I wrote this post some time ago. Then I sat on it for various reasons. I decided to publish it now. The events described happened earlier this year.
This is one of those sad posts I have to write from time to time about individuals or organizations which betray the principles they espouse. At the end of December, Antiwar.com editor Eric Garris accepted for publication a critique I wrote about Israeli-Iranian political analyst, Meir Javedanfar. It was an expanded version of the post I published here earlier. It accused Javedanfar of a series of sloppy, egregious journalistic mistakes that called his professional integrity into question. I’ve posted here about one particularly troubling article, for which the Guardian’s reader’s editor was compelled to issue a correction. It also noted his alliances of convenience during the Bush administration with Israel lobby groups like The Israel Project, which support regime change in Iran. When political winds blow in a more pragmatic direction, he does video chats with Think Progress’ Matt Duss. Javedanfar is adaptable and malleable to the political climate. His one book, written with former Yossi Melman, a security journalist with cozy relations with Israeli intelligence, was roundly panned by Antiwar.com contributor, Gareth Porter.
After I submitted a few edits, the Javedanfar profile it was published in January 2013. The next day, Javedanfar began tweeting to his supporters asking them to pressure Antiwar.com to remove it. Later in the day, without any discussion or warning, Garris e-mailed me to say that he couldn’t take the pressure and was taking down my article. By then it was already gone. There was no discussion. No request that I support or explain anything. I even offered to make edits if that would make him more comfortable. Garris reluctantly refused, with apologies. He also said Javedanfar had threatened a lawsuit, though I’m not sure that was true for reasons explained in the following paragraph.
One of the key charges in the Antiwar piece was that the Iranian-Israeli political analyst in a Guardian op-ed had falsely attributed to the IAEA a statement written instead by a NY Times reporter. Though the Guardian had not responded to my request for a correction at the time Antiwar published my article, the former’s editors have published that correction now, thus vindicating what I’d written.
After ignoring an e-mail request to discuss the issue, Justin Raimondo, the publication’s “editorial director,” finally took full responsibility in a tweet for “killing” my article. Unlike Garris, he wasn’t apologetic. He was derisive. Before I’d known of his role, I was suspicious when Javedanfar publicly thanked Raimondo for his “professionalism” in killing the article. To crowd out any counter-discourse, Raimondo promptly blocked my Twitter account.
@Meir_J Whenever you have time. I’ve always wanted to go to Israel, btw
— Justin Raimondo (@JustinRaimondo) January 3, 2013
Then he commissioned via tweet an Antiwar.com article from Javedanfar that would show Israelis weren’t a war-like people:
Americans need to be disabsued [sic] of notion of warlike Israelis.
One wonders why someone who published numerous articles accusing Israel of involvement in the 9/11 attacks (see here and here) all of a sudden feels the need to disabuse readers of the notion that Israelis are war-like. He also told Javedanfar how he’d love to visit Israel and Javedanfar invited him to come and “see the Palestinian areas” as if Palestinians were some quaint animals in the Israeli zoo. Quite a mutual admiration society!
Returning to the killed article, Raimondo in effect overruled Eric Garris. All this means that the anti-Zionist Raimondo, has done the bidding of an Israeli-Iranian known for the distortions he publishes about the Iranian regime (one which I don’t support, but which I don’t lie about either).
I consulted with a confidential Israeli source who’s offered me many of the scoops I’ve published here about Israel-Iran relations. He told me that Javedanfar has a relationship with Israeli intelligence, (as do many Israeli analysts and journalists who write about Iran). Because of what he termed, the “sensitivity of the matter,” he wouldn’t elaborate further.
Let me be clear about I mean and don’t mean about the above. Neither my source nor I are claiming Javedanfar is an Israeli agent or that he takes direct orders or a paycheck from the Mossad. This is not Eli Cohen or Kim Philby. Both he and the intelligence agency are far too sophisticated to think such an arrangement would be successful for either party. I believe the relationship is one of mutual convenience, by which information is passed both ways; that the Israeli-Iranian analyst advances Israel’s interests when he feels it’s in his personal or professional interests to do so. This may mean it’s akin to the relationship someone like Yossi Melman has with his Israeli intelligence sources. It might mean more.
In some senses, a figure like Javedanfar would be even more attractive than a mere journalist. The Iranian-Israeli is more than that. He’s someone with academic pretensions (he’s been applying to U.S. doctoral programs, apparently unsuccessfully), an analyst who claims inside sources that offer him knowledge of what makes Iran’s leaders tick. This is punditry, authenticity, and “insight” the media craves. A terrific way to amplify the message of Israeli intelligence in the academic-media discourse.
Until now, I’d seen Antiwar.com as a courageous media outlet that published material that runs counter to the prevailing political consensus. It has a tradition of giving voice to important alternative views.
With great sadness and dismay, I wrote to Garris the day after my article disappeared saying I could no longer contribute to Antiwar.com. Its unwillingness to stand behind its editorial decision to publish my piece is both a terrible precedent and represents a betrayal of all the values of free speech and free press that we hold dear (or at least claim to). The time to entertain doubts and discuss the elements of a piece are before publication, not after.
Second-guessing editorial decisions is also a betrayal of the site’s relationship with me as a contributor to Antiwar. If other contributors were prudent, they should worry about its commitment to them as well and whether it will fold at the first sign of trouble.
Both the issues I raised in my piece about Javedanfar’s bona fides and policy views, and the issues Antiwar.com raised by taking the piece down are significant ones that need to be addressed. I invited Garris to explain Antiwar.com’s position here and heard no response.
Raimondo’s twitter responses were a non sequitur. He refused to engage any of the arguments in the article and defended Javedanfar, saying he was “anti-war.” Which is only half-true. The Iranian analyst does oppose a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran. But he has been very cagey about his views on a joint Israeli-U.S. attack, noting only that Israelis support it. But he has not criticized this option.
Two separate individuals have come forward privately to tell me of conversations they’ve had with Javedanfar in which he inferred that war with Iran was likely or inevitable. One even claimed he’d said he’d reluctantly be willing to accept the possibility Iran’s Jews might be harmed if it might save Israel’s 6-million Jews from another Holocaust. Though Javedanfar denies making this statement, I have in writing the correspondent’s statement and the context in which Javendanfar allegedly made it.
But that’s beside the point. There are many other issues that should be evaluated to determine whether an analyst’s judgment is clear and independent. Sanctions, for example. Javedanfar supports them (with a few minor exemptions). Javedanfar has publicly advocated making ultimatums to Iran’s leaders about abandoning its enrichment program. But having left Iran when he was a teenager, he has lost sight of the fact that ultimatums do not work with Iran. This is a country that is proud and nationalist and one that has suffered great hardship over the past decades. Ultimatums will not make it buckle to the west’s will. Javedanfar also believes Iran is like the Soviet Union, as viewed through a Cold War prism, it seeks to export Islamic Revolution throughout the region, especially to places like Bahrain. In doing this he confuses Iran’s attempt to support the majority Shiite population there, with attempts at regional hegemony.
The point is that Raimondo has embarrassed Antiwar.com and tarnished its reputation.