Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wolpe, Cohen, and Iran

I haven't blogged on Roger Cohen's exceedingly puzzling columns on Iran, its Jews, and Israel (although I have posted a few comments on other people's blogs), but I would now point to Rabbi David Wolpe's account of Cohen's visit to his synagogue in Los Angeles to speak to the Iranian Jewish members of the synagogue (it's about half Iranian Jews): Rabbi David Wolpe: Clashing Over Iran and the Jews.

The encounter came about because of a suggestion by Jeffrey Goldberg that Cohen go there to meet with some Iranian Jews who were not constrained by the Iranian regime because they didn't live there anymore.

Well, Cohen doesn't appear to have learned anything from his conversation with these people. Compare Cohen's article with Wolpe's to see how there was definitely no meeting of the minds (as Cohen says).

I think that Cohen somehow became convinced of a mirage when he visited Iran - that the regime is really much more moderate than it presents itself to be. I don't know how he gained this impression, given the statements of Ahmedinejad and more to the point of Ali Khameini about Israel. He seems to have conflated his pleasant personal experiences in Iran with the political reality there.

I'm also in favor of the U.S. talking to Iran, rather than branding it a member of the Axis of Evil, but I think we should do so in full consciousness of who we're dealing with - a regime that oppresses its own people, that treats Jews as second-class citizens, that executes homosexuals, that persecutes Bahai's (who are not recognized as members of a legitimate religion), a regime that is very probably doing its best to acquire the atom bomb, a regime that supports Hezbollah and Hamas both morally and militarily. At this point, I think that it's in the interest of the United States to be talking to Iran, not fighting it. But our government should not have any illusions about the regime that it is talking to. I'm glad to see that Obama seems to have this same consciousness of the nature of the Iranian regime when he advocates talking to them.

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