First Published: 2009-09-20

 
What Did Ahmadinejad Really Say?
 

Though interpretations of Ahmadinejad’s words can be debated, Western news organizations are failing to live up to their own principles of objectivity, apparently out of an intense animosity toward Iran’s president. As tensions with Iran mount, it is easy for US news organizations to cast aside journalistic principles, notes Robert Parry.

 

Middle East Online

It is an important principle of journalism that when someone makes a statement, especially a controversial one with grave implications, the comment should be put in the fullest possible context so the reader can make an informed judgment. But that rule doesn’t seem to apply when the New York Times writes about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a front-page story on Saturday, the Times three times (once in a sub-head and twice in the article) reported that Ahmadinejad called the World War II Holocaust of European Jews a “lie” during an annual “Quds Day” speech showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. But the Times offered no fuller context for the quote.

The White House and other US officials reacted to the “lie” remark, which also was featured in other Western news accounts, with understandable outrage. However, Iran’s Press TV reported that “Ahmadinejad did not deny the Holocaust, but raised some questions about the matter, asking Western powers for a logical answer.”

Press TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying: "If the Holocaust, as you claim, is true, why don't you allow a probe into the issue?" Press TV added that Ahmadinejad was “calling the Zionist regime a symbol of lies and deception founded on ‘colonialist’ attitudes. The Iranian president also asked why Palestinians had to pay for the genocide of Jews at the hands of Europeans.”

So what did Ahmadinejad really say?

In the English-language account of the speech published on the official Web site of the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad calls the “pretext” for founding the state of Israel “a lie,” but he doesn’t spell out precisely what he means by “pretext.” In the context, the word seems to refer to the Holocaust, but arguably his reference to "a lie which relies on ... a mythical claim" could be about Biblical claims to the land of Palestine that Zionist organizations cite.

As Press TV says, Ahmadinejad frames his skeptical comments about the Holocaust within Western hostility toward the scholarship of some European and American Holocaust skeptics (often called "deniers") who dispute details such as the estimated number of six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

But some of that supposed scholarship has been widely viewed as an excuse by neo-fascists and anti-Semites to diminish the horror of the Nazi extermination campaign against Jews and other groups considered undesirable by Adolf Hitler and his German Third Reich.

If you wish to make up your own mind about Ahmadinejad’s “lie” comment, here is his office’s English-language summary of the speech, which was delivered in Farsi, the Persian language:

“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here Friday that the Holocaust black box should be opened.

“Addressing Tehrani Friday prayers worshipers as pre-sermon lecturer, President Ahmadinejad said, ‘Our call over the past four years has been if the Holocaust claimed by the Zionist regime and its allies is true, why they (Zionists and westerners) do not allow any research on it?’

“President Ahmadinejad said research on everything is free but Holocaust is the key to a sealed fact and black box.

“He went on questioning, ‘When the event is so much important for which a land is occupied, such a war is waged, millions of people are killed, injured and made homeless, thousands of families are ruined and the Middle East is kept under the shadow of insecurity, why the black box should not be decoded so that facts and realities are revealed to all?’

“He said Palestine is still the most important issue of the world of Islam. ‘We do believe that if war is waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is because of Zionists’ provocation. If Sudan is suppressed it is because of Zionists’ temptations. Zionists are behind all the conspiracies of the arrogance and colonialism. They do not allow the main factor of excuses for Palestine occupation be examined and surveyed.’

“He added, ‘The pretext for establishing the Zionist regime is a lie; a lie which relies on an unreliable claim, a mythical claim, and the occupation of Palestine has nothing to do with the Holocaust.’

“The Iranian Chief Executive said Iranian nation once again announced today that are standing firm in defense of Islamic Revolution aspirations and of the late Imam Khomeini.

“He said Iranian nation will never lay down the flag of dignity, pride and freedom loving.

“He then noted that the World Quds Day marks unity of Iranian nation and the world Muslims.

“President Ahmadinejad said the World Quds Day is the day of unity of the community of human beings against the corrupt and tyrannical powers.”

Though interpretations of Ahmadinejad’s words can be debated, two things appear undeniable. First, Ahmadinejad continues to make provocative statements that are offensive to many people around the world.

And second, the New York Times and other Western news organizations are failing to live up to their own principles of objectivity, apparently out of an intense animosity toward Iran’s president.

Shortly after Iran's disputed presidential election in June, a “news analysis” coauthored by New York Times executive editor Bill Keller opened up with an old joke about Ahmadinejad looking into a mirror and saying “male lice to the right, female lice to the left,” a reference to his rise from the street.

Later, the Times editors joined defeated candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi in rejecting the notion of a vote recount by Iran’s Guardian Council, which oversees elections. The Mousavi camp instead demanded an entirely new election, which they failed to get.

“Even a full recount would be suspect,” the Times wrote in an editorial. “How could anyone be sure that the ballots were valid?”

But the resistance of Mousavi and his backers to a partial or complete recount prevented the uncovering of solid evidence that might have proven that Ahmadinejad did rig the election, a point that has become conventional wisdom in the Western media but which lacks solid proof (unlike, for instance, the widespread evidence of fraud in the recent Afghan election.)

Mousavi's rigging case rests primarily on the argument that Ahmadinejad ran up large majorities in poor districts because he had distributed food and raised pay, tactics that may be criticized as the workings of "a political machine," but normally don't fall under the definition of electoral fraud. [For more on the Iranian election, see Consortiumnews.com's "Taking Sides on Iran."]

As tensions with Iran mount, it is easy for US news organizations to cast aside journalistic principles in favor of looking tough and patriotic. In a similar context, when America's top enemy was Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein, the Times and other major US news outlets helped whip up a war fever and contributed to a political climate that equated questioning US government claims with a lack of patriotism and even sympathy for Hussein.

The chief consequence of that violation of journalistic standards was an aggressive war that has left more than 4,300 US soldiers dead along with estimates of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush , can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com

ConsortiumNews

 

Egypt declares three-month state of emergency in Sinai

Lebanon army attacks Islamists as violence spreads to Tripoli souks

Dozens dead in Huthi-Qaeda clashes in central Yemen

Punishment for sexual assault in Iran: Execution of victim!

European clubs step up campaign against winter World Cup in Qatar

Turkey keeps 24 people under observation after yellow powder scare

Russia denies Kerry claims: No agreement to train Iraq army

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests