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.
Great publication and very informative. If I change my mind and offer criticism, do I get an invite to Israel too? 🙂
Richard, I am sorry to hear about your article not published at antwar.com, which I’m sure was a worthy one. You have certainly been astute about Iran/Israel issues and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Meir Javendafar was indeed one slippery eel. I’ve heard him speak once and could see why he would be used as a propaganda channel for the israeli Intelligence and political branches. Very convenient that, an Iranian-israeli. Credibility galore. And such a presentable prop!
But, I have a theory about Justin and the anti-war.com publication. Note how they generally shy away from serious contributed articles about the situation inside israel and the obvious move towards the Greater israel project, while practically ignoring the plight of the palestinians (other than a few quoted articles on the subject from other published sources). A grand project that the sabre rattling against Iran is supposed to obscure, as you said several times before. Something on which many agree, both inside and outside Israel.
this BTW, is not unlike what’s happened to Counterpunch, from what I noticed. And other notable libertarian or Marxist leaning publications that have attained a quasi-establishment status, even if they are in the margins..
There is method behind the madness I believe and it has to do with credible threats that go to the heart of the difficult situation such alternative publications face as they try to stay afloat while retaining a modicum of professionalism. I am sure that Justin is basically tolerated by the PTBs, as long as he stays within certain parameters, ie, keep crticism well centered in and around US foreign policy and empire machinations. One of the limits of discourse is to keep overt criticism of israel to a minimum, at least insofar as original articles go. The publication gives virtually no space to critiics from inside israel (though it used to, quite a bit, though it may, now and then, discuss the shenanigans of The Lobby. The absence is not a coincidence. I believe the threats being made are substantial and credible. Publications such as anti-war.com must do quarterly fund raisers to stay alive, an increasingly difficult endeavor. they get some generous contributions from a couple of sources too that make it possible to reach their fund raising goals. A few well-placed phone calls and the entire publication can be brought down in a hurry. So the parameters have to be obeyed, more or less, and Meir, for some reason, has been declared untouchable, though they may not have known that at first. So is Ali Hirshi and an assortment of Arabic, pakistani and Iranian turn-coats.
An aside – it is my belief that some such threats were made against Assange and Wikileaks too – at the time. That’s why we saw next to no cables from the US tel Aviv embassy. that’s probably partly why assange still has a refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, precarious as his position there may be.
I think you should continue to call it like it is, even if now and then you run afoul of the “parameters’ set for the loyal opposition. just take heed not to become too successful (in the sense of main-streamed)? Glenn greenwald has been strong up to now.Though yes, in case you wonder, I do have some worries about the Omidyar funded venture, taking three of the most capable critics of empire on a new direction, in the meantime, limiting their current contributions to a minimum. But then, I have these conspiracy-minded predilections.
Glad you shared this sad story with us.
Again, my thoughts ran away with me. Sorry for the untoward length. Some can comisserate in a well-chosen word. others, alas take way much time and space –
Will Porter says
Dana, I agree with a lot of what you said here, however I would take some issue with the claim that AWC goes easy on Israel and the Lobby, as well as the claim that they downplay the plight of the Palestinians.
First of all, Justin has an entire book devoted to the Israel-9/11 question. Therein, he doesn’t seem to pull any punches. Raimondo also makes frequent reference to AIPAC and the lobby’s utter domination of the U.S. congress, white house, etc. They also seem to show outward sympathy for the people of Palestine.
I *myself* have written essays for AWC, which they published, that include strong criticisms of Israel.
Now your main thesis could certainly still hold true, that there indeed are some “parameters” that AWC’s staff know they must stay within, but if so, they are broader than your post insinuates.
This saddens me though. Antiwar.com is my very favorite news outlet, including especially Scott Horton (NO ally of Israel no matter how you look at him). I’m really not quite sure how to feel. Who knows how many other times this has happened that we never heard about? Such a rock and a hard place, AWC has been so absolutely exemplary over the years, but I can’t ignore something like this.
I guess the lesson is this: always bring salt to the dinner table.
Javedanfar was totally wrong about Iran’s presidential election of last June. His prediction about the outcome was ridiculous!
When one debates with him, if one is firm, he will retreat and changes positions. In my view, he is a pure opportunist.
If this is an example how Meir Javedanfar operates, your opinion is spot on! It’s clear he earns his living in Herzliya.
great quotations, Qui. As always, right on the money.
peter mo says
I too am baffled at antiwar.com deletions. In my case two harmless reader posts linking Jewish funding of political parties to USA;s one tracked foreign policy geared soley towards Israel. Nothing anti semetic or improper which has me really confused at Antiwar’s censoring policy.