Taylor Marsh, who has done some substantial original reporting on this story from her blog, has a detailed and very interesting post today exploring the question of who bears original and ultimate responsibility for the manufacture and distribution of this false story. Be sure to follow the links to Taylor’s other posts where you can see the chronology of her impressive journalistic involvement in this story. – Glenn Greenwald
United Nations: Badge Story is Bogus – FINAL
Regarding the dress code story it seems that my column was used as the basis for a number of reports that somehow jumped the gun. As far as my article is concerned I stand by it. The law has been passed by the Islamic Majlis and will now be submitted to the Council of Guardians. A committee has been appointed to work out the modalities of implementation. … via Who Started the Iranian Badge Story?
|“Jumped the gun”?|
Aaron Breitbart called me back and I spoke with him today. We’ll get to that in a minute. First I want to address Amir Taheri’s walk back of the other day. But make sure you check out some of the comments to Taheri’s article, which include “I wonder if you can ever trust this big liar” and “This is the biggest lie I ever heard” and on and on.
Evidently, it all gets down to this: what will the Iranians do with the law that was passed in 2004 and why was this so urgent to bring up now? Add to this my question, which remains: Who started the Iranian badge story?
The title of Taheri’s article in the Post is A colour code for Iran’s ‘infidels’. The picture next to it is intentionally inflammatory, which is the same as you are seeing on this post. Secondly, now Taheri is saying he doesn’t know what will happen with the law, while questioning why the Iranians aren’t disavowing his story completely. Evidently, the mere fact that the Iranians are silent is a hint of what will happen. The following is taken directly from Taheri’s article. Notice the interchange of “would be” and “will be.”
The new law, drafted during the presidency of Muhammad Khatami in 2004, had been blocked within the Majlis. That blockage, however, has been removed under pressure from Khatami’s successor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Religious minorities would have their own colour schemes. They will also have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths. Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes while Christians will be assigned the colour red. Zoroastrians end up with Persian blue as the colour of their zonnar. It is not clear what will happen to followers of other religions, including Hindus, Bahais and Buddhists, not to mention plain agnostics and atheists, whose very existence is denied by the Islamic Republic.
In my opinion, Taheri’s statement regarding his story is just not credible*.
Now to Aaron Breitbart who is the senior researcher for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, specializing in the Holocaust, and the person who first confirmed the story to me last Friday. First, he said he doesn’t know John Turley-Ewart. He’s the guy from the National Post who wrote in the fax I received from Breitbart that “I think we need to draw attention and much of it to this right now.” Those words were delivered to Rabbi Cooper. Breitbart also said he wasn’t aware that Taheri was a member of Benador Associates. Then he didn’t read the fax he sent to me, because at the very end it says plainly in black lettering: “Iranian author and journalist Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.” Also, when I talked to Breitbart last Friday, he knew enough about Taheri to say he was a respected author and journalist, today adding that they’d “called around” to find out that Taheri was “quite a credible source.” Taheri’s association with Benador Associates is a critical part of this yarn and it is my assessment that it is simply not credible that the Center didn’t know his affiliation with Benador.
Breitbart gave quite a lot of weight today to the fact that Iranian “counselor officials” had not denied Taheri’s story. As I said above, Taheri does this as well in the statement he was forced to make after the furor erupted over his article: “Interestingly, the Islamic Republic authorities refuse to issue an official statement categorically rejecting the concept of dhimmitude and the need for marking out religious minorities.”
Breitbart then offered that this story was “floated about” but that as far as proving it, “certainly not.” Going on, he offered that “sources” say there is talk of it happening, but it might have been “floated” (there’s that word again) to “see world reaction” to it. Later in our conversation he said yet again that it was “floated around unofficially,” but that we “cannot
This is not the tone, nor the content of what Mr. Breitbart told me on Friday, when he used words to say the story was “absolutely true,” a “throwback” to the bad old days of Hitler, and that it was “very true” and “very scary.” He went further on Friday to say that Rabbi Hier, the dean and founder to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, had talked to experts in Iran who’ve confirmed his worst fears, ending with the coup de grace: “It’s on Drudge.”
Mr. Breitbart backed away from Friday’s language, now saying there was “envisioning” of the clothing to identify Jews and non-Muslims, and that the story certainly wasn’t “conjured up.” Breitbart shared his own personal feelings on the whole subject, which amounted to the idea being “floated,” but not able to be proven.
I also asked Breitbart if he thought this whole story had anything to do with Israel’s Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to America this week. Oh, no, he said. Quite a coincidence, I replied. Well, sometimes things are just coincidental, he offered. Oh, and the story also had nothing to do with stirring up a drumbeat for war in Iran either.
To close, I asked Mr. Breitbart if he felt the Center had taken a hit on this since they confirmed the story and now it’s been found to be false. “I don’t know,” was his response.
Oh, I almost forgot. Breitbart offered that he didn’t have any idea who Taheri’s source was for the story that caused all this drama. As far as I know, nobody else does either.
LATE UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias, sitting in for Josh Marshall this week, has now linked and given full credit to the work I’ve done on this story, which has not been easy to get. Thanks, Matt. (I’m still waiting for The Jewish Week to do the same.) FINALLY, it’s up and Larry Cohler-Esses kept his word, which he gave to me through multiple conversations we had talking about the story, as he finalized the piece that appears today. ADDITIONALLY… I want to thank Glenn Greenwald, who did a most gracious update on my behalf in his post today.
UPDATE III: Credit for my work on this story has finally appeared, first on Talking Points Memo, as a “late update” though Matthew Yglesias didn’t link to me, which was actually requested by Larry Cohler-Esses.
UPDATE II: Larry Cohler-Esses’ story on this is up on Jewish Week. I am one of the main sources for this piece. I just got off the phone with Larry, who apologized profusely, because my name was left out of this week’s version. He promised that it would be rectified tomorrow, online. Please take the time to read Larry’s piece. It’s the beginning of an unraveling. Stay tuned.
UPDATE I: Canada’s National Post has finally apologized for the badge story they ran. I took a long break this evening, but thought I’d add to the update below by saying that when Larry Cohler-Esses and I talked earlier tonight, he said the Simon Wiesenthal Center denied Aaron Breitbart told me what I reported earlier on this story, beginning last Friday. We had a good chuckle about that one, believe me. It seems everyone is coming clean but the Center and Taheri, which makes you wonder, now doesn’t it?
*NOTE: Thanks to Tom for catching a mistake; noted and corrected.