Such is the outcry against Roger Cohen's two columns downplaying the Iranian regime's antisemitism that the New York Times seems to be publishing readers' letters daily. Almost all challenge Cohen's assumptions. Here are two in full: (with thanks: Tom Gross)
"As a Persian Jew whose family was sentenced to death by the Islamic Republic of Iran as “corrupters on earth” and “agents of Zionism,” I was amused by Roger Cohen’s vision of Iranian treatment of its Jewish population.
"Perhaps Mr. Cohen should have interviewed the Persian Jews living in exile in Los Angeles, who would have told him not to assume that the Jews left in Iran can honestly complain about their status. If Iran is such a haven, why has the Jewish population of Iran only declined from the Safavid period, to 100,000 at the time of the Islamic Revolution to only 25,000 today?
"Mr. Cohen could have asked my dad why Jews were called “ritually unclean” (a comment also reserved for stray dogs). He could talk to my grandfather about the pogroms that took place in Tehran and other cities when Jews walked on the same side of the street as a Muslim, or talk to the Jews of the city of Mashad who had to remain hidden as Jews for decades after being forced to convert to Islam.
"Just because the Persians were not as efficient in killing or exiling their Jews as others were or just because there are a few synagogues left in Iran doesn’t mean that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not mean it when he says that Israel should be wiped off the map, or that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei didn’t mean it when he said that Israel is a “cancerous tumor of a state” that “should be removed from the region.”David Simantob Los Angeles, March 2, 2009
"Roger Cohen, apparently to indicate Iran’s genuine acceptance of Jews, mentions the visit in 2003 of Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian president at the time, to a Tehran synagogue.
"But one should take note of what Mr. Khatami actually said in the synagogue. He insisted on drawing a distinction between Judaism and Zionism and talked of “coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews in Palestine.”
"It took no bravery on the part of Mr. Khatami to visit the house of worship of a small minority who dare not publicly disagree with him. A more believable sign of Iran’s acceptance of Jews will be when Mr. Khatami returns to the synagogue and acknowledges Israel’s right to exist.
Norwich, Conn., March 2, 2009