New York Times columnist Roger Cohen sparred with members of Los Angeles’ Iranian Jewish community about his recent columns on Iranian Jews. JTA has the story, and the L.A. Jewish Journal has the video from the synagogue forum last Thursday night.
Cohen offers his own reflections of the event in his column on Monday.
This time, after hearing from Iranian Jewish expats, he makes one concession in his rosy analysis of the status of Jews in Iran. He writes: "Just how repressive life is for Iran’s Jews is impossible to know. Iran is an un-free society."
I did not expect to like Roger Cohen, when I went last night (with a PJTV crew) to see him speak to an audience of Iranian American Jews at an LA synagogue. The journalist had recently visited Iran and has written columns for the NYT on what he views as the relatively benign condition of Jews in that country. I had read those columns and Ron Radosh’s apposite responses.
So I knew I would find Cohen annoying at best, but I had no idea how boring he would be. He began by saying he would make some brief remarks before taking audience questions. Those remarks ended up filling the better part of an hour and were as predictable as they were lecturing. There was hardly a word the columnist said that surprised, even if you could give him plaudits for having the courage to say them in front of an audience of Iranian Jews who clearly voted against his views with their feet. They left the country.
Cohen’s opening statement ended, also predictably though inappropriately, with an impassioned defense of diplomat Charles Freeman, allegedly just pushed out of potential government office by that evil omnipotent cabal of AIPAC, right wing bloggers, etc. No word, of course, on Freeman’s execrable defense of the Chinese government in the face of the pro-democracy movement in that country and the student massacre at Tiananmen. This display of what Orwell might have called “objectively pro-fascist” behavior by Freeman apparently does not dismay Cohen, despite murmurings about China I heard all around me from a predominantly Jewish audience. In fact, Cohen didn’t have half the grace of that audience who actually gave a polite round of applause to his deadening speech.