Coverage of Israel’s killing of Iranian scientist is marred by inaccuracy and inhumanity

The crisis triggered by Israel’s assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, continues, and more truths emerge: 

* Israeli analysts are arguing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not order the killing to protect Israel — but partly to distract attention from the multiple corruption scandals that surround him and to improve his chances in a likely upcoming election.

* More evidence emerges that Iran did not have an active “nuclear weapons program,” despite anonymous assertions in the New York Times and elsewhere.

* News coverage in the West continues to be tarnished by disgusting, inhumane language, such as describing the murder of the Iranian scientist as a “dazzling piece of work.”

* Some newspapers have editorialized against the assassination, but so far the New York Times is silent — five days after the attack.

Chuck Freilich is a hard-headed former deputy Israeli national security adviser. He analyzes the killing at length in Haaretz, and contends that it was not in “Israel’s” interest, but

It may, however, be in the political and legal interest of the prime minister, who has already used it to at least partially divert attention from his alleged misdeeds in the submarine affair and is engaged in a no-holds-barred effort to remain in office, and stay out of jail, at all costs.

Israeli analysts believe that Netanyahu’s involvement in “the submarine affair” is the most dangerous of the multiple corruption scandals swirling about him. He may be investigated for bribery associated with the multi-billion purchase of military submarines and naval boats from Germany. Israelis who might overlook his other transgressions will draw the line at corruption involving the nation’s military.

Meanwhile, the U.S. press has finally started to report the statement that Dan Coats, the then Director of National Intelligence, gave to the Senate Intelligence Committee on January 19, 2019 about Iran’s nuclear weapons capability:

. . . we do not believe Iran is undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device. . . 

This statement by Coats, a former Republican senator, is in the public record, but New York Times reports on the assassination chose to ignore him and instead let anonymous “U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials” insinuate that Iran was still secretly working on a bomb and that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was involved.

Mainstream press reports continue to be marred by inhumane language. The Washington Post used the Orwellian “take out” instead of “kill” to describe the assassination. The Financial Times, which should know better, called the Israeli attack a “hit,” as though this was a B-movie about the Mafia. The New Yorker, which should also know better, said the killing “played out like a blockbuster thriller.” And the Washington Post, in an editorial, said, to its discredit:

The operation that killed Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a dazzling piece of covert work by the standards of that shadow world. . . 

Let’s pause for a second. This was not a film. Israel ordered the murder of a 60-year-old noncombatant inside a country it is not at war with. John Brennan, the former CIA director, said, accurately, that the attack was “criminal” and “a flagrant violation of international law.” 

At least the rest of that Post editorial did argue that: 

Killing scientists won’t stop Iran’s nuclear work. Diplomacy can.

So far, the Financial Times and Haaretz have also both editorialized, also calling for restraint. But from the New York Times editorial board: not a word. What are they afraid of?   

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