John Hallam's highly relevant question on Q&A on Monday night sparked a range of interesting reactions which typically threw more light on the ignorance, the prejudices and the astonishing myopia of the panellists than on the issue Hallam's question raised - the fact that, earlier illegal and monstrous aggressions against Afghanistan and Iraq notwithstanding, we are in the process of being softened up for yet another such crime against humanity, this time involving Iran.
Hallam (an anti-nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth BTW) asked:
"Israel has approximately 200 nuclear weapons. Iran has a fatwa saying that nuclear weapons are unIslamic. Why are fingers being pointed at Iran and Gunter Grass? Whatever we think of the Iranian regime, and if I was Iranian, I would probably be in jail or dead, is there not a hint of bias in our perception?"
Just on that question itself. On the one hand it usefully highlights the rampant hypocrisy behind pointing the finger at an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program while remaining silent about Israel's actual and massive nuclear arsenal, a stance so typical of the corporate media. On the other, with its completely gratuitous insertion of "if I were Iranian, I'd probably be in jail or dead," Hallam unfortunately and unwittingly panders to the kind of demonisation of Iran employed by Israeli propagandists as part of their campaign to prepare Western opinion for a war on Iran.
First cab off the rank in response was celebrity UK philosopher AC Grayling, who blithely ignored the Israeli war drums to focus exclusively on Israel's banning of German writer Gunter Grass, whose offending poem, What Must Be Said, focused on those very drumbeats.
In accusing Israel, "which has objected very strongly to other countries not wanting to have Israeli orchestras or academics visit them and placing a boycott on them," of an "act of hypocrisy," Grayling revealed his ignorance of the global BDS campaign against the apartheid state. If only governments were orchestrating boycotts of Israeli orchestras, academics and the rest! Alas, at least at this stage, the boycotts are solely the work of dedicated and hardworking people of conscience, anti-apartheid activists, who do what they do often in the teeth of opposition by Western governments more than eager to cater to Israel's every wish and whim.
Ah well, be thankful for small mercies. At least Grayling managed to link the words 'hypocrisy' and 'Israel' in the same comment. But that was about as good as the panellists got.
Next came counter-terrorism 'expert' and House Arab Lydia Khalil, who also focused only on Gunter Grass. But before coming to that, I wish to vent first. It surely speaks volumes about Khalil that this individual - of Coptic Egyptian background - can be so utterly ignorant of Israel's serial aggressions against Egypt as to out herself on Q&A as a "supporter of Israel."
Now let's be charitable here. It may well be that Khalil's declaration of support for Israel is little more than the rhetorical device required for permission, as it were, to criticise Israel, given that ritual declarations of support for Israel are probably de rigueur in the security circles she inhabited back in the US. But somehow I don't think so. Still, even supposing she's just going through the motions on this, is it not an incredible state of affairs that, at least among Western elites, nothing can be said about the genocidal, warmongering apartheid state of Israel unless first hedged with qualifications, excuses, terms of endearment, and even expressions of undying love a la Barack Obama?
Anyway, back to Gunter Grass. Khalil declares his poem "facile" because the Israelis are not (excuse Madam's English) "going to nuclearly strike Iran first."
Apparently, she hasn't heard of the US Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) whose simulation using "the Esfahan nuclear facility in Iran, using the software developed for the Pentagon, showed that 3 million people would be killed by radiation within 2 weeks of the explosion, and 35 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India would be exposed to increased levels of cancer-causing radiation" (The Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, ucsusa.org, May 2005).
Or of the January 2007 Sunday Times report that that Israel (denied of course) was planning a nuclear bunker buster strike against Iran's nuclear program (Thinking the unthinkable: Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, William Bradley, Huffington Post, 29/2/12).
Or of Israel's previous ponderings (1973, 1991) on the use of nuclear weapons against its opponents (Did Israel ever consider using nuclear weapons? Yossi Melman, Haaretz, 7/10/10).
Then she had the gall to talk of Israel "outing" Grass as a "former Nazi," when, as a simple glance at his Wikipedia entry reveals, he "disclosed in an interview and a book that he had been conscripted into the Waffen-SS as a teenager in late 1944."
Finally, we had celebrity QC and human rights campaigner Geoffrey Robertson, whose hysterical rant demands to be quoted in full:
"It was a stupid move and it has been condemned by sensible opinion in Israel. Gunter Grass is is a kind of Harold Pinter figure, and we campaigned together against the Iranian fatwa on Salman Rushdie. But, listen, I don't entirely agree with you. Israel certainly has a hidden number, up to 200 nuclear weapons, they can deliver them by submarine. But Iran's record of lying through its teeth about its nuclear installations makes us disbelieve anything its supreme leader says, especially as its supreme leader was involved in the mass murder of 7,000 political prisoners, most of them atheists or enemies of God. And because their prime minister or their president wants to wipe Israel off the map and because their supreme leader believes that a state of nuclear-like chaos will trigger the return of the 12th Imam who is going to kill all us non-believers and set down Sharia law for the rest of the world."
Notice again that Robertson's as deaf as the others to Israel's war drums as they build to a crescendo? It's Gunter Grass front and centre again, but even on that score, so long as - wait for the exercise in ritual absolution - "sensible opinion in Israel" has "condemned" the fatwa on Grass, everything's just hunky dory.
Where would we be without "sensible opinion in Israel" now? Without it we'd have endless wars, relentless colonization, and the ongoing dispossession and exile of an entire people, wouldn't we? But wait, that's what we've got now! Oh, I'm so terribly confused.
Of course, it goes without saying that no such entity as "sensible opinion" exists in Iran. Or anywhere else in the region for that matter. No, Israel has cornered the market on "sensible opinion" in the Middle East, just as it has on democracy. Two cheers for Israel!!
No, for Robbo the issue isn't the coming war, or even Gunter Grass. It's Iran's alleged record of lying "through its teeth." You see, sensible Israel doesn't lie, and if Britain or the US do, well it's certainly not through their teeth, is it? That's far and away the worst kind of lying there is. And it's that kind of lying that means that Iranians probably deserve what Israel's cooking up for them, right. So what's the big deal?
And Iran massacres its people - unlike Israel, of course, which is too busy massacring Palestinians to bother, at least at this stage, with its own. And then of course there's the UK and US. No massacres there, right? Well, maybe occasionally.
Now as if all that weren't enough, our sharp-as-a-tack, legal eagle, who can parse words in a sentence faster than an IDF officer can ram his M16 into someone's face, trots out the Zionist propaganda trope of the decade: "Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map"! But that's only the half of it: if he's dumb enough to swallow that one unexamined*, he's dumb enough to go for lashings of Islamophobic tripe as well. Sounding like a denizen of some Muslim-bashing hate site, Robertson comes out with: "[Iran's] supreme leader believes that a state of nuclear-like chaos will trigger the return of the 12th Imam who is going to kill all us non-believers and set down Sharia law for the rest of the world."
[With counsel like this, Julian... ]
So "would you," asked compere Tony Jones, "condone a military action by Israel or the US to end that threat?"
And the answer? Are you ready for it? "No, not at this stage."
What a wimp!
[*See my 29/2/08 post Ahmadinejad: Our Part in His Downfall; for the full story, read Arash Norouzi's 'Wiped off the map' - the rumour of the century, antiwar.com]