According to Reports: Media Puts Focus on Iranian Threat

In his weekly Canadian Jewish News media analysis column “According to Reports,” Paul Michaels, CIC Director of Communications, looks at some recent opinion pieces on the threats emanating from the Iranian regime.

A recent upsurge of anti-Israel activity from a number of radical quarters – Israel boycott movements from union and certain Church groups; “Israel Apartheid Week” on campus; the protest over the Toronto International Film Festival’s spotlight on Tel Aviv; the Goldstone Commission Report on the Gaza war, etc. – has been covered to one degree or another by the media. This might lead one to assume that journalists have been preoccupied with Israel to the exclusion of more pressing international stories.

In fact, a survey of foreign affairs coverage reveals that the Canadian, along with American, media have devoted substantially more attention in the past few months to Pakistan and Afghanistan (where Canadian and U.S. troops are engaged in combat) and Iran than to Israel.

While Israel is frequently mentioned in the same story or commentary concerning Iran, especially the threats emanating from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the principle focus of this coverage has been on the depredations of Tehran’s ruling clique.

Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs are threats not only to Israel but also the Sunni-dominant Arab Gulf states that Iran arguably seeks to intimidate and dominate. But above all else, Tehran’s repeated, feverish threats mark the Jewish state as the Number 1 target, thereby giving Israel – the only UN-member state threatened with extinction by another UN member – ample justification to act in self-defence.

The National Post put all this in perspective in its Sept. 22 editorial “The Iranian threat.”

The Post wrote: “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for the Jewish state to be ‘wiped off the map’ almost weekly, it seems – along with repeated statements denying the historical reality of the Holocaust. Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, a supposed moderate, said in 2001 that the day would eventually come when Israel’s enemies had a bomb and would use it to destroy the Jewish state. Ayatollah Khomeini called Israel’s destruction ‘a sacred duty for every true Muslim.’

“On and on it goes: The annihilation of Israel is the single recurring theme of Iranian public life.”

The Post concluded that while Israel is right to wait some months to give US-led talks with Iran a chance, should those talks fail to lead Iran to curtail its nuclear program, Israel could not be faulted for taking Iran at its word and according accordingly.

On the issue of those upcoming talks, the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius (“Reading Iran by the Letter,” Sept. 20) warned that they are likely doomed from the outset: “The revolutionary zealotry of Ahmadinejad and his allies is among the obstacles the Obama administration faces as it prepares for Oct. 1 talks with the Islamic republic. As Ahmadinejad’s letters [to America] make clear, he doesn’t want a seat at the negotiating table with the great powers; he wants to overturn that table.

“Ahmadinejad defies not only the United States but the entire system of international relations that was created in 1945 at the end of World War II.”

American officials have been recently signalling that President Barack Obama himself doesn’t hold out much hope for these talks even though he’s committed to giving them a try.

Ignatgius noted that “Obama is subtly turning up the pressure on Tehran, even as he invites dialogue. That’s the importance of [the Sept. 17] announcement that the United States is shelving its plans for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Officials may deny there’s any quid pro quo — any reciprocal promise of Soviet support for sanctions against Iran if negotiations fail. But the Iranians will worry, just the same.

“That’s hardball negotiating: Make them sweat in Tehran. Make them worry that unless they start acting like a nation, they will face growing isolation, economic pressure and internal unrest. The administration’s insistence that its alternative missile defense plan will actually be more effective against Iran adds to the squeeze on Tehran.”

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