Tehran - Reporting From Iran, Jewish Paper The Forward Sees No Plot To Destroy Israel
Tehran - In the first of what is scheduled to be two published accounts of his recent all-access trip inside Iran, FORWARD reporter Larry Cohler-Esses paints a picture of a progressive Iranian culture, one in which its people freely criticize current policy under the Ayatollah, while offering up less threatening views towards Israel than are often reported in western media.
In his piece “A Jewish Journalist’s Exclusive Look Inside Iran” at FORWARD.com (http://bit.ly/1IYAo9I), Cohler-Esses explains the two-year process he underwent in securing the first pro-Israel Jewish reporter’s visa granted by the iranian government since 1979, a period, oddly enough, when Cohler-Esses worked as an English teacher in Iran just prior to the overthrow of the Shah.
Contrasting historical treatment of the Jews inside Iran, Cohler-Esses states that today’s members of the Jewish community “are tolerated and protected under Iranian law, but subject to a number of discriminatory laws and practices that limit their opportunities for work in senior government posts and in other ways. But they do not limit their opportunities in business.”
“The Jews, who felt free to complain to me openly about these areas of discrimination, as they do to the government, are basically well-protected second-class citizens — a broadly prosperous, largely middle-class community whose members have no hesitation about walking down the streets of Tehran wearing yarmulkes,” Cohler-Esses writes.
While acknowledging that the “timing” of the Islamic Republic granting him a visa may in fact be a “well-timed move” aimed at influencing the upcoming debate in congress over Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran, Cohler-Esses states that, “If so, the signals to that affect were mixed.”
On being granted access to high ranking senior ayatollahs and other political and government officials, Cohler-Esses states, “it became clear that there is high-placed dissent to the official line against Israel.”
“No one had anything warm to say about the Jewish state. But pressed as to whether it was Israel’s policies or its very existence to which they objected, several were adamant: It’s Israel’s policies,” he writes, while adding, “Ordinary Iranians with whom I spoke have no interest at all in attacking Israel; their concern is with their own sense of isolation and economic struggle.”
With regard to the public’s sentiment towards the nuclear accord, Cohler-Esses wrties, “In Iran today, freedom of the press remains a dream. But freedom of tongue has been set loose. I was repeatedly struck by the willingness of Iranians to offer sharp, even withering criticisms of their government on the record, sometimes even happy to be filmed doing so.”
One such person, butcher Nader Qaderi, beamed as Cohler-Esses filmed him with his phone, “The people of Iran want in some way to show the world that what’s going on in the last years is not the will of the Iranian people but of the Iranian government. We have no hostility towards Israel.”
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