Saturday, August 4, 2012

Colbert King's Hysterical Rant against Iranian Anti-Semitism

I'm hard pressed to understand exactly what motivated WaPo op-ed writer Colbert King to unleash himself on this issue, but today he tries to paint "Iran" as the looming annihilator of the entire Jewish people.  Wow.

Have Mahmud Ahmadinejad and members of the Iranian regime spouted ridiculous anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying garbage? Yes, undeniably - and it's repulsive, disgusting.  Have Iranian agents targeted synagogues across the planet?  The evidence surely suggests so (although I'm still waiting for Mr. Netanyahu to divulge the supposedly rock-solid case he has against Iran in re the recent tourist-bus bombing in Bulgaria).  

But does that mean, for example, that, given the opportunity, the Iranian regime would create a Juden-rein Middle East? or planet?

Read from Roger Cohen's much more reasoned, and reasonable, NYTimes piece on his visit with Iranian Jews in February 2009:

a mystery hovers over Iran’s Jews. It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity.

Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric.

That may be because I’m a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian TV, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the “Mad Mullah” caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 — a position popular in some American Jewish circles — is misleading and dangerous.

I know, if many Jews left Iran, it was for a reason. Hostility exists. The trumped-up charges of spying for Israel against a group of Shiraz Jews in 1999 showed the regime at its worst. Jews elect one representative to Parliament, but can vote for a Muslim if they prefer. A Muslim, however, cannot vote for a Jew.

Among minorities, the Bahai — seven of whom were arrested recently on charges of spying for Israel — have suffered brutally harsh treatment.

I asked Morris Motamed, once the Jewish member of the Majlis, if he felt he was used, an Iranian quisling. “I don’t,” he replied. “In fact I feel deep tolerance here toward Jews.” He said “Death to Israel” chants bother him, but went on to criticize the “double standards” that allow Israel, Pakistan and India to have a nuclear bomb, but not Iran.

Double standards don’t work anymore; the Middle East has become too sophisticated. One way to look at Iran’s scurrilous anti-Israel tirades is as a provocation to focus people on Israel’s bomb, its 41-year occupation of the West Bank, its Hamas denial, its repetitive use of overwhelming force. Iranian language can be vile, but any Middle East peace — and engagement with Tehran — will have to take account of these points.

Green Zoneism — the basing of Middle Eastern policy on the construction of imaginary worlds — has led nowhere.

Realism about Iran should take account of Esfehan’s ecumenical Palestine Square. At the synagogue, Benhur Shemian, 22, told me Gaza showed Israel’s government was “criminal,” but still he hoped for peace. At the Al-Aqsa mosque, Monteza Foroughi, 72, pointed to the synagogue and said: “They have their prophet; we have ours. And that’s fine.”

What Colbert King hoped to accomplish with his piece is difficult to divine.  But at a time when Congress has been screaming for Iran's collective head, and when too many "good Christian" Americans are foaming at the mouth to defend Israel by starting a war with Iran, King's hysteria can only feed the war-mongering.

For those of us who feel that attacking Iran would be catastrophic, both to US interests and to Israel's, King's piece is most unwelcome, and unhelpful.

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