I just read a follow up by Larry Cohler-Esses in The Nation to his Jewish Week story about the bogus report that Iran planned to force Jews to wear a Nazi-like yellow stripe on their clothing. So many able progressive bloggers have covered this story so I don’t want to go over ground that’s already been plowed. But there are some interesting Jewish angles to this story that haven’t been fully amplified yet.
The Jewish star fraud was perpetrated by a neocon darling, Iranian-born Amir Taheri. The latter is represented by another neocon PR outfit, Benador Associates, which placed the article in the Canadian National Post, a paper owned by the Asper family. The Aspers are supporters of Israeli hardline politics and so it’s no wonder they ran the story.
Benador Associates seems to represent just about anyone who’s anyone in the neo-con movement. Their “member list” reads like a Who’s Who of Bush Administration/Aipac-friendly insiders. Just a few of the pertinent names prominent in hardline pro-Israel politics: David Gelertner, Charles Jacobs (DAVID Project), Charles Krauthammer, Michael Ledeen, Martin Kramer, Richard Pipes, Richard Perle, A.M. Rosenthal, Yossi Olmert, Natan Sharansky, Dennis Prager. Eleana Benador, the company’s founder, is a former director of Daniel Pipes hard-right Middle East Forum.
Taylor Marsh, who first broke Yellow Star story, reports that a National Post reporter faxed Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center asking him to confirm Taheri’s story before it was published. Marsh quotes Cooper as confirming in his reply that the report was indeed true (“Dear John, [Cooper] wrote, ‘The story is absolutely true'”). I’ve never trusted anything the Wiesenthal Center or Abraham Cooper have ever said or done. Now, in case I needed a reminder, I remembered the reason why. Cooper clearly has no interest in accuracy or fairness. For him, the fact that Iran’s government and its president are raving lunatic anti-Semites (which they are) means they are fair game for anything that we Jews can throw at them whether it’s true or not:
[Cooper] stressed that ‘the central point for our community and government to focus on, based on the history and theology of Iran, is that legislation could very well mean color coding for minorities, Christians and Jews.’
Rabbi Cooper added that “when you deal with Iran, you never have a totally transparent scenario . . . . We must deal with a regime that now uses Holocaust denial, threats against Israel and anti-Semitism as part of the prism through which we look at events in Iran.”
Translation: when you’re dealing with pure evil all bets are off and you’re forgiven for using lies to combat it. Personally, I don’t have a problem with labeling the Iranian president as evil. But that certainly doesn’t justify lying about this matter in order to sully the country’s reputation. And furthermore, it doesn’t justify going to war against the country as many neocons and right-wing Jewish groups wish to do.
Cohler-Esses quotes Eleana Benador too using virtually the same defense in explaining why her support for Taheri is justified despite his journalistic sins:
Benador…was impatient with dissections of his work. Terming accuracy with regard to Iran “a luxury,” she said, “My major concern is the large picture. Is Taheri writing one or two details that are not accurate? This is a guy who is putting his life at stake.” She noted that “the Iranian government has killed its opponents.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “says he wants to destroy Israel. He says the Holocaust never happened…. As much as being accurate is important, in the end it’s important to side with what’s right. What’s wrong is siding with the terrorists.”
Any editor who ever accepts another article placement from a Benador client needs to have their head examined. At the very least every single media outlet that uses something from them better exercise due diligence before publishing unless they want egg on their face like the National Post. And why the hell anyone would ever again publish anything by Taheri is beyond me. Buyer beware.
Stock in the neocon enterprise is falling by the day with every new Iraqi suicide bombing and American death there. The Taheri fraud certainly can’t help. What does it say about the integrity of a movement when one of its journalist-darlings–its resident native-born Iranian mullah-hater–is caught out like this?
Which brings me to Aipac’s role in the drumbeat for war against Iran. Formally, Aipac will tell you they’re not making a case for war, which is bogus. They’re doing everything but calling overtly for that outcome. In a May, 2003 Forward article, Mark Perelman notes that Aipac is not only calling for “regime change” (that phrase has blessedly fallen from favor in the aftermath of our quagmire-like failure in Iraq), it’s calling for restoration of the monarchy! I kid you not:
A budding coalition of conservative hawks, Jewish organizations and Iranian monarchists is pressing the White House to step up American efforts to bring about regime change in Iran.
…Neoconservatives advocating regime change in Tehran through diplomatic pressure — and even covert action — appear to be winning the debate within the administration, several knowledgeable observers said.
“There is a pact emerging between hawks in the administration, Jewish groups and Iranian supporters of Reza Pahlavi [the exiled son of the former shah of Iran] to push for regime change,” said Pooya Dayanim, president of the Iranian-Jewish Public Affairs Committee in Los Angeles and a hawk on Iran.
The emerging coalition is reminiscent of the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, with Pahlavi possibly assuming the role of Iraqi exile opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi, a favorite of neoconservatives. Like Chalabi, Pahlavi has good relations with several Jewish groups. He has addressed the board of the hawkish Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and gave a public speech at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and met with Jewish communal leaders.
Sure, one can argue that this is old news. But to me it establishes a pattern indicating Aipac has favored a military solution to the Iran “problem” for some time. And since this article appeared, the Iran nuclear program has given them a hook to hang their hat on.
Taylor Marsh also notes that Taheri’s article appeared in the National Post in the same week as Ehud Olmert traveled to Washington DC to, among other things, gin up further hysteria about Iran’s nuclear program. Marsh wondered whether the two incidents could’ve been coincidences. Who’s to say? But the hysteria Taheri attempted to invoke through his hoax would seem to provide a perfect lead-in for Olmert’s efforts to rally U.S. public opinion and Bush Administration policy in favor of military action against Iran.