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Sitting Ducks

by MARSHA B. COHEN

18 Oct 2009 01:34No Comments
canard1.jpgA French magazine is the Israeli source for impending attack on Iran.

[ dispatch ] Israeli broadcast and print media are reporting that an Israeli attack on Iran is taking shape, timed to take place sometime "after December."

The Israel Broadcast Agency (IBA), Debkafile and the Jerusalem Post have all cited an Israel Radio report based on an article in "a French magazine," Le Canard Enchainé, as their source.

According to the report in Le Canard Enchainé quoted by Israel Radio, Jerusalem has already ordered high-quality combat rations from a French food manufacturer for soldiers serving in elite units and has also asked reservists of these units staying abroad to return to Israel.

Revelations of an impending attack on Iran are not uncommon in the Israeli media, and appear in one form or another on an almost daily basis. This one is particularly noteworthy because Israel Radio's source, Le Canard Enchainé ("the Chained Duck"), is a French satirical weekly.

Debkafile, a pretentious self-described security analysis site whose dire predictions have almost always been proven wrong, admitted Le Canard Enchainé's satirical nature, but doesn't let that get in the way:

The prestigious satirical weekly reports that the IDF has notified special forces reservists abroad to get ready to return home in November for immediate drafting to the military operation against Iranian nuclear facilities.

The "presitigious" weekly, published every Wednesday, relies exclusively on rumors and leaks from unidentified sources for its foreign policy revelations. While it has gained respect in recent years for investigative pieces exposing the foibles, hypocrisy and misdeeds of French politicians and exposing corruption, its record on foreign affairs -- particularly about imminent Israeli attacks on Iran -- is less than reliable.

Two years ago, on Sept. 27, 2007, just prior to a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council concerning what to do about Iran, Le Canard Enchainé reported that an attack on Iran would take place in three weeks, at the end of the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, so as "to reduce casualties." Israel would launch the attack on Oct. 15 by bombing the first set of targets, and the US would carry out a second series of strikes. The New York Sun was one of the very few US dailies that chose to hype impending attack.

There may well have been subtle, perhaps even undetectable (to most western eyes), irony in the flagrant that casualties would be minimized because Muslims are forbidden to wage war during the holy month of fasting and reflection. Would the Iranians really have allowed their country to be invaded and bombarded, offering no resistance because it was Ramadan? Were the Iranians expected to be sitting ducks? When no Israeli-American assault occurred, there were murmurings in the right-wing blogosphere that the attack had to be called off because the timing of the "surprise attack" had been disclosed.

The most curious thing about the current Le Canard Enchainé report that seems to have eluded the authors of Israeli versions of the story is its highlighting of Israel's apparent need to import French cuisine to satisfy the gustatory requirements of its elite reserve troops, as preparation for war with Iran. France has a thriving kosher food industry, with more than half a billion dollars in sales to both Jews and Muslims (whose hallal dietary laws are similar to, but not quite as strict as, those of observant Jews). About half the ingredients used in French kosher products are imported from Israel, which is a major net exporter of agricultural products to the European Union.

Le Canard Enchainé
goes on to state that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi had told his French counterpart, Jean-Louis Georgelin, during a recent visit that Israel was not planning to bomb Iran from the air, but might instead send elite ground forces from "several Middle Eastern fronts." The French-fed Israeli commandos might then engage in sabotaging Iranian nuclear facilities or assassinating top Iranian nuclear scientists. Exactly where these Middle Eastern fronts bordering Iran that would welcome the presence of Israeli ground troops was not elaborated.

Another satirical point that Le Canard Enchainé might be making is that increasing numbers of Israelis prefer to reside abroad, and their government needs to remind them to come home now and then for an occasional war. Avraham Burg, a prominent former Peace Now activist and Jewish Agency chair who once had prime ministerial aspirations, is now a French citizen. The son of of one of Israel's founding religious Zionists whose political career spanned over 40 years, Burg, author of The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from its Ashes, has been an outspoken critic of Israeli policies and has been recommending Israelis secure European passports and prepare to leave the country. The exact number of Israelis living in France is unknown, since many of France's 600,000 Jews may have lived in Israel at some point in their lives before moving to France, but were not born there, so they are not counted by the French census as "Israeli."

Le Canard Enchaîné
was founded by in 1917 by journalist Maurice Maréchal, whose goals were to challenge both French government's censorship of the press and to provide the "fake news" (resembling that of The Daily Show with John Stewart) to challenge to the news coverage by the mainstream media of his time. Since the Algerian war the publication has broadened its agenda to dealing with more serious issues in French politics, particularly the exposure of public corruption. With a circulation of about half a million each week, Le Canard Enchainé is subscriber supported, privately owned and politically independent. Nor does the paper accept advertisements. This gives it enormous flexibility and almost unlimited latitude in its reporting to blur the boundary between fact and fiction with a knowing wink and no need to apologize.

In French, canard has four distinct meanings, which are mischievously intertwined in the magazine's name. Canard is a duck, as well as a scurrilous attack with no basis. In French it is also slang for "newspaper," as well a liquor-steeped lump of sugar.

Maréchal, Le Canard Enchainé's founder, declared the reading public could expect to find only "canards" in his publication.

So far this latest report of an impending Israel attack on Iran has remained confined to the Israeli media and the blogosphere. The Jerusalem Post admits that it can't verify the Le Canard Enchainé revelations, while Debkafile leaves room for the possibility that the unconfirmed report may be "a red herring." No major US news sources, including the usually gullible and invariably shrill New York Sun, appear to have taken the bait. Inducktive reasoning perhaps?

Dr. Marsha B. Cohen specializes in issues related to Iran, Israel and Israeli-Iranian relations. Having taught for a decade in Florida International University's Dept. of International Relations, specializing in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, she is presently a consultant and lecturer for the University of Miami's
MAIA program on topics related to the Middle East and the role of religion in world affairs.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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