Lying About Iran


I’m not exactly a huge fan of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . For a start, he’s a former Revolutionary Goon (or is that ‘Revolutionary Guard’? Same kebab, different meat). He’s part of Iran’s answer to the neo-cons obsessively manufacturing conflict; ruthless with political opponents; and ever ready to use religion as an instrument of hatred.

And if that isn’t enough, his remarks about followers of a certain Semitic tradition are so inflammatory that he might find post-presidential employment as a Sydney radio shock jock.

Eight centuries ago, Saladin couldn’t imagine liberating Jerusalem without his Jewish doctor-cum-rabbi Maimonides. But for Ahmadinejad, it seems the only liberated Jerusalem worth having is a completely non-kosher one.



Notwithstanding all this, Iran is a complex and fascinating place. The people are generally more fanatical about football than religion. The literacy rate is over 90 per cent, and around 70 per cent of the population are under 30. More women than men attend university, and even Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, the conservative Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, can find time to translate the works of German philosopher Kant into Farsi and have it read in the biggest selling conservative daily.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Iranians are probably more Westernised than Bosnians. But if you believe everything you hear from American and Israeli ‘experts’ invited by Fox & Friends to play the pipes at America’s next war you’d think Iran is a country going down the same path as Adolf Hitler.

A proven method of drumming up support for a war is to give your audience a simplistic view of the enemy. Iran’s enemies are always trying to convince us that the nation is a monolith and some weeks back, they almost succeeded.

It all started on 19 May when Canadian neo-conservative newspaper the National Post published an op-ed from American writer Amir Taheri (the article has since been removed but can be found on the website of Benador Associates which has been described as ‘serving as a principal neo-conservative marketing agency’).

Taheri’s article claimed that the Iranian Parliament (or Majilis) passed legislation regulating dress codes for religious minorities. (Perhaps the Ayatollahs are learning from certain Federal Liberal backbenchers who have made almost equally hysterical pronouncements in recent times.)

Taheri’s op-ed appeared with a 1935 photo of a Jewish businessman in Berlin with a yellow Star of David sewn onto his overcoat. The message was quite simple Iran is the next fascist power and must be stopped even if it means war and bloodshed.

Thanks to Adam Zygus

The Taheri article was soon picked up by Murdoch newspapers including the New York Post, which regularly publishes articles by veteran Muslim-hater Daniel Pipes.

In pursuit of an anti-Iran jihad, fatwas were issued by representatives of governments and NGOs around the world. The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced the proposed law. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack described the measure as ‘despicable’ and reminiscent of ‘Germany under Hitler.’

Even John Howard who was in Canada when Taheri’s piece was published got in on the discussion. Ever willing to prove that his loyalty to the United States outweighs even his support for Australia’s best interests, Howard was reported in the 24 May edition of the Australian Jewish News as comparing Iran to Nazi Germany:

[The Iranian law] obviously echoes the most horrible period of genocide in the world’s history and the marking of Jewish people, with a mark on their clothing by the Nazis, and anything of that kind of would be totally repugnant to civilised countries if it’s the case and something that would just further indicate to me the nature of this regime It’s a calculated insult, if it’s true, not only to Christians but most particularly to Jews.

Four days before the AJN article went to print, The Sunday Times reported Iran’s only Jewish MP as declaring that the story was a complete fabrication. Maurice Motammed’s denial was unequivocal, and was based on his own eyewitness account of debate over what turned out to be a Bill regulating aspects of Iran’s fashion industry.

So how did such an obvious lie find its way into reports of major newspapers and speeches of Prime Ministers? It appears the paper was misled by an organisation devoted to hunting down and prosecuting Nazi war criminals.

According to a 25 March report by Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor the National Post sought confirmation of the veracity of the Iran story from Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies. Indeed, on the day Taheri’s piece was published, the National Post cited Rabbi Marvin Heir of the Centre’s LA office as declaring the proposed legislation to be ‘reminiscent of the Holocaust,’ adding that ‘Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis.’

Conventional wisdom tells us that such attempts to compare a modern leader’s pronouncements to the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews would be regarded as an insult to both the dead and their traumatised survivors. Would it be too much to suggest respected Nazi-hunters were prepared to insult the Holocaust if it meant drumming up the case for war against Iran?

If you believe what you read on the website of the New York-based magazine The Jewish Week, you might believe this to be the case. TJW‘s editor-at-large Larry Cohler-Esses reveals how Rabbi Abraham Foxman, Associate Dean of the Wiesenthal Centre, responded to an inquiry from Jonathan Turley-Ewart, Deputy Editor of the National Post.

Turley-Ewart’s question: ‘As per our conversation, I’m looking at running this, but I have not been able to confirm its veracity. Particularly, I want to make sure that part saying Jews will have to wear a yellow stripe and Christians a red stripe is, in fact, true.’

Rabbi Foxman’s email response, delivered 1 hour and 14 minutes later was simple and to-the-point: ‘Dear John. The story is absolutely true.’

Yes, it’s OK to tell lies (or at least to relay gossip without checking the facts) about the ‘enemy’ if it means the possibility of getting more young men and women to risk their lives fighting for ‘regime change.’

Since the lies were exposed, the National Post has issued a full retraction and apology. Will our good, honest PM do the same?

As we all know, ‘sorry’ isn’t one of John Howard’s favourite words.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.