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October 13, 2006

Prepping Public Opionion For An Attack On Iran? Iran

Jonathan Cook, British journalist and writer based in Nazareth, Israel, writes in CounterPunch that Israel may be preparing to strike Iran, possibly using nuclear bunker-busting weapons. An Israeli documentary aired this week on the BBC, he says, preps public opinion for just such an attack. Excerpts:

The Middle East, and possibly the world, stands on the brink of a terrible conflagration as Israel and the United States prepare to deal with Iran's alleged ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel, it becomes clearer by the day, wants to use its air force to deliver a knock-out blow against Tehran. It is not known whether it will use conventional weapons or a nuclear warhead in such a strike.

At this potentially cataclysmic moment in global politics, it is good to see that one of the world's leading broadcasters, the BBC, decided this week that it should air a documentary entitled "Will Israel bomb Iran?". It is the question on everyone's lips and doubtless, with the imprimatur of the BBC, the programme will sell around the world.

The good news ends there, however. Because the programme addresses none of the important issues raised by Israel's increasingly belligerent posture towards Tehran.

It does not explain that, without a United Nations resolution, a military strike on Iran to destroy its nuclear research programme would be a gross violation of international law.

It does not clarify that Israel's own large nuclear arsenal was secretly developed and is entirely unmonitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or that it is perceived as a threat by its neighbours and may be fuelling a Middle East arms race.

Nor does the programme detail the consequences of an Israeli strike on instability and violence across the Middle East, including in Iraq, where British and American troops are stationed as an occupying force.

And there is no consideration of how in the longer term unilateral action by Israel, with implicit sanction by the international community, is certain to provoke a steep rise in global jihad against the West.

Instead the programme dedicates 40 minutes to footage of Top Gun heroics by the Israeli air force, and the recollections of pilots who carried out a similar, "daring" attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in the early 1980s; menacing long shots of Iran's nuclear research facilities; and interviews with three former Israeli prime ministers, a former Israeli military chief of staff, various officials in Israeli military intelligence and a professor who designs Israel's military arsenal.

All of them speak with one voice: Israel, they claim, is about to be "wiped out" by Iranian nuclear weapons and must defend itself "whatever the consequences". [...]

Shimon Peres, the Israeli government's veteran roving ambassador, claims, for example, that Iran has made "a call for genocide" against Israel, compares an Iranian nuclear bomb to a "flying concentration camp", and warns that "no one would like to see a comeback to the times of the Nazis".

Cabinet minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, believes Israel faces "an existential threat" from Iran. And Zvi Stauber, a former senior figure in military intelligence, compares Israel's situation to a man whose neighbour "has a gun and he declares every day he is going to kill you".

But pride of place goes to Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister and the current leader of the opposition. He claims repeatedly that the only possible reason Iran and its president could want a nuclear arsenal is for Israel's "extermination". "If he can get away with it, he'll do it." "Ayatollahs with atombic bombs are a powerful threat to all of us." A nuclear Iran "is a threat unlike anything we have seen before. It's beyond politics" — apparently worse than the nuclear states of North Korea and Pakistan, the latter a military dictatorship and friend of the US barely containing within its borders some of the most fanatical jihadist movements in the world.

Apart from a brief appearance by an Iranian diplomat, no countervailing opinions are entertained in the BBC programme; only Israel's military and political leadership is allowed to speak. [...]

Overlooked by the programme makers is the fact that "fragile" Israel is currently the only country in the Middle East armed with nuclear warheads, several hundred of them, as well as one of the most powerful armies in the world, which presumably make most of its neighbours feel "fragile" too, with far more reason.

And, as we are being persuaded how "fragile" Israel really is, another former prime minister, Ehud Barak, is interviewed. "Ultimately we are standing alone," he says, in apparent justification for an illegal, unilateral strike. Iran's nuclear reasearch facilities, Barak warns, are hidden deep underground, so deep that "no conventional weapon can penetrate", leaving us to infer that in such circumstances Israel will have no choice but use a tactical nuclear strike in its "self-defence". And, getting into his stride, Barak adds that some facilities are in crowded urban areas "where any attack could end up in civilian collateral damage".

But despite the terrifying scenario laid out by Israel's leaders, the BBC website cheerleads for Israel in the same manner as the programme-makers, suggesting that Israel has the right to engineer a clash of civilisations: "With America unlikely to take military action, the pressure is growing on Israel's leaders to launch a raid."

As should be clear by now, the Israeli government's fingerprints are all over this BBC "documentary". And that is hardly surprising because the man behind this "independent" production is Israel's leading film-maker: Noam Shalev. [...]

Before the disengagement from Gaza last year, for example, Shalev made a sympathetic documentary, shown by the BBC, about a day in the life of one Israeli soldier serving there. The film largely concealed the context that might have alerted viewers to the fact that the soldier was enforcing a four-decade illegal occupation of Gaza, or that the Strip is an open-air prison in which thousands of Palestinian have been killed by the Israeli army and in which a majority of Gazans live in abject poverty.

Interviewed about the documentary, Shalev observed: "The army really is very, very careful. There is no indiscriminate firing. I saw, and this was not a show put on just for us, that before any shot is fired there is confirmation that there is nobody behind or in front of the objective. The army is very sensitive to non-deliberate fire."

In other words, Shalev's film for the BBC shed no light on why Israel's "deliberate" fire has killed hundreds of Palestinian children during the second intifada or why a large number of civilians have died from Israeli gunfire and missile strikes inside the Gaza Strip.

Shalev's latest film, "Will Israel bomb Iran?", follows this well-trodden path. Arabs and Muslims are again deprived of a voice, as are non-Israeli experts.

Is the Israeli government using Shalev, wittingly or not, and is he in turn using the BBC, to spread Israeli propaganda? Propaganda that may soon propel us towards the "clash of civilisations" so longed for by Israel's leadership. [Emphasis added]

Let us hope Cook is wrong, that no such attack is in the works, but it is hard not to worry that we are being prepared for what would surely be an utter catastrophe.

[Thanks, Miles]

Posted by Jonathan at October 13, 2006 05:49 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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