A Hole in the Story

Washington Post coverage of the allegation that a Pentagon official passed secret U.S. information about Iran to Israel via American pro-Israel lobbyists contains a striking omission. It’s one CAMERA has pointed out before regarding Post coverage touching on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

In its first four days of reporting the alleged spy case, the Post largely has ignored Iran’s nuclear threat against Israel.  Its third day coverage, “Israel, Iran Trade Threats as FBI Investigates Spying; US Ally Said to Have Received Documents on Tehran” (Aug. 30), by Jerusalem correspondents Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson, treated Israeli hints of pre-emption and Iranian vows of massive retaliation as a tit-for-tat exchange. The current Post coverage has not reported the initial, unprovoked Iranian threats to eliminate the Jewish state.

Without this context, the Israeli-Iranian charges and counter-charges in Post coverage of the purported cloak-and-dagger affair (see “Spy Stories” for important background on previous such claims) reads like a “he-said/she-said” exchange between equally antagonistic parties.

The Unmentioned Prior Threat of Annihilation
Long before the current story, Iran threatened to eliminate the Jewish state with nuclear weapons. In a Dec. 14, 2001 annual “Al-Quds [Jerusalem] Day” sermon at Tehran University, head of the powerful religious “Expediency Council” (and former Iranian President) Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stated that Iran should annihilate Israel with nuclear weapons:

From the IRANIAN PRESS SERVICE, Dec 14, 2001


TEHRAN 14 Dec. (IPS) One of Iran’s most influential ruling clerics called Friday on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapons against Israel, assuring them that while such an attack would annihilate Israel, it would cost them “damages only”.

“If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world”, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told the crowd at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran…”Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix is extracted from the region and the Muslim world”, Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani warned, blaming on the United States and Britain the “creation of the fabricated entity” in the heart of Arab and Muslim world…”

Rafsanjani, sometimes described as a “moderate” among Iranian mullahs, also has described the establishment of Israel as the “worst event in history.”

Ayatollah Ali Khameni, head of Iran’s powerful religious council, has declared “that the cancerous tumor called Israel must be uprooted from the region.”

It is against this background that Israeli statements like those of the military chief of staff, Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, must be understood. “‘Iran is striving for nuclear capability,’ he said, ‘and I suggest that in this matter [Israel] not rely on others,’ a clear reference to diplomatic efforts by the United States and European powers to get Iran to give up its ambitions” (Washington Times, Aug. 24). So too the statement by Yadollah Javani, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, after a test-firing of the 800-mile range Shihab-3 missile: “The entire Zionist territory, including its nuclear facilities and atomic arsenal, are currently within range of Iran’s advance missiles …. Neither the Zionist regime nor America will carry out its [preemptive] threats.” This exchange, like others similar, was not reported by the Post.

Just Not Getting It
Post downplaying or deleting Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel or newsworthy references to it predates this week’s spy story. It also predates Tehran’s July declaration it would not abide by a pledge last fall to France, Germany, and Great Britain that it would cease building equipment needed to make nuclear bombs.

For example, as CAMERA pointed out last spring, when President George W. Bush spoke to the Newspaper Association of America’s convention on April 21, he warned against Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons. The president specifically mentioned the Iranian threat to destroy Israel. Bush said “I think the message is getting delivered to them [Iranian leaders] that it’s intolerable they develop a nuclear weapon; particularly since their stated objective is the destruction of Israel.” The Post reported Bush’s comments this way: “The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable, and a program is intolerable …. Otherwise, they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations.”

Also, in February, 2001, former cabinet member Dan Meridor told Israel Radio that “Iran has openly declared its policy is to destroy Israel, not to help the Palestinians, not [to discuss] various kinds of borders of Jerusalem. Simply the annihilation of Zionism and destruction of Israel.”

Essential Information
Whether this week’s alleged spy story stands up under scrutiny or not, it overlaps another newsworthy subject, one the Washington Post appears reticent to report: public statements by Iran’s leaders of the possibility of destroying Israel with nuclear weapons and the repeated Iranian rejection of the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. News of U.S. and Israeli policy toward Iran cannot be properly understood without this information.

Action Item:
Remind Post readers about the existential nature of Iran’s threat to Israel. Send your letter-the-editor for publication to [email protected]. Remind Post editors that Israel does not deny the legitimacy of Iran or threaten its existence. Ask that the Post give this topic the coverage it deserves, on its own, and as the Iran threat relates to other news, including this week’s spy story. Write to Ombudsman Michael Getler at [email protected].

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