Newspaper article International New York Times

Jewish Reporter in Iran Finds Little Sign of Hostility

Newspaper article International New York Times

Jewish Reporter in Iran Finds Little Sign of Hostility

Article excerpt

A journalist from The Forward, an American Jewish pro-Israel publication, described a "dynamic push-and-pull" between Iran's theocratic government and its people.

The first journalist from an American Jewish pro-Israel publication to be given an Iranian visa since 1979 reported Wednesday that he had found little evidence to suggest that Iran wanted to destroy Israel, as widely asserted by critics of the Iranian nuclear agreement.

The journalist, Larry Cohler-Esses, assistant managing editor for news at The Forward, an influential New York-based newspaper catering to American Jews, also wrote that people in Iran, including its Jews, were eager for outside interaction and willing to speak critically about their government.

While he heard widespread criticism of the Israeli government and its policies toward the Palestinians, Mr. Cohler-Esses wrote, he also found support among some senior clerics for a two-state solution, should the Palestinians pursue that outcome.

"Though I had to work with a government fixer and translator, I decided which people I wanted to interview and what I would ask them," Mr. Cohler-Esses wrote in the first of at least two articles from his July reporting trip. "Far from the stereotype of a fascist Islamic state, I found a dynamic push-and-pull between a theocratic government and its often reluctant and resisting people."

Mr. Cohler-Esses' reporting, coming as Congress prepares to vote on the nuclear agreement next month, presents a more nuanced view of Iran than the dark descriptions advanced by a number of Jewish- American advocacy groups that consider Iran a rogue enemy state.

"Ordinary Iranians with whom I spoke have no interest at all in attacking Israel," Mr. Cohler-Esses wrote. "Their concern is with their own sense of isolation and economic struggle."

Among some of Iran's senior ayatollahs and prominent officials, he wrote, there is also dissent from the official line against Israel. "No one had anything warm to say about the Jewish state," he wrote. "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. …

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