NY Times gullibility about Iran knows no end
Iranian media reported on Friday that Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, said Israel's "Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and should be removed."
This genocidal threat was immediately picked up by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as vindication of his own alarms that Iran is rushing to build nuclear weapons as part of its agenda to eliminate the Jewish state.
Noting that Western leaders and mainstream media had depicted Rouhani as a "moderate" who would chart a different course for Iran, Netanyahu said, "Rouhani"s true face has been revealed earlier than expected. Even if they will now rush to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime."
"A country that threatens the destruction of the State of Israel must not be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction," Netanyahu added.
As Netanyahu predicted, the mullahs in Tehran, intent on protecting Rouhani's carefully crafted "moderate" image, issued a "correction" to soften his message. But the intent and substance were still there -- but this time couched in phrases more likely not to upset Western leaders and gullible mainstream media reporters.
In Rouhani's second take, he is quoted as saying that "in our region, a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years, in the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the Quds (Jerusalem). This day (Al Quds Day) is in fact a reminder of the fact that Muslim people will not forget their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny."
In Iranian lingo, "occupation of the holy land of Palestine" encompasses all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, thus expunging the existence of a Jewish state. And when Rouhani said that Muslims "will not forget their historic right" to this land, he made it doubly clear that Muslims could not allow Israell's continued existence.
But this is not how the New York Times reported Rouhani's initial and subsequently cleansed remarks. In a dispatch from Tehran, posted on the Times' website, correspondent Thomas Erdbrink fell hook, line, and sinker for the Iranian "correction."
Here is Erdbrink's lead paragraph:
Iranian leaders have often called Israel a 'cancerous tumor' that 'should be wiped from the pages of time.' But on Friday, the country's incoming president Hassan Rouhani, struck a relatively more moderate tone by referring to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, rather than Israel itself, as a 'sore.'
Never mind there is nothing in the Iranian "correction" to suggest that Rouhani was distinguishing between "Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands" and "Israel itself" in talking about a "sore" that must be removed. This is a pure and simple Rouhani whitewash by the New York Times.
When Rouhani, even in a "more moderate" tone. refers to the occupation of the holy land of Palestine, he's referring to and including Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Ashdod and Ashkelon -- indeed, all of Israel.
The Times' rush to cleanse the leader of a genocidal regime recalls other such historical distortions.
In the 1920s and '30s, Walter Duranty, the Times Moscow bureau chief, filed highly laudatory articles about the Soviet Union under Stalin and even got a Pulitzer for his efforts. Duranty repeatedly ignored Stalin's crimes.
A bit later, during World War II and in its aftermath, the Times regularly ignored and/or softened Hitler's crimes, including the mass slaughter of Jews.
As reported by Arthur Gelb, a veteran Times reporter and editor, in his memoir, City Room, "indeed, by any journalistic measure, most of the early reports in The Times were insufficient. Unfortunately, the country's mainstream press generally followed the Times' lead. To my dismay, stories of the American liberation of prisoners that began appearing in early spring of 1945 - with only a couple of exceptions - were not displayed on the front page. There was scarcely any attempt to put into perspective what was emerging as the genocidal epic of modern times."
When George Patton's Third Army liberated Buchenwald, "the Times used only three brief paragraphs from the AP, which was placed at the bottom of page 11 among several other items, including one headed "War Dog Honored Here," Gelb recalled.
To make matters even worse, the Times, according to Gelb, described liberated inmates as "victims" and "prisoners," rarely as "Jews."
When readers erupted, the Times finally put the liberation of Dachau on the front page. "But as had become something of a ritual, nowhere did the word 'Jew' appear, the freed inmates were described as 'Russians, Poles, Frenchmen, Czechs and Austrians,'" Gelb related.
This long history of blindness to the vast human ravages perpetrated by brutal regimes is now perpetuated by the Times' abject coverage of the genocidal mullahs in Iran.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.