Martin Fletcher of NBC News has posted a disturbing account of his meeting with Zebulon Simantov, who is supposedly the last Jew remaining in Afghanistan. He lives in Kabul, in a room in the neglected and decaying synagogue, and is portrayed as an angry, bitter man who keeps demanding money and whiskey from Fletcher.
The unflattering portrayal is unfortunate, not because it's false (there's no reason to assume that Fletcher is not quoting the man accurately), but rather because it reinforces a number of classic anti-semitic stereotypes. I found the readers' comments to be particularly interesting. A number of readers maintain that Fletcher shouldn't have posted the story at all (I agree), either because it feeds into those stereotypes or because there really is no story here at all. One reader felt that Fletcher, as a Jew himself, has a particular responsibility to avoid publishing stories that may contribute to anti-semitism.
I think it's unfortunate that this Simantov is not the noble, idealistic Jew that Fletcher went looking for. I think it's even more unfortunate that we still have to be afraid that the negative portrayal of one Jew will reflect so badly upon us all.
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