Trying to make sense of a meshuga planet

Hitchens on Iranian “culture of rumor and paranoia”

I am not a huge fan of Christopher Hitchens, but here he makes a good point and provides a sensible advice to the Obama administration. Maybe a tiny bit of paranoia is healthy, but history shows that societies obsessed with conspiracy theories (exacerbated by hatred) are dangerously insecure and unstable.

Persian Paranoia. Iranian leaders will always believe Anglo-Saxons are plotting against them by Christopher Hitchens (Slate)

One of the signs of Iran’s underdevelopment is the culture of rumor and paranoia that attributes all ills to the manipulation of various demons and satans. And, of course, the long and rich history of British imperial intervention in Persia does provide some support for the notion. But you have no idea how deep is the primitive belief that it is the Anglo-Saxons—more than the CIA, more even than the Jews—who are the puppet masters of everything that happens in Iran.

… the Obama administration [should] be aware that nothing will stop the theocrats from slandering you for interfering anyway. Also try to bear in mind that one day you will have to face the young Iranian democrats who risked their all in the battle and explain to them just what you were doing when they were being beaten and gassed. (Hint: Don’t make your sole reference to Iranian dictatorship an allusion to a British-organized coup in 1953; the mullahs think that it proves their main point, and this generation has more immediate enemies to confront.)

There is then the larger question of the Iranian theocracy and its continual, arrogant intervention in our affairs: its export of violence and cruelty and lies to Lebanon and Palestine and Iraq and its unashamed defiance of the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Agency on the nontrivial matter of nuclear weapons. I am sure that I was as impressed as anybody by our president’s decision to quote Martin Luther King—rather late in the week—on the arc of justice and the way in which it eventually bends. It was just that in a time of crisis and urgency he was citing the wrong King text (the right one is to be found in the “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”), and it was also as if he were speaking as the president of Iceland or Uruguay rather than as president of these United States. Coexistence with a nuclearized, fascistic theocracy in Iran is impossible even in the short run. The mullahs understand this with perfect clarity. Why can’t we?


June 25, 2009 Posted by | Iran | , , | Leave a comment

Becoming an expert on Iran

Yes, yes, I know: one book (or many books) is not enough to become an expert.
Jokes aside, I am reading The Devil We Know: Dealing With The New Iranian Superpower by Robert Baer. It is a captivating and provoking read.

Baer doesn’t seem to have much of a web presence. I already mentioned his recent interview (Mar 2009), here’s another one (Oct 2008).

April 26, 2009 Posted by | Iran, US foreign policy | , , , | 1 Comment

BBC editor hired to correct anti-Israel bias was found to be perpetrating it

Back from the USSR, I perceived the BBC radio as a voice of freedom. These days I find it deeply disappointing because at least in one respect – its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict – the Beeb is nauseatingly biased against Israel. Today the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust admitted bias.

Jonathan Hoffman, co-Vice Chair of the UK Zionist Federation guest posts at Z-Word:

The BBC is a unique institution. It is the largest broadcasting organisation on the planet (with an annual operating expenditure over £4 billion) and it is a public service broadcaster. The former gives it tremendous power.

The combination of size with 100% public ownership means that the BBC has very clear Editorial Guidelines.

They state: “The BBC’s commitment to accuracy is a core editorial value and fundamental to our reputation… Impartiality lies at the heart of the BBC’s commitment to its audiences.“

In November 2003 in response to criticism (from both sides) about its Middle East coverage, the BBC appointed Malcolm Balen as Senior Editorial Adviser on the Middle East.

He wrote a long Report which was supposed to be internal. Reportedly it found anti-Israel bias.

Since then, the BBC  spent hundreds of thousands of B. pounds of taxpayer money on a long legal battle against making it public. This is especially hypocritical because the BBC frequently uses the Freedom of Information Act for its own reporting.

Also in response to criticism the BBC appointed its first Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen.

What happened today was the publication of a landmark decision. The highest level of the BBC’s complaints-handling structure – the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust – has ruled that Jeremy Bowen breached both the guideline on accuracy and that on impartiality.

Read the whole post, and CAMERA (which made the complaint) promises more details.

It is not easy to distinguish the cause and effect here, but it is no surprise that UK is European center of anti-Semitism.

Of course it will take much more than this to correct the problem, but today’s step is in the right direction.

JPost’s article Complaints of BBC bias partially upheld says in part:

However, the Trust’s ruling contains no sanction, and a BBC spokesman played down its significance. In respect to one of the findings, the spokesman said that Bowen had merely been “exercising his professional judgment on history.”

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Media bias | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Middle East, unconditional concessions signal weakness

Am Thinker has a good article: Obama’s Faustian Bargain by Mark Silverberg

As Barry Rubin of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel wrote recently: “In the Middle East, it is not so useful to think yourself popular and show yourself to be friendly. You have to inspire fear in your enemies and confidence in your friends. And if you don’t inspire fear in your enemies – if you’re too nice to them – then you will indeed foment fear among your friends.” That is because the culture of the modern Arab/Persian world has not descended from the Reformation, the Enlightenment, John Locke, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, but from radical jihadi Salafists like Ibn Tamiya in the 15th century and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (Wahhabism) in the 18th century whose descendants now seek to return Islam and the world back to the Dark Ages.

From Day 1, Obama’s stated intention has been to engage diplomatically rather than to confront militarily state sponsors of terror and weapons of mass destruction proliferators like Iran and Syria. However, as he launches his reconciliation effort in the Muslim/Persian world, he had best understand from the outset that non-democratic governments like Syria, and jihadist regimes like Iran as well as non-state Islamic actors like Hezbollah and Hamas move to the beat of a different drum. They do not perceive such overtures as we do. These regimes do not share our Western visions of democratization, globalization, religious tolerance and freedom.

They do, however, have their own vision, and the price they will exact from Obama will be in furtherance of that vision which is to humiliate us, drive us from the Middle East, expunge all Western influence from the region, and “export” Islamic terrorism throughout the world as a precondition to subjugating billions of infidels to Sharia law. That is their vision, and they have proven to be far more effective in “exporting” it over the past three decades than we have been in exporting ours. If we are to “reconcile” with regimes such as these, they will exact a high price for their “cooperation” and it will be based on their vision. …

Skipping (probably most important) paragraphs concerning Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, etc.

These are the initial costs of the Faustian bargain the Iranian mullahs will extract from the US administration. So Mr. President, here’s some advice for whatever it may be worth:

You are dealing with an apocalyptic Islamic regime in Tehran whose sole mission is to humiliate the US wherever and whenever possible, expel it from the Middle East and establish Iranian hegemony over the entire region. As you begin pressuring Israel to cede its security, turn Lebanon over to Hezbollah and the Syrians, and begin turning away from our other allies in the Middle East in furtherance of this grand bargain, remember this: the price our enemies are exacting for their “cooperation” is costing us our allies, our credibility, our influence, and will eventually cost us our freedom. Is it really worth the price?

The highlight is mine. Read the whole article. It’s painful to see the the same lesson being repeated over and over, but I am afraid it’ll have to get worse before it gets better.

April 1, 2009 Posted by | Iran, Middle East, US | , , | 2 Comments

What’s behind overwhelming anti-Israel bias in the UK media

Melanie Phillips reveals the reason of overwhelming anti-Israel bias in the British media: The real lobby and its acolytes

Well now Arab Media Watch lifts a curtain to show us the real lobby at work. It boasts:

Some 200 guests gathered at Kensington’s Royal Garden Hotel on 21 March 2009 to attend Arab Media Watch’s fifth annual fundraising dinner, and to mark its ninth anniversary. Among the guests were almost three-dozen senior journalists from the BBC, Al Jazeera English, Financial Times, Reuters, Daily Mail, Independent, Asharq Al Awsat, Al Quds Al Arabi, Al Hayat and others.

The evening began with a welcome speech by AMW chairman Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi, who outlined the extensive work done by the organisation during and since Israel’s invasion of Gaza, including:

– forcing the media to correct factual errors
– meeting with editors and journalists
– providing them with information
– being interviewed by them or arranging interviews for them
– getting letters and articles published
– being quoted and cited in articles
– publishing studies, press releases and Action Alerts
– organising and speaking at events
– helping university students and researchers

‘All this was done,’ Nashashibi reminded the audience, ‘while continuing our work on media portrayals of the entire Arab world, a huge but vital task undertaken on a budget that’s dwarfed by that of the pro-Israel lobbies.’ He added: ‘We’ve proven the sceptics wrong for the last nine years, establishing ourselves as a credible, professional, dynamic organisation with the recognition, respect and support of much of the British media, and high-level contacts in every news organisation…AMW is making a considerable and invaluable difference, and wants to continue doing so.’

Here are some of the ‘factual errors’ that on its website AMW has tried to correct:

* The ‘myth that Hamas is out to destroy Israel’
* The ‘myth that Palestinian rockets are a grave threat to Israeli civilians’
* The ‘myth that five Arab armies tried to wipe out Israel in 1948: ‘Strictly speaking, therefore, the Arab states did not launch a war against Israel, but undertook an armed intervention which was both lawful and justified.’

On and on its goes, lie after smear after brazen lie.

Read the whole thing, it explains a lot.
Let’s remember this the next time we hear them lament about “all-powerful Israeli lobby”.

HT: LGF via IsraelMatzav

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Media bias, UK | , , | Leave a comment