American Foreign Policy and Iran’s Jews

The Obama administration has repeatedly commented on its desire to engage Iran more constructively. And while the possibility of success … Continued

The Obama administration has repeatedly commented on its desire to engage Iran more constructively. And while the possibility of success can be debated, it seems that failing to try would only guarantee the current unacceptable status quo. The New York Times’ Roger Cohen returned from a trip to Iran and reaches similar conclusions, but for very bad reasons — ones which suggest the acceptability of racial and religious bias which should never be acceptable.

Cohen is correct about both the failure of what he calls Green Zoneism, advancing Middle East policy based on the conditions and partners we wished existed instead of those who really do. But basing his conclusions on his experiences in Esfahan’s Palestine square could not be more wrong. He reports on the lives of Jews who admit that they live, in their own words, as a “tolerated” minority. Hardly something which either Mr. Cohen or anybody else should find comforting.

Jews in Iran live as a permanent underclass who must constantly prove their loyalty to the nation in which they live by shouting the loudest about the actions of fellow Jews in other countries. They are like German Jews in WWI, who were especially proud of the French and English Jews they killed because it demonstrated that they were “really” German. That’s tragic. It’s shameful to see it repeated in the 21st century and hardly the basis upon which to build a new and smarter foreign policy.

It’s not that I believe Cohen’s informants were insincere in their comments to him; simply that they were coerced, either overtly or more subtly. That kind of subtle coercion is the by-product of toleration as opposed to genuine equality.

To be sure, Iran’s Jews are not prisoners there. They choose to stay. And there is, as Mr. Cohen points out, a big difference between being a Jew in Iran and being a Jew in the Arab world. But making that distinction is akin to claiming that it was better to be a Jew in 19th century Germany than it was in 19th century Russia — neither was without its problems, to say the least.

As for those who would compare the lot of Jews in Iran with that of Palestinians living under Israeli control, we should be clear. No more people would choose to live as Jews in Iran than would choose to live as Palestinians in Israel and that should not be ignored. Israeli Arabs have the right to protest, publish and politic at will. This includes the right not only to critique the state in which they live, but to call for its end. Can Iran’s Jews do the same?

If our eagerness to move past one form of Green Zoneism simply invites another, then we will have moved forward not at all, and may have actually taken a giant step backward. We do need change, but not kind.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • edbyronadams

    All one has to do is look at the shrinking proportion of minority populations is almost every Muslim majority nation to discover which religion seems to correlate to ethnic cleansing.

  • daniel12

    My opinion of the Muslim world is extremely low. People say only the radicals give a bad name to Islam, but I find virtually all Muslims to be something of radicals.Take for example holocaust denial in the Muslim world. We are told the Jews not only suffered no holocaust in WW2 but that they are perpetrating a holocaust against the Palestinians. You mean we are supposed to believe the Palestinians are suffering a holocaust when only 7 million or so Jews live in Israel? –A number of Jews comparable to the number that was slaughtered in WW2 (6 million)?But that is the Muslim world for you. In fact they say the Jews fabricated the holocaust. The relatively few Jews against millions of Germans. And the relatively few Jews now are supposed to be perpetrating a holocaust against the Palestinians. Would it be useless for me to state that the Jews are vastly outnumbered in the middle east and cannot possibly be perpetrating a holocaust? Probably so.

  • CrazyDream

    They were persians who helped to free the first temple 25 centuries ago, to rebuild it again & to provide jews with relative authority over their fate in their promised land. Time to remember & cherish your history, Rabbai.”As for those who would compare the lot of Jews in Iran with that of Palestinians living under Israeli control, we should be clear. No more people would choose to live as Jews in Iran than would choose to live as Palestinians in Israel and that should not be ignored. Israeli Arabs have the right to protest, publish and politic at will. This includes the right not only to critique the state in which they live, but to call for its end. Can Iran’s Jews do the same?Dare to compare Iran with Israel? Jews in Iran appreciate their history for least!

  • ivri5768

    Oh yeah. Jews love to be in Iran. That’s why a million left. Please. Give us a break. Like we’re supposed to believe they want to stay. Right. How can you be so naive? Haven’t you read anything about the history of Iranian Jews? I mean for the last coupla thousand years? The mass exodus in the last thirty years? What do you want the poor bastards who’re still there to say? We hate it? Get us out?

  • hassani1387

    Brad Hirschfield has never set foot in Iran and insists that Jews must be mistreated there as an article of faith because otherwise it would undermine his and the pro-Israeli neocon’s efforts to demonize Iran.The fact of the matter is that even Iranian Jews in Israel long to return to Iran. Iran remains home to Jewish enclave

  • daniel12

    I really must comment further on the notion rampant in the Muslim world that not only did the Jews suffer no holocaust in Germany in WW2 but that they are perpetrating a holocaust against the Palestinians.First of all it is historical fact that the Jews suffered a holocaust in Germany. Furthermore the Jews in Germany were vastly outnumbered by the Germans. And of course around 6 million Jews perished.Now move to Israel. In Israel we have nearly the same number of Jews that perished in Germany in WW2. But we are told by Muslims that the Jews are perpetrating a holocaust. You mean that only 7 million or so Jews in Israel are perpetrating a holocaust when they are surrounded by vastly greater numbers of Muslims and all the nations surrounding Israel at one time or another have attacked Israel? And some holocaust the Israelis are pursuing! The Muslim birthrate is greater than the Jewish.–In other words precisely the Palestinians that the Jews are supposed to be perpetrating a holocaust against are outbreeding the Israelis. But of course such facts mean nothing to the Muslims.We will continue to be told that not only was there no holocaust in Germany but that the Jews are perpetrating a holocaust in the middle east. And of course that the Jews in the middle east are “perpetrating a holocaust” means the Muslims have every right to obliterate the Israelis.

  • Aliz23

    This is a worthless article. Just a few of the many misrepresentations of facts: “racial bias”? Is the author actually suggesting what I think he is?