A Non-Fanatic Iranian Nuclear Physicist

Norman Podhoretz and Sheldon Adelson may envisage Iran as a land of terrorism and fanatics, and maybe they have convinced Trump and Pompeo of this. It’s no more true than saying that America is peopled with terrorists and fanatics.

When I was at the University of Rochester, I lived in university housing for awhile, and they assigned roommates to a double apartment. One of these was an Iranian, Aziz Bekhami, whose bio and photo are here. It mentions his being at Rochester.

Aziz was a normal guy and no fanatic. His specialty was nuclear physics. The U.S. government had played a significant role in his education, and this was intentional: “Following graduation he became affiliated with the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and worked at Argonne National Laboratory, operated by the University of Chicago.” As long as the Shah was in power, the U.S. wanted Iranians to accumulate knowledge of nuclear physics.

When I heard about the murders of Iranian nuclear physicists by Israeli killers, I thought of Aziz. His affiliation with the University of Chicago is similar to several Israeli professors I’ve known quite well who live and worked in America, Gershon Mandelker and Isaac Ehrlich. Gershon graduated from the University of Chicago in 1973; Aziz graduated from the same university in 1967. Isaac taught at the University of Chicago in the late 1960s.

Aziz is no more a fanatic than Gershon, Isaac or me. Can we all get along despite having different politics? Yes. Do we have to live in fear of one another? No. Do we have to murder one another? No. Can our states do the same? Not while we and the people of whom we are part let the most extreme elements among us dominate our states. But power attracts the more extreme elements, whereas we scholarly types either devote ourselves to knowledge or sell our souls to the state. There is a severe problem in controlling the pathologies of the state.


3:45 pm on May 5, 2018