Who is a threat to whom? by underground

In the Western corner, nestled between the Mediterranean and half a dozen hostile neighbours, with a population of over 7 million, now 60 years young, with a nuclear arsenal believed to number 150 warheads, defender of Zionism…. ISRAEL!!!

In the Eastern corner, wedged between terrorist havens of Iraq and Afghanistan, with a population of over 65 million, with controversial nuclear programme claimed peaceful, defender of Theocracy… The Islamic Republic of IRAN!!!

Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!

All right, enough hype. Let us be serious for a moment. Iran versus Israel. Both are religious states, both have substantial military capabilities, and both are guilty of crimes against minorities in their population. Yet both are viewed very differently in the eyes of the Western media and politicians. Let us look at both countries, and how the media depicts them.

Iran is by no means a model example of a perfect peaceful democracy. Apparently the home to the earliest charter of human rights, Iran is now a well-publicised abuser of the rights of its citizens. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution Sharia law is in place, and executions have increased as a result. According to political historian Ervand Abrahamian, “whereas less than 100 political prisoners had been executed between 1971 and 1979, more than 7900 were executed between 1981 and 1985. In 2004, a 16-year-old was executed for “crimes against chastity”. Homosexuality is also a crime punishable by death, with over 4,000 men and women having been killed for the offence since 1979.

However, there are claims by some of the sizeable Jewish residents that they co-exist peacefully in the Islamic state.

Whatever they say abroad is lies – we are comfortable in Iran – if you’re not political and don’t bother them then they won’t bother you Hersel Gabriel, BBC News

In fact surprisingly, Iran has the largest Jewish population in the entire Middle East. Rightly or wrongly, the media focuses less on this reality, and more so on the rhetoric of its leaders and their alleged nuclear weapons programme. Regardless, more focus should be placed on the human rights abuses, that is, the things we know to be occurring, rather than those we do not and can only speculate.

Supporters of Israel claim the Jewish state gets an unfair portrayal in the media. It is claimed Israeli attacks on Palestinians receive undue coverage, whereas Palestinian suicide and rocket attacks are ignored. The good things about Israel are believed to be neglected by critics and the media. It is popular for supporters to point out that it is the sole democracy in the region. The rights of Palestinians, it is argued, are respected within Israel, and the rights of women, homosexuals and other minorities are respected as greatly as in a Western democracy, and much more so than any of Israel’s Middle Eastern Muslim neighbours.

What are shied away from are abuses by Israel. No one with a conscience can honestly defend the shelling of a busy beach in Gaza in 2006, which ended a 16-month truce with Hamas or the disgusting use of cluster munitions against Lebanon (90 per cent of which were dropped in the last 72 hours, as a ceasefire was approaching). So try as one might, no one can sincerely and rationally absolve Israel of its share of guilt in the atrocities of the Middle East. And when international law deems Israeli settlements to be illegal, how can Israel been seen not to be provoking hostilities? If it were not for America’s veto in the Security Council, Israel would have certainly faced greater condemnation from the international community. Whether its supporters would humble themselves and join the chorus of criticism is unlikely. There clearly is a double standard.

To silence debate, anyone who criticises Israel is labelled an anti-Semite. The association is made between critics or opponents of Israel and the European persecutors who drove them from Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Critics are discredited as racist, and the atrocities committed by Israel can be swept aside. This tactic is used by everyone from Israel supporters on the street to US government officials.

The distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that – whether intentionally or unintentionally – has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonising Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character,” US State Department report to Congress.

So no one can criticise this sovereign democratic state, for fear of being smeared as racist. The ridiculous thing about this slander is that Palestinians are also Semites. But don’t let facts get in the way of this foolproof tactic to silence critics and stifle debate.

I have no problem with there being an Israel. And I do believe that an Israeli state could coexist alongside Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian states. But this will never happen if world leaders and the media maintain a racist bias because they don’t want to be labelled anti-Semitic. Is it not also then anti-Persian to criticise Iran?

Zionism maintains that Israel is Jewish land. Judaism also maintains that Jews are God’s chosen people, an idea that can only resemble racial superiority. Hence comparison’s between Zionists and Nazis are to be expected, and although are certainly not fair and are based largely on conspiracy theories (yes, people still believe the Protocols of the Elders of Zion!) and true anti-Semiticism, the comparisons should not be dismissed outright. I have nothing against Jewish people, only Judaism, in the same way that I have no problem with Christians, only Christianity. And I have a problem with anyone who deem themselves superior to others. I think the religious aspect of this issue is for a large part the biggest problem. In the same way that religion is used to justify Islamic “terrorist” attacks against Israel, Israel justifies its own crimes as part of the Zionist goal. Israel is not a secular democracy; it is a religious state, with Judaism as its foundations. The occupation is justified because many Israelis believe the land to be their religious homeland and they will act militarily in defence of this belief. Palestinians and Israelis believe that the land is their god given right. And as religious disagreements cannot be resolved and compromises cannot be meet, not until Israel becomes secular and reject Zionism, and Palestinians do likewise with fundamentalist Islam, no resolution can be met. The same applies to Iran, where the root of their human rights auses is religious fundamentalism. However, arguably the root of the rise of religious fundamentalism is Western interference in the region, which is perhaps best left to another blog post (or read War for Civilisation by Fisk to see how religion was at the forefront of resistance to Western exploitation in the region).

The tension has been cast as battle between good versus evil. The propaganda from all sides has overwhelmed rational debate. Iran has depicted Israel as a “stain”, the “regime of occupation” and the “filthy Zionist entity” and the United States as the “great Satan”. Iran, on the other hand has been described as the “greatest threat to the Israel and the US”. The media’s role in twisting the debate is immediately recognisable when one compares the relative treatment of two similar comments made by two prominent officials in Iran and Israel.

In his 2005, “World without Israel” speech, Mahmood Ahmadinejad was translated to have said Israel must be “wiped off the map”. It has been argued that correctly translated he said the “regime occupying Jerusalem” must be removed not Israel itself. This correction has been made repeatedly to defend the President’s comments, but has been ignored by Western media. Although Ahmadinajad’s hostility towards Israel is real, his comments have been twisted for propaganda purposes. It cannot, of course, be denied Iran does pose a threat to Israel, but it is disingenuous to paint Iran as the sole agitator. He has since confirmed the statement that he does not believe Israel has the right to exist and his questioning of the holocaust illustrate not only his animosity towards Jews, but his complete ignorance and stupidity. However, the media and the West’s politicians have been less than equal in their criticism of similar aggressive comments by Israel and others.

Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, warned Palestinians would face a Shoah, the Hebrew word used for holocaust, if rocket attacks on settlements did not cease. Considering the horrifying loss of life in the Jewish Holocaust, it is utterly mind-blowing he would make such a threat, and even more unbelievable that the media would fail to follow up the statement with criticism or further inquiry. Yet Vilnai was still able to criticise one of the country’s Deputy Prime Ministers of trying to boost his own political standing by threatening Iran after Shaul Mofaz said military strikes to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons looked “unavoidable”. Israel is positioning for war against Iran, and it has been alleged they are considering striking to provoke a retaliatory attack to validate war.

To further illustrate the hypocrisy of the coverage of Ahmadinajad’s stupid yet misquoted comment, one can only look at former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who threatened to obliterate Iran, in her quest to appear tough on foreign policy to the electorate. George W Bush is also guilty of similar aggressive comments. Such moronic threats should be dismissed as irresponsible war mongering, and not tolerated from anyone, friend or foe.

At the heart of the tension is Iran’s alleged nuclear programme. Ahmadinejad vehemently denies his country aims to obtain nuclear weapons:

We’re fundamentally opposed to the expansion of nuclear-weapons arsenals. This is why we have proposed the formation of an unbiased organization and the disarmament of the nuclear powers. We don’t need any weapons. We’re a civilized, cultured people, and our history shows that we have never attacked another country.” Ahmadinejad to Der Speigel

The West is not convinced. Although Iran claims their plans to enrich uranium are for peaceful energy producing purposes, critics argue the Islamic state aim to produce nuclear weapons. Israel characterises Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential threat”. The IAEA has not settled the dispute, having stated that it appears the programme finished in 2003, yet also stating that the country is not cooperating with inspectors. Considering the threats surrounding the programme, the stakes are high. It should be vital to establish facts from fiction before acting. The misinformation that lead to the Iraq invasion of 2003 is testament to the power of propaganda. Ensuring this does not occur again does not appear to be the priority of an international media that laps up the chest beating of warmongers.

The obvious hypocrisy of this is that not only does much of the West possess thousands of nuclear weapons, but Israel undoubtedly also has such weapons of mass destruction. Despite the hard line being taken with Iran and North Korea, and the volatility of the region, Israel has not even the courtesy to inform the international community of their arsenal or be party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Despite their denials, their nuclear capabilities are the world’s worse kept secret, exposed by Mordechai Vanunu in 1986, confirmed by a slip-up by Prime Minister Ehud Omert in 2006 and confirmed by Jimmy Carter in 2008.

So who is a threat to whom? Who is the bad guy? Is there a good guy?

But where does the truth lie? Is it possible, as perhaps the respected Independent reporter Robert Fisk would have as believe, that each side is in the wrong. Despite many on the right slandering him as biased against Israel and the United States, anyone who has read a great deal of his work and is honest would acknowledge he is critical of all sides in the quagmire that is the Middle East. However, with all the hyperbole and propaganda, it is understandable why people might view Fisk and others’ equal treatment of all guilty sides with suspicion. With this in mind, how should we approach the situation? Should anyone be taking sides, or should the world aim to involve all concerned nations in dialogue and attempt to defuse the tensions? Have the world’s media distorted the debate to ensure conflict is inevitable?

Iran is dangerous, but so is Israel. The actions of Israel should be held to the same critique as Iran or any other nation. Let us not be deceived by propaganda, political point scoring, or by racist ideology. Let us call a spade a spade.


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[…] “wipe Israel off the map” Ahmadinejad comments, because I know they were taken out of context. The country which has nuclear weapons is Israel, the country which is talking about attacking […]

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