Israel's Attack Memo: Email Exchange with the BBC's Jonathan Marcus

Blog: The Editors, 24 August 2012 | 4 Comments
submit to reddit

Last week Jonathan Marcus, the BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent, wrote an analysis piece entitled "'Leaked Israel memo': propaganda or Iran war plan?". The article ran in parallel with a story entitled "Israel 'prepared for 30-day war with Iran'". Both articles were about the prospect of a serious violation of international law, however neither article (like most news on Iran since November 2011) mentioned this serious fact. The usual balance was given: 'Tehran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful'. IAEA reports, which have not found Iran to be developing nuclear weapons, are no longer of importance to our Diplomatic and Defence correspondents, it seems.

Because of the missing facts, the assumptions made, and the narrowing of the debate around merely the purpose of the memo, we wrote to Jonathan Marcus and asked a few quesitons. Below is the full chain of emails:

From: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: 16 August 2012 09:36
To: Jonathan Marcus
Subject: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

Dear Jonathan

I read your article yesterday entitled 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?' and would like to ask the following questions:

1. Why have you not discussed the fact that this attack would be, as you know, a violation of international law? That is, of course, very important here and has been entirely neglected. You have discussed the 'plans', and the 'wisdom' of an attack, but nothing about the legality.

2. If you were discussing a leaked report which discussed the opposite (e.g. Iran attacking Israel), would you really use language like 'the wisdom of launching an attack', the 'key technologies and weapons systems' being used, and the 'key players' behind an attack? Or would you be a bit more critical of these plans, perhaps even call them a threat?

3. Discussing the 'gains' of an attack, you write:

A delay in Iran's nuclear development programme, yes, but for how long?

Can you very briefly explain, with evidence, why you have assumed Iran's nuclear development programme needs to be delayed, please?

4. The sub-headlines throughout the article are 'Paralyse the regime' and 'Futuristic battle plan'. I imagine that it was the editors, and not you, that wrote these. Do you agree though that these could (unintentionally) serve the purpose of glorifying an illegal attack?

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your response.

All the best

Rob


From: Jonathan Marcus
To: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 9:52 AM
Subject: RE: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

Forgive me but I think you are reading the article you wanted to see rather than what I really wrote.

(1) Was not the point of the story though an issue that I am sure we have touched on and will do again.
(2) Yes I would
(3) The US and Israel and several other countries want to see certain Iranian activities halted. The IAEA wants a full explanation of worrying aspects of the programme. Iran says it has no desire to manufacture the bomb but did have activities (now halted ?) which could only be used for a weapons programme. These are facts as far as I know.
(4) That is your interpretation not mine or our sub-editors.

As I say I think you are reading the piece through your own prism.

I hope you picked up on the fact that the piece was really levelling some scepticism at what you call a “report” and that I called a “text”.

It nonetheless proved a useful opportunity to discuss the unprecedented debate inside Israel on the merits of attacking Iran – something that I fear you seem to have missed.

Thank you though for your e-mail.

All the best

JM


From: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: 16 August 2012 10:53
To: Jonathan Marcus
Subject: Re: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

Dear Jonathan

What 'prism' do you think I have read your piece through?

Yes, I understand that your report was about levelling scepticism at the 'text'. Part of my issue is exactly this: the way that the debate has been narrowed down to only what is being discussed in Israel. Does international law not come before opinion in Israel with matters such as this?

In response to the four answers:

1. You're right, the BBC has 'touched on' the illegality of attacking Iran - once. It was in your article about how Iran would respond to an Israeli attack. It has not been pointed out in the numerous articles written since the threats started last November. While the legal issue is not the 'point' of your article, do you not think it merits a mention in all discussion so as to provide some clarity to your readers?

2. Thanks for the answer.

3. Those are not the facts. The IAEA has never claimed that these activities 'could only be used' for nuclear activities. I think you'll find that the key phrase that the BBC and other media outlets have used is in fact 'relevant to the development of' nuclear weapons. This is a serious, important difference.

4. I'm not simply stating my interpretation. I asked if that outcome is one you think possible. Can you answer this question, please?

I look forward to your response

All the best

Rob


From: Jonathan Marcus
To: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 10:57 AM
Subject: RE: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

I have replied once and really cannot be drawn into a long discussion.
Kind regards
JM


From: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: 16 August 2012 11:10
To: Jonathan Marcus
Subject: Re: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

Dear Jonathan

There's no intention to have a long discussion - my last email had four short questions. Can you answer them, please?

Best regards

Rob


From: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: 21 August 2012 22:49
To: Jonathan Marcus
Subject: Re: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

Dear Jonathan

I have not yet had an answer to the questions below. Can you please respond?

Best Regards


From: Jonathan Marcus
To: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 10:55 PM
Subject: Re: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

I have no desire to enter into a series of exchanges with you. I have no obligation to do so. Please do not trouble yourself further.

Do keep reading the site - You may not agree with everything written there but then that is not really the point.

JM


From: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: 22 August 2012 08:26
To: Jonathan Marcus
Subject: Re: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

Jonathan

It's a shame that you're unwilling to answer a few questions. Of course you have no obligation to reply, but I thought it would at least be courteous.

I don't expect to agree with everything written on the BBC - that's not why I wrote. I wrote because of my concern at how news about Iran is framed, and at how assumptions are made in much of the reporting.

Rob


From: Jonathan Marcus
To: rob@newsunspun.org
Sent: Tuesday, August 22, 2012 09:23 PM
Subject: Re: Your article 'Leaked Israel memo: propaganda or Iran war plan?'

Fair enough but you say there are assumptions and disagree with the way I/we frame it.

I probably disagree with you.

That Iran has an enrichment programme at all is odd since most countries with civil power programmes do not.

The fact that it has indulged in activities which the IAEA has repeatedly requested it to explain is a fact.

The nature of its current activities many experts suggest are more related to a potential break out towards a bomb than they are towards an exclusively civil programme.

I think our reporting on Iran is pretty good overall – it would be even better if the Iranians let us have greater access to their country.

All the best

JM



Get updates by following News Unspun on Facebook or Twitter - or join our Mailing List:

Post a Comment


HTML will be removed; internet addresses will automatically be hyperlinked.


Answer the following sum to prove that you are human:


Comments (4)

1. ZodiacNine24 August 2012 12:32


JM cannot see his own bias, which unfortunately does not surprise me. I'm also not surprised that the BBC has little access to Iran considering the BBC actively helped overthrow Mossadegh (the elected leader) and have him replaced by a brutal dictator (the Shah). The BBC's reporting of Iran is done through a western 'prism' with journalists seemingly being completely blind to their own bias and consistently stuck in a form of doublethink. This is what ultimately leads to war - manufacturing consent for it, even if not deliberate.



2. BadDog24 August 2012 12:45


Keep it up. The BBC is now just a tool of the government, pumping out propaganda.



3. john25 August 2012 13:25


Never expect honesty and rigour and integrity from the BBC/Fox/CNN/AlJazeera etc etc. reporters or management --just likelike politicians. Anyhow only 99.99 ad infinitum per cent of them

Years of scrutiny and complaints confirm so.

John



4. Freddie08 September 2012 02:06


To quote.. 'That Iran has an enrichment programme at all is odd since most countries with civil power programmes do not'.
Sounds like Marcus is pretending to be baffled when he isn't really. When every country has refused to sell you enriched uranium, what choice is there except to enrich your own. Also enriching your own uranium isn't in violation of the NPT. If Marcus is genuinely ignorant of these facts, then should he really be writing articles on this subject?



Keep up to Date

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates:






Categories


Countries:
News Providers: Other:

Archive


2013
2012
2011