Chutzpah, Inc.

Chutzpah, Inc.: "The Brave People of Iran" (versus the Disappeared People of Palestine, Honduras, Afghanistan, Etc.)


Edward S. Herman and David Peterson


It is almost a commonplace, at least for the real—as opposed to the cruise-missile—left, that the flow of information, opinion, and moral indignation in the United States adapts well to the demands of state policy.  If the state is hostile to Iran, even openly trying to engage in "regime change," and if it is supportive of the state of Israel, no matter what crimes Israel may commit, and if it doesn’t like the populist president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and supports his overthrow and a follow-up "demonstration election" by the local elite, the media and many intellectuals will follow the state agenda, even if they must indulge in mental somersaults.  In the case of Iran, the Israeli state and its U.S. supporters are also eager for regime change, so the somersaults on the Iran menace are wilder yet, with large injections of chutzpah.


This chutzpah is in full bloom in a full-page ad in the February 7 New York Times and February 9  International Herald Tribune addressed to Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Dimitry Medvedev, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel: "How Long Can We Stand Idly By and Watch This Scandal in Iran Unfold?"[1]  The ad was sponsored by "The Elie Wiesel Foundation For Humanity," and signed by 44 Nobel Prize laureates, 42 of them men and a substantial fraction Jewish.  The ad attacks Iran’s "cruel and oppressive regime" for its "shameless war against its own people" and its "irresponsible and senseless nuclear ambitions [that] threaten the entire world," and calls upon Washington, Paris, Moscow, London, and Berlin, the UN Security Council, and "important NGOs" to impose “harsher sanctions” on Iran, and adopt "concrete measures…to protect this new nation of dissidents…."  "They must know that we are on their side," the ad implores.  "All of us who care must offer our full support and solidarity to the brave people of Iran."


This open letter is a shameless and demagogic call for foreign intervention in Iran, for destabilization and subversion, and, above all, for war—although three of the signers (including Wiesel) are past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize,[2] and the text could have been written by the Foreign Office of the state of Israel.  Indeed, Wiesel himself is an unabashed protagonist for Israel, having long proclaimed his unwillingness to make a public criticism of that country ("I never attack, never criticize Israel when I am not in Israel"[3]), so that we can rest assured that his "Foundation for Humanity" will never proclaim its solidarity with any humans living under the Israeli boot.  The Wiesel Foundation did not sponsor a full-page ad in the New York Times to protest Israel’s shameless and criminal onslaught against the Gaza Palestinians in early 2009, which in just three weeks killed some 340 children, a greater number than the aggregate of protester deaths in post-election Iran.[4]  Nor will it sponsor an ad that criticizes the irresponsible buildup of nuclear weapons that Israel has accomplished outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that pose a much clearer threat to the world than that posed by the still nuclear-weapon-free Iran, which is under steady threat of attack by Israel and by a U.S. leadership that says "all options" remain on the table. That Wiesel and his "Foundation for Humanity" could get 43 other Nobel laureates to sign this hysterical, hypocritical, and morally degraded war-call is a sad indication of the state of the reigning Western intellectual culture in 2010.  

This ad also raises once again the important question of what the people of Iran really want.  In the ad, and in much of the Western commentary on Iran’s June 12, 2009 presidential election and the many large street demonstrations that have followed it, the protesters (the "brave people") are assumed to represent the demands of the majority of Iran’s 70 million people, as well as a revolutionary "Green Movement" sweeping across Iran’s national life and shaking the Islamic Republic to its very foundations.[5] 

The June 2009 election was declared a massive fraud in the establishment Western media and even on the liberal-left, with many alleging that Iran‘s ruling elite had deprived Mir Hossein Mousavi of his rightful victory, and awarded it to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by electoral-numbers manipulation.  "There is no transparency or accountability in Iran, so we may never know for sure what happened in the presidential election last week," the New York Times asserted in its first post-election editorial.  "But given the government’s even more than usually thuggish reaction, it certainly looks like fraud."[6]  In a frequently quoted analysis, the U.K.-based Chatham House labeled Iran‘s official results "problematic" and "highly implausible."[7]  The "Chatham House Study Definitively Shows Massive Ballot Fraud in Iran’s Reported Results," the widely read blog of Middle East specialist Juan Cole duly announced.[8]  The Chatham House study’s co-author Ali Ansari told the New York Times "I don’t think they actually counted the votes, though that’s hard to prove."[9]  Segments of the left were even more extreme in their commitment to the stolen-election line.  The U.S.-based Campaign for Peace and Democracy issued a statement in early July (which the CPD also used as part of a fundraising campaign) that claimed that "there is very powerful evidence that either no one emerged with a majority [in the first round of the election], or that Mousavi won outright."[10] 

The problem with writing-off the official results of Iran’s 2009 election as a fraud or as a stolen election is that both the 2005 presidential election results and a string of opinion polls carried out before and after the 2009 election suggest quite strongly that Ahmadinejad does in fact enjoy majority support among Iranians, and very well could have won outright.   

Thus in the June 24, 2005 presidential runoff between Ahmadinejad and the former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani (1989-1997), Ahmadinejad won by roughly a 2-to-1 margin, receiving 62% of the vote, compared to Rafsanjani’s 32% (see Table 1).[11]  At the time, no one seriously contended that this result was based on electoral fraud.[12]


Then, during the run-up to the 2009 election, an opinion poll completed by three U.S. groups just three weeks before the vote found that for those Iranians willing to commit themselves, Ahmadinejad would beat Mousavi by better than a 2-to-1 margin (34% – 14%),[13] a slightly higher ratio of victory than the official election results as reported by the Interior Ministry on June 13 (63% – 34%).[14]  

    Table 1: Iranian Public Opinion Through June 12, 2009  

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mir Hussein Mousavi

June 2005 Presidential Runoff


32% (vs. Ali Akbar Rafsanjani)

May 11-20, 2009 TFT Pol

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