''Admit It, You Are a Jewish Spy''

The author, American press attaché when the U.S. embassy in Iran was seized, had ten seconds to respond.

BY: Barry Rosen


When the news broke that Daniel Pearl's final words before getting gruesomely murdered by Muslim terrorists were "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am a Jew," I started to go through one of my infrequent but emotionally downward spirals. I am certain that other Americans were deeply impacted by The Wall Street Journal reporter's horrific death, but I feel an unimaginably strong affinity with him-both because I am a Jew and I was a victim of a cruel hostage crisis: More than twenty years ago, I was the American press attaché in Teheran and one of the 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days.

I was kidnapped at gunpoint when club-wielding, Kalishnikov-carrying terrorists seized the American embassy in the early rainy morning of November 4, 1979. I was immediately blindfolded, beaten, and subjected to a mock execution during my first day of captivity.

It wasn't until the end of my first month--a tortuous month that I spent blindfolded, bound hand and foot, silently facing a wall in the ambassador's residence, and getting force-fed--that my captors secreted me out of the embassy to the home of a "taghuti," a wealthy Iranian who fled the country during the revolution.

I was to learn from the sadistic young men, faces covered by black masks, that since I spoke Farsi and had met with the Iranian press corps, I had been identified as a leader of "the nest of spies," collecting secret information to undermine the Islamic revolution. I had no idea what to expect--what first-time hostage would?-when I was escorted into what once must have been a glorious ballroom, now lined with men in black holding automatic weapons. At the corner of the room, seated behind a bad replica of a Louis XIV writing desk, was a young man with a day-old beard. Shoving me with the butts of their rifles, my captors forced me into a chair across from him. I dared to look into his face--the face of a fourteen-year-old child who was visibly angry.

The first thing out of his mouth was, "You're a 'Yahud,' aren't you." ("Yahud" is the Farsi term for Jew.) It was more of a statement than a question.

I thought, What's going on here? This question seemed to be from left field. (I had no knowledge that the U.S. media, both print and electronic, had been identifying me as a Jewish hostage since the beginning of the crisis. When I was freed, my wife Barbara told me how hard she had pleaded, to no avail, with news and Jewish organizations to keep my Jewish identity secret.)

Before I knew it he threw a piece of paper on the desk-the sheet on which I was to write my confession-and said, "Admit it, you are a Jewish spy, you work for Jerusalem, and you head a ring of spies. You have ten seconds to answer. If you don't, we'll shoot your head off."

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