In reports in the NY Times and Yediot about the Iran poll compiled by the Israeli Interdisciplinary Center, the IDC said an “Iran expert” whom it refused to name prepared the poll. In most cases in Israeli media, when a story says a source’s identity is concealed (hasui), it means he has intelligence background. My Israeli source told me yesterday that this individual is indeed associated with Israeli intelligence.
Today, the IDC released the full public version (my source tells me there is a secret annex to the survey prepared for Israeli intelligence) of the survey along with an accompanying press release. The press release says:
Professor Mintz consulted with IDC Herzliya’s Meir Javedanfar when putting together the poll’s questions…
A number of questions arise. Is Javedanfar the mysterious “Iran expert” referred to in those articles? Given that he is Iranian-Israeli, is known in some circles as an Iran specialist, and teaches a course at IDC about Iran, it’s a pretty good bet they’re one and the same. If so, why would IDC deliberately conceal Javedanfar’s identity in the news articles, but reveal it in the press release? I’d like to be able to answer this question and I’ve put it to Prof. Mintz and he hasn’t responded. I’ve also asked the IDC to respond to the claim that Javedanfar may have an intelligence background.
The astonishing thing about the Israeli academy is that an association with secret military or intelligence agencies is not a disqualifying factor or a badge of shame. Quite the opposite. Going all the way back to the post-1948 period, Israeli scientists and social scientists considered it a patriotic duty to perform their scholarly roles on behalf of the State. Diaspora Jewish journalists and academics have also been recruited on behalf of Israeli intelligence objectives. Leonard Fine publicly admitted he performed such a favor when asked by Golda Meir. In the national security state, there is no separation between the academy and the State as there is in other western universities.
So if Javedanfar does have an intelligence background this would not be considered all that unusual in these circles. To be clear, I’ve asked my source specifically whether Javedanfar is affiliated with intelligence and he refused to be any more specific than he had been. At this point, I feel the possibility of this being the case is high, though not absolute.
In addition, in yesterday’s post I noted the close connections of the Institute which prepared the poll with Israeli intelligence. Though, I must reiterate statements by Prof. Mintz that the poll has no connection with Israeli intelligence and no secret annex as my source claimed.
The Institute’s foreign press officer sent me an e-mail today with the poll and press release. The subject line of the message was:
Press Release – Israeli Survey of Iran: Majority of Iranians Willing to Give Up Nuclear Program for Lifting of Sanctions
Here is how the full poll report articulated this:
A majority of respondents (54 percent) agrees to give up their nuclear program, including the ability to produce nuclear weapons in the future (45 percent), for the full removal of sanctions.
But the press release actually correctly summarizes the poll finding:
54.3% of those polled are willing to give up a part or their entire nuclear program for the full lifting of sanctions…
There is a world of difference between the claim that the majority are willing to give up the entire nuclear program. In fact, here are the full results for this question:
For the full removal of sanctions, will you be willing to give up:
Entire nuclear program 5.3%
The civilian part of the nuclear program 9.1%
The ability of Iran to produce nuclear weapons in the future 40.0
I am not willing to give up any part of the nuclear program 45.7%
In fact, only 5% of Iranians respondents said they’d give up the entire program in return for easing of sanctions, not the 54% claimed. If you add up all of those willing to give up either all or some of the program you get to 54%. But that’s a far cry from the claim in the e mail and in the poll report itself.
So either we have a willful misrepresentation of the poll or incompetence in reporting the results (or both).
Yesterday, I reported a pattern of deception in the polling of respondents. I also note that deception continued in the poll questions, which were formulated by Javedanfar. Keep in mind that the poll was created by an Israeli research center and the polling done by Israelis. Yet here are a few of the questions asked:
Do you agree that our country should establish full trade and diplomatic relations with the U.S.?
Do you agree that our country should recognize Israel if it reaches a peace deal with the Palestinians?
Who is our biggest ally in the middle east [sic]?
Who is our biggest enemy?
The poll-takers continue their deception by invoking the pronoun “our” as if they are Iranians polling Iranians, which they aren’t. Further, if you look at the phrasing of the first two questions you’ll notice the phrase “do you agree that…” This is an improper way to formulate a poll question unless you want to guarantee a certain result. Asking someone if they agree with a statement you make is a dead-giveaway that yourself believe the statement and by inference, you wish them to agree with you. A professionally formulated poll would articulate its questions in a way that would eliminate such bias (i.e. “Should Iran…”).
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.