The Red Flag of Demonization

Whether a writer is a progressive or not, the guise of being a progressive can serve non-progressivist ends.1

In his latest article, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy turns his focus from Israeli crimes against Palestinians to Iran which threatens no Palestinians.2 So what is Levy’s problem with Iran?

Levy writes, “Iran will apparently have an atom bomb [what does Levy base this on? Are mere words enough to adduce his assertion?], and that is very bad news.”

Nuclear weapons are bad news, but Levy does decry the “very bad news” of Israel possessing nuclear weapons and upgrading its stockpile of nuclear weapons. Instead Israel is criticized for double standards and hypocrisy — something Iran cannot be criticized for regarding nuclear weapons. Levy does not discuss whether Iran would feel any need to pursue (without acknowledging that it does so) nuclear weapons if other countries, such as Israel and the United States, did not possess such weapons. Levy did not mention that Iran supports a Middle East Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone unlike Israel. Why omit such relevant facts?

Then Levy says of Iran, “It is a country that sows evil.” Levy’s sentence can only be construed as racist in sentiment. Levy does criticize the crimes of his own country against Palestinians, but has he ever criticized his country to the extent of saying it sows evil? Maybe. One wonders, however, how is it that Iran sows evil? Does Iran occupy another people’s land? Does Iran commit massacres against other peoples? Does Iran initiate wars against neighboring countries? Does it initiate wars against any countries? How is it then that Iran might compare in the slightest to Israel when it comes to sowing evil?

Levy adds to the demonization of Iran while purporting not to do so: “There is no need to add words about its dreadful threats or its dark regime – the Israeli media does so more than enough.”

Why is the Iranian government a “dark regime”? And if the Iranian government is a “dark regime,” then how much darker (or in Levy’s mind, “lighter”) is the Israeli regime?

Levy asserts: “True, Iran is threatening Israel and the United States, …”

Where is the evidence? Where are these threats by Iran? Good journalists back up what they say.

Yet Levy repeats his unsubstantiated claim “… that Iran is threatening us, Israel …” Either the state of Iran is incredibly stupid to challenge a state believed armed with over 200 nuclear weapons and backed by the hyperempire which has used nuclear weapons, or Levy is propagandizing.

Levy concludes his piece with a question: “But does Israel want in any way to resemble Iran?”

Levy is demonizing. Without offering one reason for his ad hominem aimed at Iran, and although criticizing Israel, Levy has nonetheless attempted to paint Iran as the “dark regime” that the occupation/apartheid/aggressive regime in Tel Aviv must avoid becoming – despite Iran not being an occupier, a racist state, or an aggressive state.

Iran deserves criticism on social justice issues (for example, homophobia, gender issues, and capital punishment), and so do many other states. These issues do not rise to the level of opprobrium that state-sanctioned racism and discrimination, slow-motion genocide, dispossession and occupation of an indigenous people merit.

Assertion is empty rhetoric, but that is what Levy proffers? Such “journalism” is an insult to critically thinking readers. So why did Levy engage in such shoddy “journalism”? Whose purposes does Levy’s writing serve coming as it does when many speak of an impending Israel-US attack on Iran?

Demonization is not meant to correct an errant country; demonization, itself, likelier has a more sinister intent.

  1. Kim Petersen, “Subtle Loyalties to Zionism,” Dissident Voice, 4 July 2006; “Talk Is Cheap, Human Life Is Not: Justice and Freedom for Palestinians Now!Dissident Voice, 22 December 2008. []
  2. Gideon Levy, “What Israel can learn from Iran,” Haaretz, 10 November 2011. []

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.