iran’s Jews Say” and his defense of it, here. What to say? I’m familiar with the synagogue and attended it when I lived in Isfahan. I chatted with some of the university-aged students who had taken shelter in an attached guesthouse because, as Jews, they were beat up in the university dormitories. Men and women both referred to the Jews’ representative in the Parliament as a flunky for the regime, and would not discuss problems or issues when he was around. Several would say one thing in the synagogue, but when we went to parks on took walks through the city, they would bend over backwards to make clear that they cannot talk freely in the synagogue since the walls have ears. The same sentiment was expressed at synagogues in Tehran and Shiraz. Cohen, however, talks to him as the authority and takes his word that he is not a quisling. True, Jews are better of in Iran than in many neighboring countries, but there is a reason why their number has dropped by 80% over the last three decades. Cohen simply appears on a propaganda tour; parachuting in, an eager recepticle for his regime minders. It should not surprise that his column now graces the pages of the regime’s mouth piece, The Tehran Times.
You’d think after the Grey Lady would have learned her lesson after, a few years ago, the New York Times correspondent visited Tehran and quoted a University of Tehran professor talking about domestic protests. The correspondent was simply unaware that the man he quoted was known to every academic who went into Iran as the person in charge of ‘minding’ foreign visitors to Iran.