Debating Roger Cohen

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."

He also manages to note one good thing about Israel — because it serves to make a positive point about the government in Iran: "This is the Middle East’s least undemocratic state outside Israel."

But that’s as far as the good news from Cohen goes.

He suggests Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is "pragmatic," describes Washington’s ties with Israel as a "cozy, static regional relationship" and echoes those who have blamed the "Israel lobby" for the withdrawal of Charles "Chas" Freeman’s candidacy for a senior intelligence post in the Obama administration.

Though the Times itself has endorsed that last point in its coverage of the Freeman affair, JTA’s Ron Kampeas laid that myth to rest in a brilliant blogpost on March 9, a day before Freeman withdrew his name from consideration for the post, and in countless blogposts since (see Capital J, JTA’s politics blog, for ongoing coverage of the Freeman affair).

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