'We object to Israeli policies, not its existence,' Iranians tell US journalist

Larry Cohler-Esses, the assistant managing editor for the 'Forward', wrote that Iranians are far more moderate and eager to engage with the world than outsiders think.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
August 12, 2015 15:19
1 minute read.
A demonstrator steps on an Israeli flag during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran

A demonstrator steps on an Israeli flag during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Despite extremist rhetoric by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian government officials and clerics object to Israeli policies rather than its existence, according to an American journalist who was granted a rare reporting visa to the Islamic Republic.

In a special dispatch from Iran, Larry Cohler-Esses, the assistant managing editor for the Forward weekly newspaper, wrote that Iranians are far more moderate and eager to engage with the world than outsiders think.

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Cohler-Esses authored a 7,000-word article in which he quotes a number of Iranians who aren't shy about expressing critical opinions about their government.

"During the course of my conversations with several senior ayatollahs and prominent political and government officials, it became clear that there is high-placed dissent to the official line against Israel," Cohler-Esses wrote. "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. Others, notwithstanding their ideological objection to a Jewish state, made it clear they would accept a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians if the Palestinians were to negotiate one and approve it in a referendum."

The Forward journalist wrote that ordinary Iranians were far more preoccupied with the high unemployment rate in their country and removing the burden of international isolation than any thoughts of eliminating Israel.

“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,” the owner of a butcher shop in northern Tehran told Cohler-Esses. “We have no hostility against Israel.”

During his stay in Iran, the Forward reporter wrote that young people were curious about the outside world despite efforts by the regime to impose censorship on the Internet.

Journalists at the Forward said that they had been trying to obtain a visa to Iran for two years, according to the New York Times.


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