Sunday, March 01, 2009

Nuance is wonderful - when you get to choose what is nuanced and what is absolute.

Roger Cohen responds to critics of his column about how wonderful life is for the Jews of Iran. (I can't say he actually answers any of the questions those critics brought up, but he has plenty of indignation for them.) He lets us know that it is wrong, very wrong, to see things as being black and white:
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.

I return to this subject because behind the Jewish issue in Iran lies a critical one - the U.S. propensity to fixate on and demonize a country through a one-dimensional lens, with a sometimes disastrous chain of results.
Does anyone find it the slightest bit disingenuous to see Cohen blaming the US for being "one dimensional" on Iran, when Iranian newspapers and officials openly wish for the destruction of America?

But Cohen's clear lens to the world, of moral relativism and shades of grey, gets strangely distorted when the topic comes up of whom he considers truly evil:
It's worth recalling that hateful, ultra-nationalist rhetoric is no Iranian preserve. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's race-baiting anti-Arab firebrand, may find a place in a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Funny how all the nuance so suddenly disappears!

Cohen doesn't manage in his column to find an answer to this letter in the NYT:
To the Editor:

I was a 9-year-old girl living in Tehran when my family fled to America as a result of the Islamic Revolution. We didn’t leave Iran because of the weather, but because of a second-class existence transformed into a nightmare of religious persecution, which the few remaining Jews that Roger Cohen found have sadly internalized and accepted.

For Mr. Cohen to suggest that Iranian Jews have anything close to religious freedom or free expression in Iran is to discredit the long history of Muslim oppression and to deny the experience of generations of Jews who locked themselves in their homes during the Ashura holidays lest they become the target of the frenzied Shiite masses who filled the streets, or who cringed when they were called a word meaning dirty and impure and told to wait at the end of the line to draw water.

What about the Jewish schools and institutions that were systematically shut down after the Islamic Revolution? Or the fact that while Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are free to shout “Death to Israel,” Iranian Jews are forced to?

We must never forget the true history of Jews under Muslim regimes — my history.


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