Monday, February 27, 2012

Israeli Reactions to Oscar-Winning Iranian Film Reveals an Ignorant & Propagandized Population

 (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
Last night, the brilliant Iranian film A Separation took the Best Foreign Film Oscar. This AP article, picked up by the Washington Post, about Israeli reactions to the film reveals the sheer amount of propaganda Israelis must be subject to regarding their perception of Iran. It's clear they are ignorant of what Iran is actually like...those interviewed are all shocked that the country is full of cars, home appliances, and real live human beings!

Here are the best quotes:

Yair Raveh, film critic for Israel's leading entertainment magazine, Pnai Plus, said, "Ultimately you don’t think about nuclear bombs or dictators threatening world peace. You see them driving cars and going to movies and they look exactly like us."

Rina Brick, 70, said, "Our image of how Iran works is less democratic than we see here. The judge, the police, everyone behaves as if they are in a Western country."

Rivka Cohen, 78, who left Iran at age 15, was "surprised by the way people lived in their houses...Everyone had a fridge and a washing machine."

Meanwhile, some movie-goers weren't even as enlightened as those above. Moshe Amirav, a political science professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said he "didn’t stop thinking about the bomb the whole time" he was watching A Separation. "I said, what a contrast that we see this Iranian film with such admiration, and then when we leave we think about how they want to kill us," Amirav said.

And that guy is a professor. Of political science. At a real university.

Here in the U.S., a new Zogby poll reveals that "78% [of Americans] believe Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons production" and that "68% say it is likely Iran would attack another nation if it produces nuclear weapons and has the ability to deliver them." Zogby also reports, "When asked what the US should do if it believes Iran has nuclear weapons, 37% support aerial attacks and another 7% would prefer both an invasion of Iran and aerial attacks. Increased economic and political sanctions are backed by 33%, while 10% would want no changes in current US policy toward Iran," while "79% are concerned that attacks on Iran could lead to higher fuel prices."

Meanwhile, here's writer/director Asghar Farhadi's acceptance speech after winning the "Best Foreign Film" Oscar last night:
"At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country - Iran - is spoken here through her glorious culture. A rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country. A people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you very much."
Clash of civilizations, indeed.

*****

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Them's War-Startin' Words!
Jeffrey Goldberg's Disingenuous Condemnation of Tucker Carlson


Today, the blogosphere was atwitter with the news that bow-tied super-douche Tucker Carlson, last night on Fox News, declared that "Iran deserves to be annihilated. I think they're lunatics. I think they're evil."

He also, bizarrely, stated that "we are the only country with the moral authority [...] sufficient to do that" because, apparently, the United States, with its more than 1,000 military bases across the globe and penchant for bombing, remote-control murder droning, unaccountable worldwide torture regime, invading and occupying foreign countries, is "the only country that doesn't seek hegemony in the world."

Watch it here:




Carlson's call for genocide was revealed to the non-Fox News-watching world by ThinkProgress's intrepid Eli Clifton and was quickly lambasted by numerous commentators. Even Jeffrey Goldberg has weighed in.

Goldberg, who has made a career of leading the charge for illegal war and declared back in 2002 that "the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality," didn't much like Carlson's comments. Writing on his blog today, Goldberg - after noting that he is "on friendly terms" with Carlson - condemns Carlson's murderous outburst as "the sort of rhetoric that leads to war" and states that "language like this -- careless or premeditated -- is inhuman and sets back America's interests."

This is all very noble and humane of Goldberg, but it's also completely disingenuous and hypocritical.

A mere four sentences after Goldberg quotes Carlson as saying, "I think they're lunatics. I think they're evil," Goldberg himself writes:
It should go without saying that Iran does not "deserve" to be annihilated. I wish, of course, that Iranian citizens will one day soon be free of the evil regime that rules their lives, and that Iran's neighbors, Arabs, Jews, everyone, will be able to live without fear of Tehran's aggressiveness.
Get it? No, not the fact that Goldberg's glorious hope for Iranians doesn't transfer to Palestinians who live under a two-tiered Israeli legal system, both within Israel and under occupation that Goldberg himself helped maintain. And no, not the other fact that Iran's "aggressiveness" has translated into exactly zero military invasions of other countries in roughly two hundred years. The difference is that Carlson doesn't specifically make clear that he's referring to the "annihilation" of the Iranian "regime," rather than all 74 million Iranian citizens. (If he is forced into doing so, one can assume Carlson will make this very distinction when back-peddling. [UPDATE: Or not.]

Yet, unsurprisingly, Goldberg doesn't even play by his own rules, often using the shorthand term "Iran" to refer to the country's government.

In his much-discussed and totally wrong September 2010 blockbuster, "The Point of No Return," Goldberg hysterically referred to "the immediate specter of nuclear-weaponized, theologically driven, eliminationist anti-Semitism," meaning, of course, the Iranian government.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert shortly after its publication, Goldberg repeated the long-debunked claims that "Iran says they seek the destruction of Israel" and is "trying to gain nuclear weapons." He added:
Now, obviously, Iran poses threats to other areas of the Middle East and they pose a national security threat to the United States, but for Israel, they feel because of their history, because of their location, because of their vulnerability, they feel that this is an especially urgent threat.
Goldberg also described the Iranian government as "an unstable leadership, they are a crazy leadership" and explained, in the most paternal and patronizing manner possible, that "if they give up this path, if they stop seeking nuclear weapons, good things will happen to them."

In a totally incoherent rant published last June and amazingly headlined "Iran Wants the Bomb, and It's Well on Its Way," Goldberg decided to discuss "the reality-based worry that bloody-minded mullahs bent on dominating the Middle East aren't the sort of people who should have the bomb."

(Incidentally, it may be instructive to note that Goldberg's alarmist assumptions and assessments about Iran's intentions are not shared by any of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies or Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Brigadier General Martin Dempsey or Director of National Intelligence James Clapper or Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Ronald Burgess or even Israel intelligence estimates. In other words, he's a liar and a fear-monger.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Day In The Hype:
In NBC Newspeak, 'Perception is Reality' & Propaganda is Truth

Alarmism and Disinformation Reign at MSNBC

"It's not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true."
- Henry Kissinger

MSNBC News Nation anchor Thomas Roberts has brought Orwellian Newspeak to the midday cable news-watching masses.

On Wednesday afternoon, NBC's Stephanie Gosk, reporting from Tel Aviv, addressed Israeli claims that the Iranian government was behind recent explosions and alleged assassination attempts in Tbilisi, Bangkok, and New Delhi. Roberts introduced Gosk by asking, "What are Israel's accusations and the proof to back it up?" After describing Israel's insistence that there is a "clear link between all three of these incidents" which allegedly point to Iran, Gosk said, "It almost doesn't matter what proof they have or don't have, it's really a matter of perception right now and Israeli officials are accusing Iran and its government of orchestrating these attacks."

In response, Roberts declared, "Perception is reality," then promptly ended the segment.

Watch it here:


MSNBC has spent the past few days unceasingly fear-mongering about Iran, uncritically parroting Israeli allegations and deliberately omitting vital information about the Iranian nuclear program. As such, it has eagerly joined the ranks of other major media outlets in pushing propaganda and baseless fear-mongering, willfully conflating a strictly monitored and safeguarded nuclear energy program with a clandestine atomic weapons program.

Still, MSNBC's reporting has been nothing short of stunningly terrible and embarrassing.

The cable news network repeated itself ad nauseum throughout the day yesterday, beginning with Dennis Blair on Morning Joe, and continuing with Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Thomas Roberts, Martin Bashir, and Brian Williams, all shilling for Benjamin Netanyahu by regurgitating his allegations verbatim and without any skepticism, and enlisting both Tel Aviv-based Gosk and NBC News Tehran bureau chief Ali Arouzi to constantly make the same claims over and over again.

On his own morning program, The Daily Rundown, Chuck Todd said, "There appears to be a covert war already going on between Iran and Israel. We know that Iran thinks that somehow Israel is behind the deaths of their nuclear scientists and now Israel's got all this evidence about what Iran's doing." Stephanie Gosk was brought on to talk about the "tough words" from Netanyahu and to let the viewing audience know how afraid the Israeli people are future (allegedly Iranian) attacks on "softer, more unprotected targets. Places like synagogues and Jewish centers around the world. And that's really the fear. They are incredibly vulnerable."

Later, on News Nation, Arouzi said, "In terms of the nuclear advances, yes, Iran has made huge claims today that it's installed 3,000 brand spanking new centrifuges at its site in Natanz. Iran claims this new generation of centrifuges are far more advanced than the previous ones. They've also claimed to have built their own nuclear fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor which is a major nuclear step forward, as well. All of this is sure to unsettle the West."

In fact, considering all of Iran's centrifuge's are under strict IAEA safeguards and subject to round the clock surveillance and monitoring, in addition to the consistency with which the IAEA confirms - often four times a year for nearly a decade - that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities," the installation of new technology should not be alarming to anyone.

Furthermore, with regard to the fuel rods manufactured from 20% enriched uranium that Arouzi claims "is sure to unsettle the West," uranium in this form is virtually impossible to weaponize and should therefore be far less of a worry that Arouzi seems to believe based on his own ignorance and commitment to hysteria.  In fact, the production of these rods itself greatly reduces Iran's existing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium thereby making Iran even less of the proliferation risk it is constantly accused of being.

In early January, Peter Crail of the Arms Control Association told reporters, "The (fuel rod) development itself doesn't put them any closer to producing weapons."

Paul Brannan, an analyst with the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), has explained "that the Tehran Research Reactor for which Iran claimed Wednesday to have produced its own nuclear fuel rods is used not for any weapons purpose, but for nuclear medicine, to treat Iranian cancer patients."

Just today, in a letter to The New York Times, Clinton Bastin, former director of numerous United States Atomic Energy Commission programs for production of nuclear materials and nuclear components for weapons, writes:
Iran's production of fuel for a research reactor from 20 percent enriched uranium is not insignificant. Instead, this action, combined with Iran's use of low-enriched uranium for production of fuel for its power reactor, and the intent to continue both, eliminate any hypothetical threat of a nuclear weapon from Iran's fully safeguarded nuclear programs.

The United States and its allies should support these actions and end dangerous threats and sanctions against Iran’s important nuclear programs.
Clearly, "the West" has nothing to be unsettled about.

Arouzi also noted that Iran "vowed revenge" in response to last month's murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan, but conveniently forgot to point out that a week ago NBC's own Richard Engel and Robert Windrem revealed that, according to unnamed American officials, "Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group [the MEK] that is financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service." Another recent report, written by Mark Perry, published by Foreign Policy and based on a series of CIA memos, exposed "how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents."

Jundallah, an Iranian separatist group, has carried out numerous lethal terrorist attacks on both civilians and military personnel in Iran, allegedly has financial ties to the United States, and is designated as a "foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, along with the MEK.

On Today, Andrea Mitchell went so far as to claim that "Israel has denied any involvement" in the murders of Iranian scientists. Mitchell is wrong. Israel has, as it usually does, refused to officially confirm or deny its role in the killings. While Israeli President Shimon Peres, when asked by CNN about Israeli involvement or responsibility in the murder of Ahmadi-Roshan, tried to dismiss the allegations by chuckling and delivering the thoroughly unconvincing answer, "Not to the best of my knowledge," other officials were even more sanguine. An Israeli government official stated, "It's not our policy to comment on this sort of speculation," while Israeli military spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai pleaded ignorance as to who was responsible but wrote on his Facebook page that he was "definitely not shedding a tear" for the murdered Iranian scientist. Meanwhile, IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz warned Iran that there would be more "things which take place in an unnatural manner" in the coming year.

Martin Bashir, another MSNBC host, introduced a segment on his own show this way:
There's disturbing news out of the Middle East today with Iran announcing it has used domestically-made nuclear fuel in a reactor for the first time and unveiled more efficient centrifuges. Although Tehran rejects responsibility for the attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand, this is proving to be a worrying week in the Middle East.
Bashir then brought back Stephanie Gosk to repeat the same nonsense she had been reporting all day long. At Bashir's prodding, Gosk said that Israelis are in a state of "increased anxiety" and that the "general assumption" in Israel is that "Iran has been pursing nuclear technology and specifically a nuclear weapon for some time." She repeated that there is "growing anxiety and growing tension" along with "an increased, heightened state of alert" in Israel. Bashir worried, "This is truly a dangerous situation we have!" Neither Bashir nor Gosk ever questioned the Israeli claim that Iran is to blame for the recent attacks and used language clearly accepting the allegations as fact. Perception is reality.

Michael Leiter, speaking with Andrea Mitchell, suggested that fears that Iran might carry out attacks within the United States were well-founded and cited the ridiculous Saudi plot as evidence of Iranian aggression. Mitchell, for her part, fed the fear-mongering by mentioning that Iran had targeted U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, despite there being no actual evidence to back up such a claim.

Mitchell also brought on perennial warmonger and ostensible Likud mouthpiece Jeffrey Goldberg to promote the ridiculous idea that the Iranian leadership is a bunch of wackos and nutjobs.  He said, "The behavior [of Iran] is not rational. They launched a terror attack in India. India wants to buy their oil. Now, Indians are saying to themselves, 'why are we dealing with these people?' The Indian authorities believe Iran was behind the attack and, obviously, they're offended by that."

In fact, Goldberg is wrong.  Indian investigators don't believe Iran is responsible, but see the fingerprints of the "Indian Mujahidin" in the operation.  As usual, though, perception and propaganda trumps reality and research.

On Hardball Wednesday evening, Chris Matthews lead off his own alarmist Iran segment by declaring that "Iran is ratcheting up the level of international tension with a series of recent developments." After stating that President Ahmadinejad "unveil[ed] the country's first domestically produced fuel rods," Matthews noted the Iranian intention of cutting off oil exports to six European countries and, of course, announced that "there is a suspicion Iran was involved in Monday's attacks on Israeli diplomats in India and the former Soviet republic of Georgia and a botched attack just yesterday in Bangkok."

Matthews then brought on Ali Arouzi, asking him to "calibrate" Iran's "nuclear advance." The Tehran bureau chief proceeded to tell the Hardball audience that Iran has "played up" their nuclear progress and have claimed "they've mastered the nuclear fuel cycle...have achieved 20% uranium enrichment, which is a very difficult thing to do" and have "manufactured their own centrifuges that are very sophisticated." He added that Iran will "forge ahead with this program."

In response, Matthews bizarrely pondered, "Are they just daring Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minster of Israel, and Ehud Barak, his defense minister, to attack them? It looks like they're just putting their chin out and saying, 'go ahead, punch me.'" Arouzi answered that "there is nothing like a war to solidify support for a nation," in reference to a "faction in Iran" that is supposedly "inviting an attack" in order to "galvanize support for the regime." He added, however, that there are those who say Iran is only looking after its own self-interest and "are not interested in a nuclear bomb." Still, Arouzi was quick to point out that, in his estimation, Iran is "pushing the envelope pretty far" and is engaged in a "war of words with Israel" that is "escalating beyond anything I've seen in the last seven years that I've been in Iran."

Saying that, if Iran its attacked it is within its rights to respond is not the escalation of a w"war of words."  It's a rational response to decades of threats against it.  It is not Iran that is threateneing to attack Israel, it's the other way around.  MSNBC never takes the time to point that out, of course.

Also, nothing Iran is doing is illegal or for the purpose of goading Israel into committing more war crimes.  Iran has an active nuclear program and enrichment facilities that are under constant safeguard, round-the-clock monitoring, and routine inspection.  That Iran might exist and have its own interests that are independent of Israel never seems to cross the minds of media pundits.

Matthews then played a clip of New York Senator and AIPAC flack Kristen Gillibrand (who Matthews described as "pretty sound") declaring before the Armed Services Committee, "The problem is, is that Iran is determined to create not only an existential threat to Israel, but to the United States."

Such stupidity merits no response.

Analyst Robin Wright then joined Matthews in the studio to discuss the supposed Iranian threat. While Wright made sure to explain that Iran poses no such "existential threat" to the United States and suggested that Obama will not attack Iran this year with an election on the horizon, she did worry that "little incidents" like the recent attacks in Georgia, India, and Thailand could "spiral out of control and become the cause for something much bigger."

This sent Matthews into a frenzy. He said that Israel "does face an existential threat" and opined that "you hit Tel Aviv with a nuclear weapon, you don't even want to talk about it, about the damage it would do to humanity over there." Matthews, in full moronic blowhard mode, continued:
And yet, this guy, they're bombing, killing people, engaging in terrorist assassinations around the world, bragging about their nuclear advance...Imagine how this is playing in Tel Aviv, on television over there. They're watching this guy, this crazy guy, this zealot talking nuclear!
This shameful tirade, devoid of fact and replete with ridiculous fear-mongering and lies, compelled Wright to explain to Matthews that "most of what the Iranians are doing [is] actually legal under the terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty. They claim it is all part of a nuclear peaceful energy program." That claim, incidentally, is backed up by years of intrusive inspections, round the clock surveillance, and strict IAEA safeguards.

Matthews was incredulous and insistent that Iran was developing nuclear weapons with the intention of committing genocide. "To the middle-of-the-road Israeli watching this, you're saying 'Bibi, get your trigger finger ready'," he said. When Wright warned about the consequences of such an attack ("You think Iraq and Afghanistan were tough, you try Iran.") and how it would change the "political dynamics" of the region, Matthews worried that it would "incit[e] everybody against Israel." When Wright responded, "Not at all," Matthews shifted gears and said, "The Arabs are with Israel, aren't they, on this?" Wright punted on this stupid question and said that the fear is increased proliferation in the Middle East. Matthews then went on a surreal and totally ignorant tirade that can only be believed by watching or reading it:
Apologies for the advertisement that automatically plays before the clip
Matthews: I wonder, down the road, about most of us who care about Israel's future that you have to wonder what happens when all countries go nuclear. What happens when Egypt, the new Islamist government coming in, they want a nuclear weapon. What happens when the new government in Libya decides they want one. The previous government Gaddafi was headed that direction. A new government in Syria, which is Islamist, starts going that direction.
Wright: You are jumping way ahead of where anyone is. The fact is most of these countries are so desperate economically not only could they not afford a nuclear program, they can't even create jobs to keep their people happy.
Matthews: They can't buy with oil?
Wright: Egypt doesn't have oil.
Matthews: A lot of former Soviet engineers are floating around out there. Thank you, Robin. You made me feel better.
Essentially, everything Matthews says is stupid. His weird obsession and fear-mongering about Ahmadinejad is clear (even if he doesn't know how to pronounce the word "zealot") and his misunderstanding about anything having to do with a nuclear program painfully apparent. The zealot here is obviously Matthews himself, who can't help but spew alarmist nonsense about "Islamists" and "existential threats" that don't exist.

MSNBC and NBC's evening programming was more of the same, with Brian Williams introducing a Nightly News segment by saying, "Ahmadinejad made a big show at a Tehran nuclear site showing off his country's new hardware, claiming other advances at a second nuclear facility, further proof that Iran wants to join the club of nuclear nations, despite global treasure and tough sanctions intended to stop it."

Williams had Andrea Mitchell on to state that "Israel is on alert against Iranian terrorism," while he warned that "the next attack could hit home" in Israel itself. Gosk was back to reiterate the lie that Israel has been subject to "repeated threats from Iranian leaders" and that the three recent attacks were "just a taste of what the world can expect unless Iran is stopped. That was the message from Netanyahu."  Gosk declared that there is now a "covert war between the two countries, triggered by Iran's nuclear ambitions."

Ambitions enshrined into law by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel hasn't signed, of course.  Gosk left that out by accident, I'm sure.

Incidentally, speaking today in Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated clearly that there is "no credible or specific" evidence of any Iranian terror plot targeting the U.S.  But why should that, or the dearth of evidence deter our news media from making unsupported allegations that instantly become fact?

Earlier this month, Counterpunch's Alexander Cockburn described a recent visit a colleague took to the ABC News studio to see a friend who works there:
When I went to his room, he showed me all the graphics he was making in anticipation of the Israeli attack on Iran; not just maps, but flight patterns, trajectories and 3-D models of U.S. aircraft carrier fleets.

But what was most disturbing--was that ABC, and presumably other networks, have been rehearsing these scenarios for over two weeks, with newscasters and retired generals in front of maps talking about missiles and delivery systems, and at their newsdesks-–the screens are emblazoned with "This Is a Drill" to assure they don't go out on air (like War of the Worlds).

Then reports of counter-attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon with rockets on Israeli cities--it was mind-numbing. Very disturbing--when pre-visualization becomes real.
The media, which should certainly have learned its lesson from the Iraq catastrophe, is doubling-down now on Iran.  Were the worst to happen, they will again have the blood of millions on their hands.

*****

UPDATE:

February 17, 2012 - Tonight on CurrentTV's "The Young Turks," host Cenk Uygur skewered CNN's Erin Burnett, who seems to have taken it upon herself to become the media chief cheerleader for an attack on Iran.  Here's the clip:



The incomparable Glenn Greenwald has also been on the case lately with a series of articles this week (including one today on Ms. Burnett herself) exposing the mindless warmongering championed by the mainstream media.

*****

UPDATE II:

February 19, 2012 - The Bangkok Post reports today that Syedsulaiman Husaini, the Shi'a leader of Thailand, has accused the MEK of being behind the Thailand bomb plot. He said that "the bomb incident was unlikely to be the work of the Iranian government as speculated because Bangkok and Teheran have good bilateral relations."

Naturally, this is not evidence of anything, but should be noted in the context on the flurry of speculation that we have seen from our own press.

*****

UPDATE II:

March 2, 2012 - As usual, investigative journalist Gareth Porter has destroyed the propaganda narrative pushed so relentlessly by the Western media with regards to Iranian governmental responsibility for the bomb plot in India. The entire report is required reading. He concludes,
We may never be able to establish with certainty what happened in Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi earlier this month, but the evidence that has come to light thus far doesn't support the widely accepted notion that Iran and Hezbollah were behind it. That evidence is consistent, however, with a clever Israeli "false flag" car bombing operation that would not injure the passenger but would serve its broader strategic interests: dividing India from Iran and pushing US public opinion further towards support for war against Iran.

*****

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Troubled Jeopardy!: Travels Through Trebekistan

Hasbara for $1600, Alex! 
Back in January, a $1000 first-round clue on Jeopardy!, falling under the category "Judea," asked, "Galilee, Samaria & Judea in the south were the 3 traditional divisions of this ancient area with a still-current name." The correct question was "What is Palestine?"

None of the three contestants even buzzed in to respond. (Incidentally, this was a question a number of GOP presidential candidates had been answering incorrectly themselves at the time.)

Shortly thereafter, I posted this in the comments section of Mondoweiss:
The Jeopardy! answer/question about Palestine is especially intriguing and satisfying considering that, over the past few seasons, Alex Trebek and company have often featured clues (sometimes even whole categories with on-site video of Alex and team at Yad Vashem, floating in the Dead Sea, the Western Wall, and Masada) devoted to Israel and its current stewardship of Biblical sites and expropriation of history...usually in the form of answers and questions that wholly ignores the Occupation and existence of both Palestine and Palestinians.

Jeopardy!'s apparent love affair with Israel seems to have begun in earnest back in 2009, after Trebek and his Clue Crew were treated to a [three]-week hasbara trip to Israel by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. It is clear this initiative was launched to correspond with the "Brand Israel" PR campaign.

Commercial advertisements insisting "There's a little bit of Israel in all of us. Come find the Israel in you" (paid for by the Tourism Ministry, of course) are still often aired during episodes of Jeopardy!.

In late November 2009, some days after Jeopardy! featured a category entitled "A Journey Through Israel", which Alex described as "reliving history thousands of years old or just a few decades old," Carlton Cobb wrote an excellent and informative post for Fair Policy, Fair Discussion, the official blog for the Council for the National Interest Foundation. It's well worth the read.

Good to see Jeopardy! is finally moving away from heavy-handed hasbara.
It appears I was too optimistic. The College Championship (first semifinal game) episode of Jeopardy!, which aired on February 8, 2012, included a Double Jeopardy! category entitled "The 21st Century." The $1200 clue stated:
"In 2005 Israel gave up control of this coastal territory"
The response of "What is the Gaza Strip?" was the desired question.

But the Jeopardy! writers, widely respected as masters of fact and trivia, are wrong. Since occupying the territory in 1967, Israel has never relinquished control of Gaza. Despite the hasbara talking point that Israel "unilaterally disengaged" from Gaza in 2005, dismantling its settlements and forcibly removing its 9,000 colonists, Israel maintains its effective control over the borders, economy, and Palestinians of the territory in a way that can only be described as continued occupation and collective punishment.

As Israeli historian Avi Shlaim points out, after the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli colonists and military personnel, "Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison."

The official 2005 Israeli "Disengagement Plan" even states clearly, "The State of Israel will guard and monitor the external land perimeter of the Gaza Strip, will continue to maintain exclusive authority in Gaza air space, and will continue to exercise security activity in the sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip." It further declares, "The Gaza Strip shall be demilitarized and shall be devoid of weaponry, the presence of which does not accord with the Israeli-Palestinian agreements."

Beyond this, as the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Programme points out, "Israel controls a buffer zone in the northern part of the Gaza Strip and does not allow Palestinian movement within 150 meters (de facto 500 meters) from the northern and eastern parts of the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip" and "retains the ability to effectively conduct land incursions, as stated in the Disengagement plan itself."

Even the CIA admits, "Israel still controls maritime, airspace, and other access to the Gaza Strip; Israel also enforces a restricted zone along the border inside Gaza."

But Israel doesn't just control the gates of the Gaza prison, it also controls the internal infrastructure, economic freedom and freedom of movement of its inhabitants. The Disengagement Plan itself states:
In general, Israel will continue, for full price, to supply electricity, water, gas and petrol to the Palestinians, in accordance with current arrangements...

In general, the economic arrangements currently in operation between the State of Israel and the Palestinians shall remain in force. These arrangements include, inter alia:

One. The entry and exit of goods between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the State of Israel and abroad.

Two. The monetary regime.

Three. Tax and customs envelope arrangements.

Four. Postal and telecommunications arrangements.

Five. The entry of workers into Israel, in accordance with the existing criteria.
Just today, Alresalah reports that the vast majority of hospital patients in Gaza are at great risk due to the Israeli-imposed collective punishment of deliberate, extended electrical blackouts throughout the territory. Dr. Ashraf Al-qidra, director of Public Relations and Information Department at Gaza's Health Ministry stated, "More than 80% of patients in the Gaza Strip are threatened to terrible health status and possibility of death due to lack of electricity." He added that at least "404 of dialysis patients are at risk of death for their treatment is totally based on electricity" and that 100 children in intensive care are also at lethally threatened by the outages.

That fact that Israel still controls Gaza is so obvious, it is indeed curious that the fact-checkers on the Jeopardy! research team would allow this type of propaganda on its program.

Apparently, a three-week Israeli government-sponsored trip goes a long way to influence Jeopardy!'s conception of history. Unfortunately, when it comes to Palestine, it seems international law, collective punishment and simple facts are triple-stumpers for Trebek.

*****

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Alan Dershowitz's Awful Law & Terrorist Friends

I know I shouldn't waste my time on this buffoon, but I simply can't help myself.

This is real.
Alan Dershowitz - Attorney General of Hasbara and Warmongering - has once again taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal (along with an extended cut-and-paste job in David Horowitz's neocon rag FrontPageMag) to advocate for an Israeli or American military attack on Iran.

It appears that Dershowitz is now attempting to claim that a "preventative" attack on Iran is actually merely "reactive" on the part of Israel (or the U.S.) and goes to great disingenuous lengths to paint Iran as the aggressor - casting nuclear-armed Israel and its super-power patron, as usual, as mere victims of Iranian violence based upon allegations made by Benjamin Netanyahu blaming the Iranian government for recent terrorist attacks in Georgia and Thailand.

After using intellectually dishonest tactics to paint Iran as an aggressor against Israel (and, bizarrely, all Jewish people worldwide) and citing Article 51 of the UN Charter to argue for legal retaliatory military actions if Iran attacks a foreign country, Dershowitz writes, "This is not to argue against such an attack if Iran decides not to go after soft American targets. It may become necessary for our military to target Iranian nuclear facilities if economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts do not succeed and if the Iranian government decides to cross red lines..."

To say that his understanding, invocation, and defense of "preventative" military action is totally incorrect would be an understatement.  He is expressly advocating a first strike by the U.S. (and later expands this advocacy to an Israeli assault) which is - by any stretch of international law - a wholly illegal action that has long been considered "the supreme international crime."

It is additionally ironic for Dershowitz to invoke the UN Charter in making his grotesque arguments that absolve Israel and the U.S. of all past and potential violations of international law yet holds the Iranian government and people collectively accountable for any blog post suggesting Iran itself use military force. Whereas he uses Article 51 to make his case, he suggests the US explicitly violate Article 2 of that very same document. Article 2, as we know, states that all UN members "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state..." Yet, what does Dershowitz call for? He insists the US government attempt to deter Iran from weaponizing its nuclear program (note the unstated admission that Iran has no nuclear weapons program!) by providing a "credible" "threat of military action."

While it is becoming clear that Dershowitz is increasingly (and rightly) seen as not only a serial liar and a reflexive and shameless apologist for anything Israel does (or wants to do), but also as a completely morally bankrupt person, that doesn't mean his influence is irrelevant. Speaking in opposition to a recent human rights conference held at the University of Pennsylvania, Dershowitz claimed that he is in regular contact with both Netanyahu and Obama. Indeed, Dershowitz is an attention-seeker and self-aggrandizer, but I still wouldn't be surprised if his boast were partially true.

Most notably, however, is the fact that Dershowitz has recently taken up the mantle as a defender of the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK). Speaking in Washington DC earlier this month (fresh from decrying the PennBDS Conference), Dershowitz called himself a "human rights activist" and called for the MEK to be delisted as a terrorist organization. This alone, as Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project affirms, is tantamount to "material support" for a designated terrorist group. That Dershowitz was surely paid for his endorsement puts him in league with Howard Dean, Mike Mukasey, Rudy Giuliani, Lee Hamilton, and Wesley Clark, along with numerous former government officials and current members of Congress as defending a known terrorist cult which has recently been implicated in the murders of Iranian scientists, with substantial backing and training from Israel. If true, a more perfect definition of Israel as a "state sponsor of terrorism" could not be found.

Nevertheless, on behalf of the MEK, Dershowitz declared, "We know there's no evidence of terrorism. We know there's no terrorism." He continued, "The fact you call somebody a terrorist doesn't, however, make them terrorists. There is no evidence. We know that, that any military action or terrorist action has occurred, certainly not in the last decade." (Pointing out that Dershowitz frequently refers to Iran's alleged involvement in bombings in Argentina and Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990's would be too obvious, wouldn't it?)

He even invoked the Holocaust in his plea for ensuring the "physical safety" of MEK members in Iraq and declared that the US government and its citizens "are friends with people at Camp Ashraf" and are bound to "protect them."

So, at what point will Alan Dershowitz be charged with aiding a foreign terrorist organization?

*****

Saturday, February 11, 2012

American Sharia: Rick Santorum's Bibliocracy

[Hey, remember Rick Santorum?  Looking back through the WAiA archives from this past year, it appears this little piece got lost in limbo.  Forgive the non-timeliness of the piece, now back-posted to February.]

Cle-rick Santorum

Yes, Rick Santorum is a lunatic.

Throughout his bizarre campaign, the presidential nopeful has been actively advocating for a government based on religious law...oh wait, wouldn't that be sharia? Welcome to the new non-freedom of religion movement. Welcome to Rick Santorum's Bibilocracy.

Take these recent examples (I'm sure there is an endless amount of identical nonsense):

Rick Santorum was asked the final question during the GOP debate in Jacksonville, Florida on January 26. The question, asked by Jacksonville attorney Suzanne Bass was, "How would your religious beliefs, if you're elected, impact the decisions that you make in the office of the presidency."

While all the answers, besides Ron Paul's (who views religion as it should be: a personal, non-governmental, matter), were noxious and creepy, Santorum's - as to be expected - was the strangest. Here it is in full:
Faith is a very, very important part of my life, but it's a very, very important part of this country. The foundational documents of our country -- everybody talks about the Constitution, very, very important. But the Constitution is the "how" of America. It's the operator's manual.

The "why" of America, who we are as a people, is in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights."

The Constitution is there to do one thing: protect God-given rights. That's what makes America different than every other country in the world. No other country in the world has its rights -- rights based in God-given rights, not government-given rights.

And so when you say, well, faith has nothing to do with it, faith has everything to do with it. If rights come...

(APPLAUSE)

If our president believes that rights come to us from the state, everything government gives you, it can take away. The role of the government is to protect rights that cannot be taken away.

And so the answer to that question is, I believe in faith and reason and approaching the problems of this country but understand where those rights come from, who we are as Americans and the foundational principles by which we have changed the world.
Speaking in Texas on Wednesday, Santorum took weird and crazy to a different level, charging that Obama's war on religion would lead inevitably to a French Revolution Redux. That was supposed to be code for godlessness. The New Yorker's Amy Davidson has an excellent piece on Santorum lunatic rant, including this bizarre attempted-takedown of Alexis de Tocqueville. "He came from a country, they had a revolution, too," Santorum began, in true fairytale fashion. He continued:
Their constitution, by the way, was very similar to the American Constitution. But it was one difference [sic]. Their constitution was based on three principles. Liberty — good. Equality — good. And fraternity — brotherhood. Brother-hood. But not fatherhood. The rights came from each other. Came from the government. Not inalienable rights that came from God.
Oh no! Brotherhood...booo! The entire clip from Davidson's piece is a must-watch.



First off, Santorum clearly knows nothing about the founding fathers and their general abhorrence of organized religion. Most of those guys, at best, were deists, not theists.

Beyond that, however, it's odd that he doesn't think other countries derive their "rights" from religious belief and doctrine.

Let's see:

The Constitution of Afghanistan, adopted in 2004 by the Karzai government, ensures that "In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam." (Chap. 1, Art. 3) It also holds that "Life is a gift of God and a natural right of human beings" (2.23) and "Liberty is the natural right of human beings." (2.24)

Articles 7 and 8 of the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia affirm, "The regime derives its power from the Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah which rule over this and all other State Laws" and that "[t]he system of government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is established on the foundation of justice, "Shoura" and equality in compliance with the Islamic Shari'ah (the revealed law of Islam)."

Chapter 1, Article 2 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted with overwhelming support via national referendum in 1979, begins by stating that the government is based upon the concept of a single god and the belief in his "exclusive sovereignty and the right to legislate, and the necessity of submission to His commands" as well as "[d]ivine revelation and its fundamental role in setting forth the laws."

The Iraqi Constitution begins by affirming that "Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation," and continues, "No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established."

Oh right, I forgot. Santorum doesn't count Islam as being a legitimate source of god-given rights. Here's what he said last month in a South Carolina restaurant, as reported by ABC News:
"I get a kick out of folks who call for equality now, the people on the left, 'Well, equality, we want equality.' Where do you think this concept of equality comes from?" Santorum asked the enthusiastic crowd packed into a restaurant here. "It doesn't come from Islam. It doesn't come from the East and Eastern religions, where does it come from? It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that's where it comes from."

Santorum then said that since equality comes from God, people should live "responsibly in conforming with God's laws."

"So don't claim his rights, don't claim equality as that gift from God and then go around and say, "Well, we don't have to pay attention to what God wants us to do. We don’t have to pay attention to God's moral laws." If your rights come from God, then you have an obligation to live responsibly in conforming with God’s laws, and our founders said so, right?" Santorum asked.
Clearly, Santorum's insane. Still, it may be instructive to point out that there are myriad examples in national constitutions and basic laws that demonstrate that the "inalienable" and "inherent" rights of people, just as our Declaration of Independence does. For example, the Spanish Constitution's Article 10 which details "Human Dignity [and] Human Rights," holds that "The dignity of the person, the inviolable rights which are inherent, the free development of the personality, respect for the law and the rights of others, are the foundation of political order and social peace." The United Kingdom's "Human Dignity" law states that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Oh no, wait, there's "brotherhood," again! Gross!

Furthermore, the Swiss Constitution even has a Preamble that reads:
In the name of God Almighty!
We, the Swiss People and the Cantons,being mindful of our responsibility towards creation,
in renewing our alliance to strengthen liberty and democracy, independence and peace in solidarity and openness towards the world,
determined, with mutual respect and recognition, to live our diversity in unity,
conscious of our common achievements and our responsibility towards future generations,
certain that free is only who uses his freedom, and that the strength of a people is measured by the welfare of the weak,
hereby adopt the following Constitution...
Sure, one can just point out the fallacy of Santorum's theocratic weirdness by citing our First Amendment (y'know, the whole "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" thingamagig), but it's more fun to check out what - oh, I don't know - Abraham Lincoln may have thought about Santorum's France-bashing.

The French Constitution (Fifth Republic, 1958) dictates that "[t]he maxim of the Republic shall be 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'" and that "[t]he principle of the Republic shall be: government of the people, by the people and for the people."

Why does that sound familiar? Oh right, the last line of the Gettysburg Address, wherein Lincoln declared the victory of the Union would ensure "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

It'll be a nice change of pace when Santorum and his chauvinism eventually bow out of the race, but until then, there will be plenty more craziness to look forward to.

*****

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Obama Lies about the Iranian Nuclear Program:
Super Bowl Sunday Media Blitz Edition


"I can't strut my stuff / when I got those lock‑step blues."
- Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lock Step Blues (1928)

During a Special Edition of NBC's Today Show, broadcast live on Sunday before the Super Bowl, Matt Lauer interviewed Barack Obama and asked the President about a potential Israeli attack on Iran. Obama said,
"I think they, like us, believe that Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program...[Iran is] feeling the pinch, they are feeling the pressure, but they have not taken the step that they need to diplomatically, which is to say, 'We will pursue peaceful nuclear power. We will not pursue a nuclear weapon.' Until they do, I think Israel rightly is going to be very concerned and we are as well."
Obama also noted that the United States and Israel "have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we ever have" and are working "in lock-step" to "solve" the Iranian nuclear issue, "hopefully diplomatically."

Watch it here:


(apologies for the advertisement that plays before the clip)

By blithely referring to an Iranian "nuclear weapons program," the President of the United States is knowingly contradicting the findings and statements of both the American and Israeli military and intelligence communities; the very communities he notes are engaged in such high-level information sharing, cooperation, and coordination.

On January 8, 2012, speaking on CBS's Face The Nation, Obama's own Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared, "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No." He added that the U.S. was "putting diplomatic and economic pressure" on Iran in order "to make sure that they do not make the decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear weapon."

Ten days later, Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that, when U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman General Martin Dempsey would soon meet with "various senior defense officials, including Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz," he would be presented with an "intelligence assessment" that "indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb." Ha'aretz continues,
The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon - or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.
One week ago, on January 31, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper delivered his annual "Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community" to members of Congress. Clapper reported that while American intelligence assumes that "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons," the decision to do so has not been made. "We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons," Clapper said. This assessment was identical to the assessment delivered in March 2011 by Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency. Speaking before the Senate Committee on Armed Forces, Burgess said, "we assess Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack."

Following the leaked (and over-hyped) release of the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Report on Iran in early November 2011, The National Journal's Marc Ambinder quoted a "senior administration official" as saying, "The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program nor does it [demonstrate] how advanced the programs really are."

Recently, due to sloppy reporting and public condemnation, ombudsmen at The New York Times, The Washington Post, and National Public Radio have all warned against claiming that Iran has a nuclear weapons program when the IAEA, U.S., and Israeli findings all deny that one exists.

"Shorthand references are often dangerous," wrote NPR's Edward Schumacher-Matos, "Repeated enough as fact — 'Iran's nuclear weapons program' — they take on a life of their own." The Post's Patrick Pexton noted that such misleading statements "can circle the globe in minutes" and "can also play into the hands of those who are seeking further confrontation with Iran."

Beyond that, Obama's claim that Iranian leaders have not yet declared their intentions regarding their nuclear program is not only disingenuous, it's a blatant lie. Iran has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, that it is Iran's inalienable national right as affirmed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that it operates under strict IAEA safeguards and inspections, and that Iran has no intention of weaponizing.

There's no reason why Obama should be waiting for Iranian officials to say "We will not pursue a nuclear weapon," when they've been saying it for years.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Warmongering Post:
Iran, Israel, Ignatius, and the Intended Consequences of Propaganda

In the latest example of mainstream warmongering, today The Washington Post's David Ignatius writes,

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has a lot on his mind these days, from cutting the defense budget to managing the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But his biggest worry is the growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran over the next few months.

Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.
When reading reports like the one Ignatius has filed here, it should always be remembered that what is being so nonchalantly discussed as a point of perturbation for a beleaguered Leon Panetta is, without doubt, the willful and active commission of a war crime. Not only that, but - in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal - initiating a war of aggression, as Israel would undoubtedly be doing by unilaterally and illegally bombing Iran, is "the supreme international crime."

Ignatius, despite his clear intent of beating war drums under the guise of disinterested journalism, acknowledges repeatedly that Iran is not building nuclear weapons and has no nuclear weapons program. While the bogus Israeli claim of Iran reaching a "zone of immunity" (the new Barakian term for what until recently was ominously called the "point of no return") is noted by Ignatius, it's followed by the claim that this spooky "zone" would enable Iran to "commence building a nuclear bomb." Which means it's not currently doing that. Ignatius even reiterates the fact that - per U.S. (and Israeli and IAEA) intelligence - Iran is not building a bomb. Which means this is all speculative. Which means any potential attack would be "preventive" and not based on any immediate threat. Which means it would be totally illegal under any possible reading of international law.

Ignatius writes that "Netanyahu doesn't want to leave the fate of Israel dependent on American action." There's that "existential threat" again! Y'know, the one that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan and Ephraim Halevy, current Mossad chief Tamir Pardo say doesn't actually exist. Just today, Ynet reported that former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz also repeated the assessment that Iran poses no such threat to Israel. "The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, it's a mistake," he said.

Nevertheless, Ignatius repeats this absurdity as if it's an incontrovertible fact. It appears that, for Beltway reportage, "If Netanyahu says it, it must be true!"