Boaz Bismuth has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Bar-ilan University and a Masters Degree in International Relations from Sorbonne University in Paris, a second Masters Degree in African Studies. He is the Foreign Affairs Editor and commentator of “Israel Hayom”. He was the Paris correspondent of the daily “Yedioth Ahronoth” from 1990 to 2004, specializing in reporting from war fronts and coverage in and of Arab countries, including hostile ones. Among his special assignments was coverage of “Operation Solomon” which brought thousands of Jews to Israel from Ethiopia in 1991. In 1993, Bismuth was the first Israeli journalist in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution; he visited Teheran once again in 1998. In 1999 he was the first Israeli journalist to visit Libya.
1. In class we just covered Mr. Sulzberger, he was a journalist who died a couple of days ago. We learned that he published thousands of secret pages about the Vietnam War. They were called the Pentagon Papers. He was considered the pillar of freedom of speech. In contrast, Julian Assange is considered a terrorist. We would like to know your opinion on this. Do you think he is a terrorist or a freedom fighter? (Asya İgmen)
Excellent question, by the way. You are presenting a problematic thing here is a journalist. What do I do as a journalist? As a journalist, of course, I want to reveal things, I want them for me. If I succeed in revealing, for example, a secret cable from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who came out concerning Angola, or China, Sri Lanka, or the United States, that would be a great scoop. And I would do my job as a journalist. That is kind of obvious. Yet at the same time, you are talking to someone who was also for four years a diplomat. So, I can put myself also on the other side and I can know how much there is this duality, in brackets of course, between officials and journalists. Now, the question with Assange is that the fact this is being done with an agenda and, let me remind you also that let’s take for example what was done after the secret cable he revealed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember those cables? When in one day we had all those cables before the third part that we had. Who was put in trial? First of all, if I recall correctly, is was the American soldier. Assange was in trial for other issues. Correct me if I’m wrong of course. So I would say, who treats him as a terrorist? I think that here in Israel, we talk about Israel, not in the newspaper I work, but at Israel Hayom, gave him a front page in the magazine. In Israel, you must understand that freedom of speech is something very important for us. Publishing or revealing a secret cable is something that is always done by the Israeli press. But at the same time, you can’t ignore that Mr. Assange has an agenda. But you could answer me back: Who doesn’t today?
2. How Israel can be threatened by only Muslim world when they were persecuted by Christian world in the history? What is your opinion on this situation? (Ayşe Erman)
Listen. You know, I remember the last time I visited the beautiful Istanbul. It was on April last year for the negotiations about concerning the nuclear Iranian program. I remember it was very funny. As I liked very much Istanbul, I had some free time. So, I could write the article before the end of the negotiations. It was clear what was going to happen. I think that Iranians right now, and they were always very great and clever in negotiations. By the way, what used to be also we Jews, great friend with Iranians. Yet at the same time, Iran today ever since 1978-79 Iranian revolution, they have an agenda as you said in the former question everybody has an agenda. The Iranian nuclear program, today, I think even in the year 2002 when I was in Paris no one really understood the paranoia –that’s how they used to call it-. Today people have understood that Iranians are doing this program for military reasons. I mean don’t talk to me about the nuclear civil program for country that 8 years with Iraq not really cared about the population. Don’t tell me that suddenly they have discovered that how much they have to care about the population. I think that program is for two reasons. Reason A of course, for survival of Ayetullah, the regime in Iran. But there is another reason which is to be the supremacy not only regional, not only for the Muslim world but you know with the decline of the Western world and the United States, even Turkey many many countries China of course. There are many countries who of course want to put more influence into world. Iran is one of them. So, this nuclear program is for military reasons and as for the reasons I mentioned. You cannot forget about something also that we in Israel have a problem with Iran for two reasons. Iran does not respect “me”, not only because I am an Israeli –I can still deal with that, it is politics- but as a Jew and that is racial. That is something that I cannot accept for two things. Two things make me concerned with Iran. Reason one is the support of terrorism. That means that they support something that kills me not as a nation, I tihnk you need something much more than terrorism to kill a Jew or an Israeli as a nation. But of course they contribute to terrorism. Therefore disappearing some of my fellows. On the other hand something even more dangerous, you have seen Ahmadinejad at UN so many times, but also you can see that at Iran they are having conventions and whatever. They also not recognizing the Holocaust. So this is the regime that we are talking about. Now, of course you must understand another thing. If you to go back 20-25-30 years ago, with this Ipad –by the way we would not thought of having an Ipad at the time- we shall think together of the world, we shall think for example about that the USSR won’t exist any more and we shall think for example that Yugoslavia the same football team that had world cup used to kiss each when scoring a goal, you see that Bosniac against Croatia, and Montenegro. If I have said 35 years ago that Israeli prime minister would be murdered in Tel Aviv by a guy who has a keeper. That shows you that things that are kind of incredible and stunning can exist. That is why people say that they want the destruction of Israel after 65 years. It can be just the spot in history that we have to worry about it because things do happen. And when you see every year when they have the military parade and all the shiad missels, they want to write about Paris and Istanbul, and they will not write Gaza and Florida or Tampa. They will write of course Zanist regime, and they do not even recognize what they are. That is why I think Israel in entitled to protect itself. I think that also the world nowadays as a priority –especially economical priorities- we have see how much time it took the international community to really worry about the Iran nuclear program. When you look throughout the history, and you know you write future with the ink of the past. We are entitled to think that we should first of all, before anybody else take care of ourselves. I think that this is why Israel was great in 1948. Ever since, unfortunately many many wars –we should have had many many peace treaties but unfortunately we had wars- and never a foreign soldier came to protect Israel ever since 1948 and that is a fact. Thank you.
3. We watched Netanyahu’s speech in UN and he showed the diagram which include the red line on the bomb. My question is how can you interpret this red line? How does the red line work for you? (Sinan Deris)
First of all thank you for the question and maybe I would like to tell the class first of all to show you a little bit what is happening Israel, Israeli press, Israeli media. You cannot even imagine how much this diagram was criticized in Israel. You must have understand as I have said before for the first very good question that I have received also the second one of course, but the question about Assange and we spoke about freedom of speech in Israel. An Israel prime-minister, especially Netanyahu is criticized by the press, very much criticized. The press in Israel does not even give you one day and that is one reason why I do not think many youngsters nowadays are keen to go to politics. Not to go to the drawn by itself, even the friends of Netanyahu; even Mitt Romney criticized the diagram, I think it was a very good diagram. And at the same, which is something that I wrote on my paper yesterday, or the day before yesterday, when I used to live in France there was a series, very good very famous McCarthy edition. I guess some of you speak French, Le viens pour les nulles, L’espangol pour les nulls, l’anglais pour les nulles, l’ordinateur pour les nulls. In English of course, it came from America, Spanish for dummies and computer for dummies and it really had the real basics it does not have any bias news, I do not think that anyone who bought the book really thinks he really is a dummy or a nulle or a zero. But someone, for example like me who is zero with computers, I would buy this book to know better of it. Now when Netanyahu makes his speech he knows that Mr. Jean Phillipe in Paris or Mr. Smith in Dublin, is not suppose to be a nuclear genius and that is why in his speech he wanted that and that has something to do with communication, people to talk about the speech and everybody spoke about that diagram. Now let us put the diagram aside I think it is not the quality of the diagram that is important, it is the issue by itself. It is especially what Netanyahu said was Iranians will cross the red line by the summer. Now you have asked a very clear question about the red line itself. So of course I mean it is the 70% not about the enrichment of uranium or the 90% of the enrichment of uranium. Many people do not understand, what Netanyahu meant was that 90% capacity of having the bomb and enrichment of uranium. That is very important for me to present you today and for you to understand. For me the most important thing and you can agree or not agree with me that is of course you are not obliged to agree with me. But unfortunately as a journalist who travels a lot in the world, as a journalist who speaks to many of my fellow journalists and someone who was a diplomat for four years in an Arabic country, for someone who is every week somewhere else in the world, not only in the east also in the Arabic countries and the western world unfortunately for us Israel lately, lately, and if you go back to Turkey on April those negotiations and waiting for other negotiations with all the fellow journalists unfortunately there was a parallel between the danger of a nuclear bomb and a danger of an Israeli attack. For public opinion, yes public opinion, they were as dangerous because people nowadays were thinking tomorrow Israel might or will attack. What Netanyahu tried to explain in his speech is that the red line prevents wars, does not create wars and he gave and he spoke also about history our history red lines prevent wars. Now let me tell you two important things and in a very clear way, very clear, first one is concerning America and Obama and the second one is concerning Netanyahu and both I will make some critics. As considering Obama, Obama sees reality sees Middle-East different way than other American presidents and that is a big problem for Israel because America is like the strong guy who always protects you and right now, Obama sees things in a very different way. That the Israeli prime-minister and I believe after the elections and if he does win, probably I mean unless he had very bad debates he will win and that is a really big problem for Netanyahu, and Obama believes in dialogue and especially America has also changed, America can give you now just 3-4 reasons why would not attack Iran. First of all Obama ideologically does not believe in war, secondly every since Vietnam war America had never attacked. Thirdly of course the economical problems of the country do not want to cause even larger economical problems. Concerning Netanyahu, the criticism I would make for Netanyahu that you know if you go with it throughout history look at 1981 when Israel attacks the nuclear sight in Iraq, President Reagen was against. When according to foreign news Israel attacks Syria or Syrian nuclear installation, programming in 2007 according to foreign press President Bush disagreed. I read that in the New Yorker just lately, and even in 1948 the creation of Israel, Truman was not very much for, according to foreign news Iran nuclear capacity Kennedy was against. So, I think we see right now all those declarations of Netanyahu or the contrary, I think that Israel is expecting International Community to stop Iran from having a nuclear capacity, I think if Israel wanted to attack they would have attacked before, and Israel knows the consequences we have seen only last two weeks ago the consequences after this stupid insulting and horrible movie only two weeks ago, imagine, imagine if you have an attack over Iraq I think Israel will survive it but I think that Israel and also this is something for you which has to be very very clear, Israel does not want a nuclear Iranian bomb. Israel would prefer not a bomb without an attack. How do you do it, maybe this is a question for me to ask you.
4. We want to ask you how does a red line prevent war. What should be the red line in the case of Iran and Israel? How does a red line work? (Guvenç Kutlusoy)
First of all redlines do not work without international community. The red line cannot work without the support of the West. The red line also cannot work without the support of other Arabic countries, for example the Gulf nation whom I don’t think would like to see an Iran with nuclear power. I think in that issue we have allies in the world. I think Iran with nuclear power is something that no one really wants. I even imagine that you in your classes would not also like to see an Iran with nuclear power. I think, in order to prevent a possible war, Iran should understand that threats are serious not only from Israel but also from the international community. The fact that we don’t share the same interests in this small global world, the fact that China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and America have different opinions, does not prove anything. Countries are in competition. However, in front of a nuclear threat, we should show much more unity between us and acknowledge that there is a threat. Sometimes, when we face big issues, we need to show the willingness to be united. Now I will tell you another thing concerning Iran. My book came out two weeks ago and in my book I mentioned Iran because as a journalist I have visited Iran. As an Israeli, I wish Iranians could praise their countries as much as I do because I can separate the molla with the people. Unfortunately at Iran we missed something important. In June 2009, President Obama should have understood when people came out to the streets to protest Ahmadinejad and his regime. During these incidents, I think America was too busy to think of negotiating with Iran. Although the newspapers write that Iran has big economical problems, this is only because the regime is focusing on nuclear development and decreasing the interest rates. The mullahs are not working for the prosperity of the people but to continue their regime. You asked me how to prevent war. I think if we continue this way, there will not be a war. America and the West will not attack Iran, yet though I don’t know the secrets of my government; I believe the red line speech was to prevent a possible war with Iran. I believe if we continue this way, Iran will capacity to have nuclear power and the lack of time for Iran to have this capacity together with the fall of this regime, (Iranians deserve a much better government and the regime will fall eventually) will be a big thriller for the world. The solution to stop a possible war will come from sanctions and etc. but from the people of Iran. So, I hope that Iranians will be responsible and courageous enough with the support of superpowers such as America.