The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported yesterday on a series of viral videos produced by a new organization TheLandOfIsrael.com offering justifications for an Israeli attack on Iran. JTA notes the videos, littered with factual errors, misleading half-truths, and comparisons between Iran and Nazi Germany, have been viewed millions of times on YouTube.
Many of the clips in the films, including one of Mitt Romney’s controversial adviser Walid Phares, are drawn from the documentary “Iranium,” a film by the Islamophobic organization Clarion Fund that also pushed a hawkish perspective on Iran.
One of the films, titled “Israel vs. Iran — No Fear,” has to date received more than 2 million views since its release five days ago. In it, the narrator says, “Everyone knows Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, or they have them already.” No credible media accounts or experts claim Iran already has a nuclear weapon, and, while regarding the Iranian program as a potential threat, reported U.S. and Israeli intelligence estimates both conclude that Iran has not decided to build a bomb. “But why isn’t anyone doing what we all know needs to be done?” the film’s narrator goes on.
One of The Land Of Israel .com’s founders, Jeremy Gimpel, told ThinkProgress by phone that the clips were used by permission from the Clarion Fund after they explained they were making videos as a part of a campaign to “assert Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Like Clarion official Alex Traiman, who wrote and directed “Iranium,” Gimpel lives in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. “I live in Judea,” he said, using the biblical term for a region of the West Bank. “I live in Neve Daniel.” Gimpel and TheLandOfIsrael.com’s co-founder Ari Abromowitz host a radio show on a station run by pro-settler media outlet Arutz Sheva. (Traiman hosted a show on the same station before jumping to the Clarion Fund.)
Asked about numerous factual inaccuracies and misleading points in the two short films, Gimpel — who said an attack on Iran would be “like going to the dentist, and who wants to go to the dentist?” — dismissed the criticisms as “semantics.”
For instance, in the other film “Iran vs. Israel – Back to the Future,” the narrator says Iran “built intercontinental ballistic missiles” (ICBM). While Iran’s focus on improving its mid-range missiles (2,500 km) allows for research that could be used for ICBMs, no reliable reports indicate Iranian development of an ICBM system. Asked about this, Gimpel responded: “I don’t know if there’s a definition on Wikipedia. The point is it’s a threat to Europe and threat to Israel.” Wikipedia in fact defines ICBMs as missiles with a range of greater than 5,500 kilometers. (In an earlier e-mail responding to the absence of credible accusations that Iranian ICBMs exist, Gimpel wrote, “We’ve spoken to experts that say otherwise,” but could not name any such experts by phone.)
Confronted with the differences between stopping and delaying Iranian nuclear progress, Gimpel said he hoped an attack would result in a delay long enough for regime change in Tehran. If that didn’t work, he said, “Israel will do what it has to do. If it means (striking) every five years, they that’s what they’ll do.”
Gimpel rejected the notion that he was building a case for war. “What I’m doing is building a case for peace,” he said. “What I’m saying is that there will never be peace if Iran has a nuclear bomb.” But he rejected a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, declaring, “I think the negotiations are wasting our time.”
UPDATE: Today, Fox News Channel ran an uncritical segment promoting the viral videos, including interviews with Abramowitz and Gimpel and heavily featuring clips from “Iranium.”