The BBC reports:
Richard Silverstein, an American journalist and blogger on Israeli affairs, says he has been given a leaked document which outlines a plan for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
He describes the document as a briefing memo that is being used by Prime Minister Netanyahu to show ministers that an attack on Iran would go “smoothly” and wipe out key infrastructure with a minimum of Israeli casualties.
Silverstein says the document was leaked by an officer in the army, senior members of which he says oppose attacking Iran. He says the officer received the document from a former senior minister in a former government.
Silverstein says the document does not mention any possible Iranian response to an attack.
What do we know about this document?
In the past few days, I received an Israeli briefing document outlining Israel’s war plans against Iran. The document was passed to me by a high-level Israeli source who received it from an IDF officer
Who wrote it? Silverstein opines:
While whoever wrote this briefing paper had use of IDF and intelligence data, I don’t believe the IDF wrote it. It feels more likely it came from the shop of national security advisor Yaakov Amridor, a former general, settler true believer and Bibi confidant. It could also have been produced by Defense Minister Barak, another pro-war booster.
Silverstein does not provide a Hebrew source on his blog. Rather, he provides translated excerpts from the Hebrew source that he claims to have seen.
Yet the translated sentences on Silverstein’s blog, are identical to a Hebrew-language forum post on the Israeli website Fresh, from 11th August 2012.
Compare one of Silverstein’s sentences from his secret source:
“This would be a Sisyphean task in light of cluster munitions which would be dropped, some time-delayed and some remote-activated through the use of a satellite signal.”
With this sentence from the fictitious Fresh blog post and its Google Translate:
משימה סיזיפית לאור הרוויית השטח בחימוש מצרר שחלקו בעל השהיית זמן וחלקו מופעל מרחוק באמצעות אות מלוויין. a task Sisyphean light quenching the surface munitions, cluster shared a time delay and some remotely controlled by satellite signal.
The author of the Fresh post had registered in 2002.
Silverstein claims, bizarrely, that the Fresh post from earlier this week, was actually published in 2002. He declares:
Portions of the document I published are contained in the Fresh posting of 2002. Of course the IDF uses portions of its briefing memos for presentations and updates them as they develop new weapons systems. That’s what all militaries do. In 2002, they produced a document which was leaked to Fresh. The document I published contains other information that is not in the Fresh posting and the Fresh posting contains highly fictionalized scenarios which are not in the document I posted.
Yet the Fresh post was written on 11th August 2012 – not 2002. The blog Israelly Cool picks up on this.
Of course the Fresh posting contains highly fictionalised scenarios. Its title was: “Iran attack – “What if …?” The optimistic scenario”. Its concluding sentences were:
A pipe dream? Irrational optimism? Possible. But panic institutionalized daunting Israeli citizens mainly based on the heart feelings, irrational fears and harmful demonization of the opponent.
The Fresh post was a fictitious, imaginative account, of what would happen if Israel were to attack Iran. It even made a disclaimer:
“(כל הכתוב להלן מבוסס על פרסומים ישראליים רשמיים, על פרסומים זרים
בחו”ל ועל דמיון הכותב).”
“(Everything below is based on official Israeli publications, foreign
publications and the writer’s imagination)”
Its conclusion is actually against the idea of attacking Iran, claiming it would be an irrational, emotive action, involving demonising the Iranian regime.
No way that this “document” could be what Silverstein claims this actually is:
This is Bibi’s sales pitch for war. Its purpose is to be used in meetings with members of the Shminiya , the eight-member security cabinet which currently finds a 4-3 majority opposed to an Iran strike. Bibi uses this sales pitch to persuade the recalcitrant ministers of the cool, clean, refreshing taste of war.
How could this be a pro-attacking Iran military briefing, when it is a piece of speculative anti-attacking Iran web fiction?
The BBC reported Silverstein’s blog post as news, as if it were true. The Commentator is rightly outraged.
The BBC needs to look into this story, as soon as possible, if it is to maintain its reputation for high journalistic standards.
Silverstein has published the Hebrew text, which says that he received from “a former Israeli government minister”. He continues:
If the hasbarafia were honorable, which is a contradiction in terms, it would compare word for word my translation with the Fresh posting and concede that they are entirely different pieces of writing with the exception of a very small portion. Rather the goal of the hasbarafia is to kill the messenger because you don’t like the message. Their mission is to conduct scurrilous attacks on my honesty and professionalism because that will undo some of the damage caused by the leak. It won’t work, but let them try. They’ll waste their energy when they could be using it to do even more damage to Israel’s interests in some other enterprise.
His explanation is that the same source must have given the piece to what – in Silverstein’s words – is a ‘right wing’ site. The forum poster then elaborated the briefing in to a ‘pastiche’.
But why would a secret source pass the same information both to a military nerd for posting on a ‘right wing’ site, and Richard Silverstein – a man who is known for his hysterical anti-Zionism and conspiracism about Israel? Why would it go to Silverstein, a man with a record of being fooled by spoofs, rather than a reputable journalist?
The forum posting is a sub-Tom Clancy fantasy, filled with speculation about how the missiles would look flying over the countryside, the military honours that the pilots would be awarded, and the explosion resembling the Mets’ 4th of July celebrations. It contains a great deal of additional material, including what Barak might say in television interviews, and how Hezbollah might react. It is classic ‘what if’ stuff from an armchair pundit.
Silverstein says that the two articles are “are entirely different pieces of writing with the exception of a very small portion”. He also says:
Contrary to claims made by many in the hasbarafia at sites like Harry’s Place and CIF Watch, anyone who actually reads the Fresh post and compares it to what I translated & published would see that there is very little overlap. Of the entire 500 word (in English translation) document, perhaps 100 words are in the Fresh post, which itself is quite long, probably over 1,000 words (I haven’t checked).
He should have checked, because that just isn’t true.
Run the two pieces through Google Translate. You’ll see that Silverstein’s piece is the same as the forum posting, with the spelling and phrasing tidied up in a few places, and the more overt fantasy material taken out. There is very little additional in Silverstein’s ‘leak’. For example, in one place, it is noted that Israeli missiles would have have the ability to penetrate deep into hardened targets – an observation which is, ahem, hardly rocket science!
Here’s a comparison:
Has somebody fooled Richard Silverstein? If so, he clearly can’t admit it.