Times foreign policy columnist Roger Cohen got awfully touchy about some criticism for his column last month,talking to some apparently contented Jews living in Iran and displaying a disturbing naiveté about the nature of the danger Iran poses to Israel, its own Jews, and the world. Not backing down, Cohen responded to his critics in his Sunday column for the international edition of the Times, and went after a conservative blog in personal terms while restating his belief that fears of Iran are overstated.
So the Jerusalem Post thinks I'm "hardly the first American to be misled by the existence of synagogues in totalitarian countries."
The Atlantic Monthly's Jeffrey Goldberg finds me "particularly credulous," taken in by the Iranian hospitality and friendliness that "are the hallmarks of most Muslim societies." (Thanks for that info, Jeffrey.)
A conservative Web site called "American Thinker," which tries to prove its name is an oxymoron, believes I would have been fooled by the Nazis' sham at the Theresienstadt camp.
The indignation stems from my recent column on Iranian Jews which said that the 25,000-strong community worships in relative tranquility; that Persian Jews have fared better than Arab Jews; that hostility toward Jews in Iran has on occasion led to trumped-up charges against them; and that those enamored of the "mad mullah" caricature of Iran regard any compromise with it as a re-run of Munich 1938.
This last point found confirmation in outraged correspondence from several American Jews unable to resist some analogy between Iran and Nazi Germany. 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.
American Thinker's Thomas Lifson addressed Cohen's response to the criticism from AT contributor Ed Lasky.
It is sad spectacle when a NYT columnist is reduced to responding to serious criticism by making a joke about a name rather than replying in substance. It becomes tragic when the columnist is behaving as a useful idiot defending a regime dedicated to the eradication of another state.
Cohen's follow-up article on Sunday restated his defense of Iran, claiming:
Iran has not waged an expansionary war in more than two centuries.
AT's Lasky disagreed:
Iran has been waging proxy wars in Lebanon andIsrael-Gaza; and add Iran's support of Al Sadr in Iraq, designed to cause civil war with the Sunnis....Iran may be aiding subversive movements in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia among restive Shiite populations there (Bahrain is majority Shiite ruled by Sunni royals).
And Cohen said that to think of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups is "simplistic":
But the equating of Iran with terror today is simplistic. Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into broad political movements widely seen as resisting an Israel over-ready to use crushing force. It is essential to think again about them, just as it is essential to toss out Iran caricatures.