by Joseph W, with a hat-tip to Eyal
Julian Assange this past week was interviewed by Al Jazeera. Unfortunately for us, the interview is totally dubbed in Arabic, meaning Assange’s original words are lost for now. When you translate from English into Arabic back into English, you inevitably lose the original words which were spoken. Nevertheless, we have a transcript in two parts which is worth analysing.
When asked why only 22 of the 2217 documents about Israel have been released so far, Assange answers:
وهذا يعكس ربما بعض الانحياز من جانب نيويورك تايمز التي ربما لم ترد نشر بعض المواد عن إسرائيل لأن نيويورك تايمز بالطبع هي في نيويورك وعليهم أن يراعوا حساسيات معينة حول مشاعر وتصورات السكان اليهود هناك
"This may reflect some bias on the part of the New York Times, which probably do not want to publish some articles about Israel, because the New York Times, of course, is in New York and they have to respect the sensitivities of certain feelings and perceptions about the Jewish population there"
This is very bizarre. The New York Times is not known for being particularly pro-Israel. As far as I am aware, the New York Times has reported on the cables that it has seen and redacted along with Assange.
I don’t know why Assange says that the lack of cables on Israel may reflect bias, or that the NYT probably doesn’t want to publish this material – surely Assange would know for sure. Assange has not said anything like this in any other interviews that I am aware of.
This statement on Israel plays into the hands of conspiracy theorists who see cities with large Jewish populations as places of Zionist control where Jewish concerns muzzle the free press.
Perhaps Assange is aware of other conspiracy theorists claiming that Wikileaks itself is a Zionist plot, and is seeking to deflect some of the ‘heat’ on to the New York Times. It is a very odd suggestion from Assange, in any case.
The thing is though, we know Assange has no problem working with a Holocaust-denying journalist, Israel Shamir. Shamir is Wikileaks’ representative in Russia and Eastern Europe, as Nick Cohen highlights today in the Observer.
On more than one occasion, Shamir has claimed that Assange approached him first with Wikileaks cables. To most people, this would suggest that Assange admires Shamir’s writings. Unless Shamir is not telling the truth about Assange, in which case it is odd that Assange should continue to defend Shamir’s role in Wikileaks.
In the second part of the Al Jazeera interview, Assange is asked:
أحمد منصور: في إطار أجهزة الإستخبارات هل لديك أيضا وثائق تتحدث عن أجهزة الإستخبارات في الدول العربية وعلاقتها بالـ CIA وإعطائها معلومات للـ CIA أو اجتماعات مع رجال الـ CIA أو ترتيبات بين الأميركيين والحكومات العربية؟
Regarding intelligence services, do you have documents that also talk about the intelligence services in Arab countries and their relationship to the minds of the CIA, giving information for the CIA, meetings with men from the CIA, or making arrangements between the Americans and the Arab governments?
Bear in mind that this question comes after the point in the interview where Assange accuses Arab diplomats who "collude" with the USA of being spies and traitors.
Assange replies to the question:
جوليان أسانج: نعم هذه الأمور تذكر من وقت لآخر في كل البرقيات التي نشرت وستنشر وبسبب طبيعتها بأنها من سفارات وهي ليست مراسلات من وكالة استخباراتية مع أخرى ولكنها سفراء يتحدثون عن الترتيب ربما للاجتماع بين هذه الوكالة الإستخباراتية أو تلك أو أناس كبار في الحكومة يتذمرون أو يشكون بشأن وكالة إستخباراتية ما أو يتفاوضون بشأن كيف أن الوكالات الإستخباراتية ستبدأ في تبادل المعلومات فيما بينها،في حالة أحمدي نجاد في الأمم المتحدة السويد كانت هي الرجل المؤشر في الأمم المتحدة والمندوب السويدي في الأمم المتحدة تآمر مع ألمانيا والولايات المتحدة ودول غربية أخرى بأن يستمع إلى الحد الذي يتحدث عنده أحمدي نجاد عن أمور مهمة مثل المحرقة أو اليهود عندها السويد ستعطي الإشارة وكل الدول الغربية ستخرج.
"Yes, this occurs a little from time to time, in the cables that have been published and will be published. Naturally, the embassies do not correspond with other intelligence agencies, but ambassadors maybe talk about meeting with intelligence agencies and such, or big people in government. They might moan or complain about other intelligence agencies, or negotiate the exchange of information between intelligence agencies themselves. In the case of Ahmedinejad in the UN, Sweden was the signal-guy in the UN, and the Swedish Envoy in the UN conspired/colluded with Germany, the US and other Western Countries to listen to the point at which Ahmadenijad would talk about important matters such as the Holocaust or the Jews, at this point Sweden would give the signal and all of the Western Countries would leave."
Note the Arabic word attributed to Assange – " تآمر " – which usually translates as ‘plot/conspire/collude/connive/scheme’, yet can also translate as ‘confer’. The meaning here appears to be ‘conspired‘ , as it is followed by the preposition ‘with’ Germany & the US then ‘to’ and the subjunctive ‘to listen to’. It is likely, then, that Assange intended to convey the meaning of ‘conspired’ in the original English.
Here, Assange chooses to change tack. Although he is asked by the interviewer about Arab diplomats working alongside the US, Assange begins criticising German and Swedish diplomats instead.
Assange refers to the pre-meditated Western walkout during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN in April 2009.
Previously, Ahmadinejad had organised a global conference questioning the Holocaust, inviting many Holocaust deniers.
With regards to the UN speech itself, Ahmadinejad was himself going to doubt the Nazi Holocaust, and at the last minute dropped a phrase which noted "the ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust."
A pre-planned walkout did still occur, however, when Ahmadinejad suggested that the USA had pre-arranged 9/11 in order to benefit Zionism and strengthen Israel.
What on earth, then, does Assange consider to be the "عن أمور مهمة مثل المحرقة أو اليهود" – the "important matters such as the Holocaust or the Jews" that Ahmadinejad was talking about? Is he referring to the initial speech in which Ahmadinejad would question the Holocaust, or the amended speech in which Ahmadinejad merely suggested Zionist involvement in 9/11?
The only Ahmadinejad reference to the Holocaust in his speech is the one about it being an "ambiguous and dubious question". I can’t think what else Assange could be thinking of.
Remember the context of Assange’s words: he argues throughout the interview that diplomats friendly with America are really traitors acting against the interests of the people of this world.
It seems Assange is casting Western countries – principally Sweden and Germany – in the role of traitors; this time for their alleged "collusion" with the USA in undermining Ahmadinejad and his anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Unsurprisingly, Assange’s description of the UN walkout and the role of Sweden matches Israel Shamir’s description almost perfectly. In his role as a Wikileaks rep, Shamir wrote in Russkiy Reporter last month:
The State Department even communicates with its European allies in the form of direct directives. Thus, in the dispatch, sent to European embassies, EU representatives in detail, as students, have been interpreted in exactly where speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the 65 th UN General Assembly, the Europeans should leave the hall. However, such a bureaucracy in the management of allies has its disadvantages: the Swedish delegate had instructions to leave the hall when Ahmadinejad mentions the Holocaust. But Ahmadinejad about this so do not say. As a result, representatives of other European countries came to his signals, and the Swede remained in the room in disbelief.
So both Shamir and Assange assert that Sweden and other European countries were teaming up with the USA to belittle Ahmadinejad, whereas the actual cable they refer to proves nothing of the sort.
Lest we forget, Shamir’s son Johannes Wahlstrom is known for peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in Sweden. Wahlstrom is the Wikileaks representative in Sweden, where Shamir is also based.
In a combined effort, it really seems that Wikileaks are re-packaging the principled walkout at the UN against an anti-Semitic discourse, as if it were a Western conspiracy designed to stop Ahmadinejad talking about "important matters".
This must not carry on.