''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.

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.)

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