Israel's Plan for a
Military Strike on Iran
Clearing House" -- -- The Middle East, and possibly
the world, stands on the brink of a terrible conflagration as
Israel and the United States prepare to deal with Iran's alleged
ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel, it becomes clearer
by the day, wants to use its air force to deliver a knock-out
blow against Tehran. It is not known whether it will use
conventional weapons or a nuclear warhead in such a strike.
At this potentially cataclysmic
moment in global politics, it is good to see that one of the
world's leading broadcasters, the BBC, decided this week that it
should air a documentary entitled "Will Israel bomb Iran?". It
is the question on everyone's lips and doubtless, with the
imprimatur of the BBC, the programme will sell around the world.
The good news ends there,
however. Because the programme addresses none of the important
issues raised by Israel's increasingly belligerent posture
It does not explain that,
without a United Nations resolution, a military strike on Iran
to destroy its nuclear research programme would be a gross
violation of international law.
It does not clarify that
Israel's own large nuclear arsenal was secretly developed and is
entirely unmonitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency,
or that it is perceived as a threat by its neighbours and may be
fuelling a Middle East arms race.
Nor does the programme detail
the consequences of an Israeli strike on instability and
violence across the Middle East, including in Iraq, where
British and American troops are stationed as an occupying force.
And there is no consideration of
how in the longer term unilateral action by Israel, with
implicit sanction by the international community, is certain to
provoke a steep rise in global jihad against the West.
Instead the programme dedicates
40 minutes to footage of Top Gun heroics by the Israeli air
force, and the recollections of pilots who carried out a
similar, "daring" attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in the early
menacing long shots of Iran's nuclear research facilities; and
interviews with three former Israeli prime ministers, a former
Israeli military chief of staff, various officials in Israeli
military intelligence and a professor who designs Israel's
All of them speak with one
voice: Israel, they claim, is about to be "wiped out" by Iranian
nuclear weapons and must defend itself "whatever the
They are given plenty of airtime
to repeat unchallenged well-worn propaganda Israel has been
peddling through its own media, and which has been credulously
amplified by the international media: that Iran is led by a
fanatical anti-Semite who, like Adolf Hitler, believes he can
commit genocide against the Jewish people, this time through a
Other Israeli misinformation,
none of it believed by serious analysts, is also uncritically
spread by the film-makers: that Hizbullah in Lebanon is a puppet
of Iran, waiting to aid its master in Israel's destruction; that
Iran is only months away from creating nuclear weapons, a "point
of no return", as the programme warns; and that a "fragile"
Israel is under constant threat of annihilation from all its
But the programme's unequivocal
main theme -- echoing precisely Israel's own agenda -- is that
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is hellbent on destroying
Israel. The film-makers treat seriously, bordering on
reverentially, preposterous comments from Israel's leaders about
Shimon Peres, the Israeli
government's veteran roving ambassador, claims, for example,
that Iran has made "a call for genocide" against Israel,
compares an Iranian nuclear bomb to a "flying concentration
camp", and warns that "no one would like to see a comeback to
the times of the Nazis".
Cabinet minister Avi Dichter, a
former head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, believes
Israel faces "an existential threat" from Iran. And Zvi Stauber,
a former senior figure in military intelligence, compares
Israel's situation to a man whose neighbour "has a gun and he
declares every day he is going to kill you".
But pride of place goes to
Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister and the current
leader of the opposition. He claims repeatedly that the only
possible reason Iran and its president could want a nuclear
arsenal is for Israel's "extermination". "If he can get away
with it, he'll do it." "Ayatollahs with atombic bombs are a
powerful threat to all of us." A nuclear Iran "is a threat
unlike anything we have seen before. It's beyond politics" --
apparently worse than the nuclear states of North Korea and
Pakistan, the latter a military dictatorship and friend of the
US barely containing within its borders some of the most
fanatical jihadist movements in the world.
Apart from a brief appearance by
an Iranian diplomat, no countervailing opinions are entertained
in the BBC programme; only Israel's military and political
leadership is allowed to speak.
The documentary gives added
credence to the views of Israel's security establishment by
making great play of a speech by Ahmadinejad -- one with which
the Israeli authorities and their allies in Washington have made
endless mischief -- in which the Iranian president repeats a
statement by Iran's late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini,
that went unnoticed when first uttered.
In the BBC programme,
Ahmadenijad is quoted as saying: "The regime occupying Jerusalem
should be eliminated from the page of history". This is at least
an improvement on the original translation, much repeated in the
programme by Netanyahu and others, that "Israel must be wiped
off the map".
But for some strange reason, the
programme makers infer from their more accurate translation the
same diabolical intent on Ahmadinejad's part as suggested by
Netanyahu's fabricated version. Iran's nuclear weapons, we are
told by the programme as if they are already in existence, have
"presented Israel's leaders with a new order of threat". In
making his speech, the BBC film argues, Ahmadinejad "issued a
death sentence against Israel".
But, as has now been pointed out
on numerous occasions (though clearly not often enough for the
BBC to have noticed), Khomeini and Ahmadinejad were referring to
the need for regime change, the ending of the regime occupying
the Palestinians in violation of international law. They were
not talking, as Netanyahu and co claim, about the destruction of
the state of Israel or the Jewish people. The implication of the
speech is that the current Israeli regime will end because
occupying powers are illegitimate and unsustainable, not because
Iran plans to fire nuclear missiles at the Jewish state or
Overlooked by the programme
makers is the fact that "fragile" Israel is currently the only
country in the Middle East armed with nuclear warheads, several
hundred of them, as well as one of the most powerful armies in
the world, which presumably make most of its neighbours feel
"fragile" too, with far more reason.
And, as we are being persuaded
how "fragile" Israel really is, another former prime minister,
Ehud Barak, is interviewed. "Ultimately we are standing alone,"
he says, in apparent justification for an illegal, unilateral
strike. Iran's nuclear reasearch facilities, Barak warns, are
hidden deep underground, so deep that "no conventional weapon
can penetrate", leaving us to infer that in such circumstances
Israel will have no choice but use a tactical nuclear strike in
its "self-defence". And, getting into his stride, Barak adds
that some facilities are in crowded urban areas "where any
attack could end up in civilian collateral damage".
But despite the terrifying
scenario laid out by Israel's leaders, the BBC website
cheerleads for Israel in the same manner as the
programme-makers, suggesting that Israel has the right to
engineer a clash of civilisations: "With America unlikely to
take military action, the pressure is growing on Israel's
leaders to launch a raid."
As should be clear by now, the
Israeli government's fingerprints are all over this BBC
"documentary". And that is hardly surprising because the man
behind this "independent" production is Israel's leading
film-maker: Noam Shalev.
Shalev, a graduate of a New York
film school, has been making a spate of documentaries through
his production company Highlight Films, based in Herzliya, near
Tel Aviv, that have been lapped up by the BBC and other foreign
broadcasters. With the BBC's stamp of approval, it is easy for
Shalev to sell his films around the world.
Shalev, who claims that he
doesn't "espouse a political view", started his career by making
documentaries on less controversial subjects. He has produced
films on Ethiopian immigrants arriving in Israel, and on the
Zaka organisation, Jewish religious fundamentalists who arrive
at the scene of suicide attacks quite literally to pick up the
pieces, of human remains.
In the past his films managed to
bypass the reticence of broadcasters like the BBC to broach the
combustible subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside
their news programmes by touching on the topic obliquely.
Importantly, however, Shalev's films always humanise his Israeli
subjects, showing them as complex, emotional and caring beings,
while largely ignoring the millions of Palestinians the Israeli
government and army are oppressing.
According to a profile of Shalev
published in the Israeli media in 2004, his success derives from
the fact that he has developed a "soft-sell approach", showing
Israel in a good light without "the straightforward 'hasbara'
[propaganda] efforts which explain Israel's case that Israel's
Foreign Ministry is required to disseminate to European and
American news outlets."
In the words of an Israeli
public relations executive, Shalev has a skill in telling
Israel's story in ways that international broadcasters
appreciate: "[Shalev] also shows the Israeli side, he is not one
of those traitors who sell their ideology for money. He has the
skill to market it in such a way that overseas they want to see
it, and this is very important."
But recently Shalev has grown
more confident to try the hard sell for Israel, apparently sure
that the BBC and other foreign broadcasters will still buy his
films. And that is because Shalev offers them something that
other film-makers cannot: intimate access to Israel's security
forces, an area off-limits to his rivals.
Before the disengagement from
Gaza last year, for example, Shalev made a sympathetic
documentary, shown by the BBC, about a day in the life of one
Israeli soldier serving there. The film largely concealed the
context that might have alerted viewers to the fact that the
soldier was enforcing a four-decade illegal occupation of Gaza,
or that the Strip is an open-air prison in which thousands of
Palestinian have been killed by the Israeli army and in which a
majority of Gazans live in abject poverty.
Interviewed about the
documentary, Shalev observed: "The army really is very, very
careful. There is no indiscriminate firing. I saw, and this was
not a show put on just for us, that before any shot is fired
there is confirmation that there is nobody behind or in front of
the objective. The army is very sensitive to non-deliberate
In other words, Shalev's film
for the BBC shed no light on why Israel's "deliberate" fire has
killed hundreds of Palestinian children during the second
intifada or why a large number of civilians have died from
Israeli gunfire and missile strikes inside the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this year Shalev made
another film for the BBC, "The Hunt for Black October", to
coincide with the release of Stephen Spielberg's movie Munich.
"The BBC gains exclusive access to the undercover Mossad agents
assigned to track down the Palestinian group responsible for the
murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics," the BBC
was able to glow in its promotional material.
Shalev's latest film, "Will
Israel bomb Iran?", follows this well-trodden path. Arabs and
Muslims are again deprived of a voice, as are non-Israeli
So why did the BBC buy this
blatant piece of propaganda?
Here are a few clues. Shalev's
* footage taken from inside
Hizbullah bunkers under the supervision of the Israeli army
as it occupied south Lebanon.
* a "rare view" of the
inside of the Israeli army's satellite control room, which
spies on Israel's Arab neighbours and Iran and which,
according to programme, is "incredibly guarded about its
* an exclusive appearance by
Israel's former military chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, who
we are told is "rarely interviewed".
* a glimpse inside a Rafael
weapons factory, which the programme tells us is "rarely
In other words, the BBC, and the
other broadcasters who will air this "documentary" in the coming
weeks and months, has been dazzled by Shalev's ability to show
us the secret world of the Israeli army. So dazzled, it seems,
that it has forgotten to check -- or worse, simply doesn't care
-- what message Shalev is inserting between his exclusive
It might have occurred to
someone at the BBC to wonder why Shalev gets these chances to
show things no one else is allowed to. Could it be that the "hasbara"
division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry has got far more
sophisticated than it once was?
Is the Israeli government using
Shalev, wittingly or not, and is he in turn using the BBC, to
spread Israeli propaganda? Propaganda that may soon propel us
towards the "clash of civilisations" so longed for by Israel's
Jonathan Cook is a
writer and journalist
based in Nazareth,
Israel. His book, Blood
and Religion: The
Unmasking of the Jewish
and Democratic State, is
published by Pluto
Press. His website is
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