I promise my blog isn’t devoted to Roger Cohen. As I’ve written previously, I genuinely like his writing–most of the time. But each of his columns in the last weeks about Iran and the Jews has been progressively more and more off-key. This morning, he blows it completely, in my view. Over the weekend, he relates, he went to Los Angeles at the invitation of Rabbi David Wolpe to meet L.A.’s large Persian-Jewish community. He writes:

Earlier, Sam Kermanian, a leader of the Iranian Jewish community, said I had been used, that Iran’s Jews are far worse off than they appear, and that my portrayal of them was pernicious as it “leads people to believe Israel’s enemies are not as real as you may think.” He called the mullahs brilliantly manipulative: “They know their abilities and limitations.”

On at least this last point I agree. Just how repressive life is for Iran’s Jews is impossible to know. Iran is an un-free society. But this much is clear: the hawks’ case against Iran depends on a vision of an apocalyptic regime — with no sense of its limitations — so frenziedly anti-Semitic that it would accept inevitable nuclear annihilation if it could destroy Israel first.

The presence of these Jews undermines that vision. It blunts the hawks’ case; hence the rage.

So he agrees that the Iranian leadership is manipulative, but then chalks it up to American/Jewsh apolocalypticism and neurosis? He goes on to talk about how pragmatic Iran has proven to be since the revolution, and how we can count on that pragmatism in the future. Roger, if we could count on level-headedness and pragmatism, how do you explain the presidency of George W. Bush? Just because people have shown–occasional–good sense in the past does not mean you should rely on that in the future. Here Reagan was right: If you’re going to trust, you also have to verify. The testimony of the Iranian Jews you met undermined Cohen’s argument, yet he didn’t draw any lessons from it.

Finally, in the last paragraph, he bought the anti-Israel view of Chas Freeman’s withdrawal, the refutation of which I showed in a previous post.

I really want Roger Cohen to be right. I don’t like the idea of a clash of civilizations, and I do believe that moderation is possible. But this column finally convinces me that when it comes to Iran, Roger Cohen is being played.

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