“60 Minutes” serves as Israeli propaganda mouthpiece

As Philip Giraldi points out in his 12 August article “America’s Israeli-Occupied Media” published on antiwar.com, the Israeli government is continuing its campaign to get the US military to attack Iran or at least give a “green light” for a massive Israeli bombing strike. In pursuit of this reckless and ill-conceived plan Tel Aviv has a willing co-conspirator in the mainstream American media, who will present the Israeli world-view without criticism or qualification.

CBS recently re-aired a 60 Minutes segment entitled “The Israeli Air Force” that provides a rather startling example of how the American news media will permit the Israelis to present their point of view to the exclusion of any competing narrative. The report, presented by correspondent Bob Simon, originally aired on 27 April and was rebroadcast on 10 August.

The message of “The Israeli Air Force” is clearly and succinctly communicated by 60 Minutes as: Iran is a threat to Israel’s existence and to the rest of the world; Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon soon; when it does it will use it to destroy Israel. Thus it is apparent that if Iran does not quickly agree with the demands of Western powers to cease its uranium enrichment program, the Israeli Air Force can and will attack and incapacitate the Iranian nuclear facilities.

In order to produce this segment, CBS, by its own admission, accepted the “rigorous censorship” requirements of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). The explanation Simon gives for this arrangement is to quote the IAF’s dubious justification that “[i]f the Israelis blow their secrets, they insist, they’ll lose the next war.” Maybe Simon should have just confessed that because CBS believes that these Israeli pilots are such amazing men, 60 Minutes should let them tell their own story, in their own way, without network interference. To further justify this approach Simon states that for the IAF, “mistakes are ultimately unacceptable because the country is so small and the stakes are so high.”

In “The Israeli Air Force” Simon interviews Israeli pilots who are the “best and brightest.” We are told they are destined to become heroes and some even legends. The report recounts the great IAF victory in the 1967 War and the difficult but “necessary” military air strikes in Gaza. No mention is made of the two disastrous air campaigns in two wars on Lebanon. We also hear interviews with the pilots who bombed and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981.

Yiftach Spector, who participated in the Iraq bombing, humbly rejects Simon’s compliment that he returned from the mission as a hero. Spector claimed “[w]e postponed a threat, a real threat. … I mean, the heroes were not us. The decision makers were the heroes on this because they showed the world what’s right and what’s wrong.” Simon then asks, “[t]oday, Israel’s decision makers are faced with a similar choice, will they take out Iran’s nuclear facilities?” and one really wonders if this little play was written by someone at CBS or rather was actually composed by an Israeli government press assistant or an official of the IAF censorship board.

In Bill Moyer’s documentary about the news coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq, Buying the War, Bob Simon correctly criticizes the media for only reporting the Bush-Cheney Administration’s propaganda while ignoring all contradictory evidence. Ironically, when it comes to Iran, it appears that Simon’s reporting ignores all contradictory evidence while solely presenting the Israeli government line.

The 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate which states that there is a high probability that Iran discontinued its nuclear weapons program in 2003, was never mentioned. Neither were the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which have contradicted Israeli claims.

In addition, the segment never addressed the fact that Israel views Iran as its main competitor in the region and as a financier and supporter of its enemies Syria, Hizballah and Hamas. This may have as much to do with the Israeli bellicosity toward Iran as any fear of nuclear weapons.

Finally, numerous high ranking officials in the American government including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen, are currently on the record as saying that any attack on Iran at the present time, whether it be American or Israeli, would be extremely harmful to US interests. In addition to the lives lost due to a massive Israeli air attack on Iran, some of the likely consequences of an attack would be: a further endangering of US soldiers in Iraq, a skyrocketing price of oil and a wider US war in the region. Bob Simon did not mention the opinions opposing an attack on Iran or any of these very relevant possibly disastrous consequences.

Any news program which deserves special citation for being produced from an Israeli perspective should follow these rules: never mention the word “occupation,” nor the conditions that Palestinians are forced to endure when speaking about the West Bank and Gaza; if you address the issue of casualties suffered by innocent Palestinians as a result of Israeli military offenses, always give the Israelis time to appear “aware and troubled” and to claim they do everything possible to minimize “collateral damage”; never mention anything negative or embarrassing about the Israeli armed forces which cannot be dismissed as an unfortunate mistake. Finally, and this is key, always express that the targeted enemy is “Hitler” and that the military action under consideration will prevent another Holocaust. Bob Simon’s report more than adequately meets all these requirements.

The 60 Minutes segment is not a news report, but a paean to “The Israeli Air Force” which also explains, justifies and advocates the use of military force against Tehran. Just as the mainstream media sold the Iraq war without reporting the complete story, CBS and 60 Minutes are producing thinly veiled propaganda disguised as investigative journalism to sell the idea of bombing Iran to the American people. It is frightening that CBS could produce such a program which ignores any evidence that does not promote Tel Aviv’s worldview. What is even more terrifying is that even if the US decides against the military option and advises Israel to do likewise, the same power and influence which enables Israeli-occupied news coverage, can make it possible for Israel to ignore American wishes and proceed with their plan to bomb Iran.

Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli army in 1992. He lives in Madison, New York where he writes, works as a college librarian and operates a used and rare book business with his wife.

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