Iran, Israel, and the Muzzled U.S. Press

“Iran must comply with United Nations resolutions,” declared President Obama. Iran is “as defiant as ever” say a chorus of corporate employees otherwise known as mainstream journalists.  Really!  Is Iran defiant for testing missiles for its military?  What military in the world fails to test missiles?  Is Iran defiant for reporting the construction of a “secret underground” uranium enrichment plant at least a year in advance of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) obligations require it to?  Speaking of “defiance” in the neighborhood where Iran resides and failing to mention Israel requires levels of disingenuousness and obedience to state propaganda that baffle the mind.  And all this at a time when arguably the most significant news item to come our way this month was the UN Human Rights Council’s damning report (Goldstone Report) on Israeli crimes in the winter assault on Gaza.  (Here is the Executive Summary of the report:  Can you imagine the deafening corporate media ruckus had the UN issued a 452-page report condemning Iran of war crimes and even possible crimes against humanity on a massive scale?  Instead, what we get is near silence on the Goldstone Report and all the other facts on the ground, such as:

  • Iran has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) but Israel, Pakistan, and India have not;
  • Israel just rejected the call by IAEA to join the NPT and open up its atomic sites to international inspection: the IAEA motion on September 18 expressing concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities” was adopted by 49 votes to 45, with 16 abstentions; the US and the EU initially tried to block the vote, and then voted against it while Israel said it “will not co-operate in any matter with this resolution”;
  • Israel has had nuclear weapons for three decades, and not only refuses to sign the NPT, rejects international inspections, but also does not even acknowledge the existence of these weapons, and even has gone so far as to jail a nuclear scientist for years for exposing the fact;
  • Israel in defiance of international law continues to threaten Iran with military attack;
  • Israel stands in violation of international law on several other accounts regarding waging of brutal wars of aggression and invasions of Lebanon and Gaza and continuing its brutal policies of occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the hapless Palestinians.

Is it even imaginable that the corporate media should do the right thing and tell the obvious truth that such actions and threats against any people constitute violation of international laws — let alone suggest that it is Israel that needs to be sanctioned by the international community?

Meanwhile Washington denounced Goldstone’s Gaza Report for its “grossly disproportionate attention” to Israel and reportedly “gave Israel a document defining the Obama administration’s own red lines on the report. . . .  These include keeping the report from leaving the Human Rights Council, nixing any measures that would undermine Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and letting Israel’s own law enforcement system conduct any criminal probes necessitated by the Gaza war.”   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, criticized the report for giving “total legitimacy to terrorists shooting at civilians.”  The report, he added, “will strike a fatal blow against the peace process, because Israel will not be able to take additional steps and take risks for the sake of peace if denied its right to self-defense” — Orwellian Newspeak at its very finest.  What “peace process?”  Israel refuses to even freeze it’s colonizing (“settlement building”) activities let alone end its brutal occupation. It has just announced that it won’t accept a return to the 1967 borders.  A few days ago, even Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni said: “For me, there is no right of return, not symbolic and not partial.  I would not even accept the entrance to Israel of a single refugee, and the Palestinians and the Arab world know this.”  Israel has shown no indication that it is interested in resolving any of the core issues concerning Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees, and I would add her liberal use of state violence and terrorism.  Too, what “right of self-defense?”  In the West Bank territories Israel has zero right to self-defense.  An occupying power does not have or cannot in good faith invoke such a right.  To do so is absurd.  I can’t come into your home by force, take it for myself, use extreme violence to suppress your resistance to my takeover plan, and call it self-defense!  True, Israel is no longer “occupying” Gaza (it unilaterally pulled out in 2005 though without relinquishing control), but Israel cannot invoke the right of self-defense for its winter assault on Gaza either because there existed a peaceful option to resolve differences.

The Goldstone Report recommends that both Israel and Hamas be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution unless they carry out adequate internal investigations within six months.  The US and Israel oppose referral of the matter to the General Assembly, the Security Council, or the ICC.  In fact, as reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israel engaged in economic blackmail against the Palestinian Authority (PA) by insisting that the PA drops war crimes suit on the basis of the Goldstone Report at the ICC or Israel won’t let a 2nd cellular phone provider operate in the West Bank.  Some $300 million has been invested in licensing and infrastructure, and, if not approved by October 15, the PA must pay a $300 million penalty.  Israel has warned that referral to the ICC would mean a fatal blow to the peace process and to democratic states’ ability to fight terror.  In fact, as I write these words, Haaretz is reporting that the PA has “decided to drop its draft resolution condemning Israel’s conduct during the Gaza Strip offensive, in effect deferring its adoption of the Goldstone’s Commission report,” thanks to “pressure from the Obama administration.”   Now this is one more sign to those progressives who personalized politics of hope and change and reduced it to a single man at the helm of the ship of state; we must always struggle for the change we believe in.

The corporate media reached a feverish pitch playing up and pontificating on the recent UN appearances by Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, President Obama’s speech, and Israel’s Netanyahu’s spirited defense of the historicity of the holocaust, but failed predictably to even bring up the most significant UN news item, namely the subject of Israel’s defiance of the UN and violation of international law as documented and condemned by the UN itself in the Goldstone report — the failure that, of course, visibly delighted the Israelis.

Meanwhile, the Israeli media, unlike their counterpart in the US, tell of life and facts on the ground.  Here is Haaretz reporting on Israel refusing to let up to a third of Gazans keep their medical appointments outside of Gaza this year:

Issa Hamdan, 58, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in March.  Since then, surgery to remove the growth has been scheduled for seven different occasions, from April 27 to today, at an East Jerusalem hospital.  The April 27 surgery date was canceled due to a one-month suspension of trips by Gazans for medical care due to tension between the Ramallah and Gaza City Palestinian governments.  The operation was postponed until June 28, but the Israeli authorities did not respond to Hamdan’s request.  Hamdan was given an August 1 surgery date, but was called in for a Shin Bet interview only on August 2.  Hamdan’s wife, Fadya, who is 50, says she brought him for the interview from their home in Rafah to Erez, where she had to push his wheelchair with difficulty before submitting their identity cards for inspection.  Then, apparently when the Israeli officials realized that Hamdan was too sick to be interviewed, they were told to leave.  The operation has been rescheduled three more times since then — for August 3, September 13 and today — but each time no permit has been forthcoming.

And the indefatigable Amira Hass in Haaretz discussing Israel’s brutality during the three-week winter assault on Gaza and the morally indefensible and bankrupt official protestations in denial of the truth of the Goldstone report:

Israel struck a civilian population that remains under its control; it didn’t fulfill its obligation to distinguish between civilians and militants and used military force disproportionate with the tangible threat to its own civilians.  Air Force drones and helicopters fired deadly missiles at civilians, many of them children; the Tank Corps and Navy shelled civilian neighborhoods with weapons not designed for precision strikes; soldiers received orders to fire on rescue crews; others fired on civilians carrying white flags; and others killed people in or near their homes.  Troops used Gazans as human shields, soldiers detained civilians in abusive conditions, the army used white phosphorus shells in dense civilian areas and, on the eve of withdrawing, destroyed wide residential, industrial and agricultural areas.  There is only one thing worse than denial — the admission that the IDF indeed acted as has been described [by the Goldstone report], but that these actions are both normal and appropriate.

Can we ever look to a day when the US Amira Hasses can write truthfully and daringly about events of such crucial significance in the pages of the New York Times and Washington Post?

Faramarz Farbod is a native of Iran and an adjunct instructor of politics at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, USA. He has been active in anti-imperialist, labor, feminist, environmental, and global justice movements over the years.