Coincidence

Amir Taheri’s old “yellow star” hoax is being spread again, just as Amir Taheri publishes a new screed demanding “regime change” in Teheran.

I walked past a bookstore in DC today and saw the latest Commentary in the window, featuring an essay by Amir Taheri on “regime change” in Iran. (It was paired with another about “military options” for Iran.) The essay starts with a canned history of US-Iranian relations since the fall of the Shah, which is all about how Democrats are wimps while Republicans have big, swinging dicks. It somehow never mentions “arms for hostages.”

When I got home, I found an email from a Jewish friend in LA, forwarding an email message that has obviously been making the rounds, reporting that Iran was going to require Jews to wear yellow stars. It had all the markings of an Internet hoax: no date, no link, no signature. I vaguely recalled having seen the same story before, so I checked it out on Snopes.com. Sure enough, it’s pure bunkum, based on a completely false story in the Canadian National Post, which the newspaper itself has utterly disavowed.

The author of the original story? Amir Taheri.

Three questions:

1. Who decided to revive this hoax just now?

2. Is there anything at all that can discredit a right-wing commentator in the view of right-wing editors?

3. With 87% of American Jews voting Democratic this year, why are central Jewish organizations still under reactionary management? (Commentary is published by the American Jewish Committee.) Is there no way to create Jewish organizations that represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Jews?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

8 thoughts on “Coincidence”

  1. I think you mean to have written "Iran" instead of "Iraq" those first two instances. Note that this error involves the letters "n" and "q" and "nq" is pronounced "nuke" — more than coincidence?

  2. From your mouth to god's ears — and I say that an atheist. I'm just tired of seeing my friends rediscover judaism (good for them, I guess) and suddenly become crackpot reactionaries (bad, I am pretty sure).
    Raised a "Catholic" (cough, cough) I also officially apologize for the post-liberation theology backlash and for the present pontiff. If I were religious, I'd be doing what little I could to get rid of that crowd.

  3. Yes, my fingers were wandering. The incorrect "Iraq"s have been changed to the correct "Iran"s.

  4. I don't think Commentary is really representative of the AJC, let alone "central Jewish organizations". I don't know the exact story behind the AJC continuing to publish Commentary, but from my experience, the AJC, like other major Jewish organizations, is rigorously non-partisan, taking strong public positions only on issues of solid consensus among their membership. That's politically smart–no reason to make enemies needlessly–and quite proper for an organization representing a religious/ethnic minority group. (My local AJC chapter sent out a mailing a few years ago urging Jews to oppose the state's Connerly-sponsored Civil Rights Initiative. I avoided them for years afterwards–I understand that political organizations sometimes have to make messy tradeoffs among political expediency, group interest and moral principle, but if they were going to go out of their way to compromise all three simultaneously….)
    Now, the consensus these organizations reach is probably more centrist than your 87%-Democrat figure, and the common stereotype suggests. But bear in mind that (1) Jews who are active in Jewish organizations are likely to be more centrist, on average, than completely secular, otherwise unaffiliated "ethnic" Jews, and (2) they are more likely to be strongly pro-Israel, which these days will give their positions a less left-wing flavor regardless of what other stances they take.
    Apart from support for Israel, probably the strongest consensus position among American Jewish organizations is (for obvious reasons) support for separation of church and state–hardly a conservative position. They also tend to be generally pro-immigration and pro-minority-rights, again for obvious reasons, and again not exactly in solidarity with conservatives. But do you really think it's a good idea for Jewish organizations to dilute their message and win enemies (both inside and outside the Jewish community) by speaking out on, say, environmental or taxation issues that have no inherent connection with Jewishness?

  5. I checked into the yellow-star story at the end of September when "well-meaning" friends sent it to my dad. It's been making the rounds on the internets and gets a little shove now and then from people I'd describe as Likudnik concern trolls. They're also passing around another bogosity that's supposedly the musing of a Spanish reporter on how the Nazis created a void now filled by 20 million Arabs.
    The original yellow-star story became notorious back in May when the Canadian prime minister repeated it as if it were true and caused an international incident. Steven Harper, the prime minister, is a bush clone who rules by pretty much the same philosophy, ignoring parliamentary practice and other things that make governments work. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he just cans Parliament and does everything through orders in council. Charles I all over again.
    BTW, this story ran in the National Post. The National Post is the pet project of Conrad Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in order to get himself dubbed Lord Black of something-or-other (Cross Dressing, to the wags) and now wants his citizenship back. He's got legal troubles because of certain financial irregularities in his business dealings.
    He's also pretty completely anti-semitic. I don't know about you, but I'm not so inclined to take at face value stories decrying outrages on Jews when they come from anti-semites.

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