Congressman Steve Rothman on Iran & Israel
Responding to Our Article "Caught Red-Handed"

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| September 17, 2007      


. . .A lie repeated and uncorrected can have deadly consequences. — Rep. Rothman



Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) is the co-author of H.Con.Res.21, based on a severe mistranslation, created to have the United Nations officially condemn Iran's President for incitement to genocide for verbal threats against Israel. The fact that the "wiped off the map" rumor got this far in the first place is due to media misreporting. So it's ironic that Rothman, who is on the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittees on Defense and Foreign Operations, has allied himself with media watchdog group MEMRI, and publicly issued his own criticism of media bias in the past. In a December 2005 column written for the Jewish Standard, "How Bias in Public Broadcasting Can Fuel Anti-Jewish Sentiment", Rothman called for the strict adherence to "basic journalistic requirements of objectivity and fairness" accused NPR of reporting "unchallenged false allegations", and said NPR "omits key context, and distorts relevant history".

Rothman's criticism is focused on the presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but could have just as easily applied to the media's depiction of Iraq and Iran.

Our media critique, Caught Red-Handed: Media Backtracks on Iran's Anti-Israel Threat addressed the false and misleading media reports on Ahmadinejad's words which led to the resolution, and how deliberations in Congress were hopelessly biased. The article also quoted from Rep. Rothman's impassioned public statements on the subject.

Congressman Rothman responded to our article in a letter to Antiwar.com where it had been published. Here is his letter and our response:



July 9, 2007
Caught Red-Handed: Media Backtracks on Iran's 'Threat'

I have been shocked to see some, including Rep. Dennis Kucinich, latch onto the myth that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, never called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Iran's own news agency reports that Ahmadinejad publicly called for the State of Israel to be "wiped off the map" (see "Ahmadinejad: Israel Must be Wiped off the Map").

With that said, I believe that some good people are fearful that my congressional resolution (H. Con. Res. 21), which passed the House of Representatives 411 to 2, is a call for war with Iran. Let me state unequivocally that it is not. The bill text clearly points to diplomatic actions for the international community to take against Ahmadinejad. Further, I am a longtime cosponsor of legislation (H. Con. Res. 33) introduced by Rep. Pete DeFazio that would require the president to seek authorization from Congress before initiating military action in Iran.

The whole purpose of the United Nations is to provide a forum for nations to resolve their differences peacefully. To achieve this vitally important goal, the world body has rules (the UN Charter) that prohibit one member state from seeking or threatening the destruction of another member state. If these essential rules for peace are to be effective, then they must be enforced.

I introduced H. Con. Res. 21 because the letter and spirit of the UN Charter and the 1948 Genocide Convention are clear: the international community must not only intervene to stop ongoing genocide, but also act to prevent the incitement of genocide. The House reaffirmed America's support of this principle when 411 U.S. Representatives voted overwhelmingly to condemn Iran's president for trying to incite mass killings of Israeli Jews.

Quite the opposite of instigating war with Iran, I believe the passage of H. Con. Res. 21 is a call for peace and coexistence.

~ Congressman Steve Rothman (D-N.J.)

Arash Norouzi replies:

Why was MEMRI's vastly different translation of the alleged "wiped off the map" quote blocked from consideration in Congress' deliberations on H. Con. Res. 21, especially in light of the fact that Rep. Rothman has praised their work repeatedly and knows its president, former Israeli official Yigal Carmon, personally?

If MEMRI's work can't be trusted, then its findings should be dismissed categorically. It can't just be selectively reliable. In fact, MEMRI's translation of the speech also offers the accurate context of Ahmadinejad's words as they related to other nations, including Iran, which was not "wiped off the map" during the victory of the Islamic revolution. To obstruct such alternate translations from going into the congressional record seems undemocratic and un-American.

As I explained in my article Rumor of the Century, Iran's state news agency IRNA was responsible for putting out the wrongly worded "wiped off the map" quote. IRIB, like IRNA, is part of the state media. Since Rep. Rothman selectively refers to one IRIB report, we might also consider these other IRIB reports as well:


While Rep. Rothman's resolution does not call for war explicitly, it asks the international community to "consider stronger measures to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, which would be a . . . potential means to the end of carrying out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel." Such "measures" could include military ones. We might recall that enforcement of UN resolutions helped form the basis for war with Iraq. This White House press release on the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq" from October 2002 cites UN resolutions as justification for its illegal invasion of Iraq:

"Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to 'work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge' posed by Iraq and to 'work for the necessary resolutions,' while also making clear that 'the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable.'"

Rep. Rothman voted to authorize war with Iraq in 2002, a vote he now regrets in light of its disastrous outcome. "If I knew at the time of my vote what I know now, I would never have supported the president's invasion of Iraq," Rep. Rothman said in February 2006. "I believe that we must learn from our mistakes and make decisions based on new information. The president's stubborn refusal to do either is not only wrong, but dangerous."

In September 2006, Rep. Rothman said, "What's happening now is a very similar drumbeat for war [against Iran], with all of the exaggerated fearmongering again." Strangely, Rep. Rothman's own statements about Iran's alleged threat qualify as greatly exaggerated, emotional hyperbole. He has warned that "the security of all Americans, Europe, and our allies around the world is at stake," predicted the possibility of a second Holocaust, compared Ahmadinejad to Hitler and labeled him a genocidal lunatic, and falsely accused him of saying that "the Jews are very filthy people". (This quote, itself highly questionable and apparently unverifiable, was actually attributed to Ahmadinejad's "aide" in the Israeli media. If it were reliable, it would have become as legendary as the "map" quote and been specifically cited in H. Con. Res. 21.) Such demonization makes the prospect of diplomacy with Iran nearly impossible.

Rep. Rothman has also frequently referred to Iran's "nuclear weapons program" despite any proof that such a program exists. Only the IAEA can make such a determination, which they have not despite operating the most comprehensive inspections of any country's nuclear facilities in their history. He also maintains that Iran has admitted to building nuclear weapons, an obvious falsehood. Though Rep. Rothman has urged Bush to stop the escalation in Iraq and withdraw American troops from the country without delay, he still engages in Orwellian doublespeak regarding Iran.

Rep. Rothman's support for Rep. Peter DeFazio's proposed legislation requiring congressional approval for war is commendable, but it still does not ensure that Congress will not authorize military action based on false information. As DeFazio has said of the neocon push for attacking Iran: "They've been wrong about everything, but they still think they're right." Are we "right" this time?

Because calling for the murder of other human beings is reprehensible, we should apply this principle universally and not selectively. For example, Sen. John McCain has publicly suggested that the U.S. "bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran", yet no genocide-incitement charges have been proposed against him. Rep. Rothman's colleague and H. Con. Res. 21 co-sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), has called for the assassination of Fidel Castro and other dictators, which itself even the verbal threat is a violation of international law. Earlier this year, former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Amit called for the assassination of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Former Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) commented just after Sept. 11, "I say, bomb the hell out of them. If there's collateral damage, so be it." To date, no charges have arisen against any of these figures for their public incitement of violence, death, and destruction against their fellow man.

Rep. Rothman's colleague Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) has also openly reveled in the deaths of other human beings, telling the Village Voice in 2001, "I don't give a sh*t if they [Mujahedeen-e-Khalq] are undemocratic. OK, so the [MEK] is a terrorist organization based in Iraq, which is a terrorist state. They are fighting Iran, which is another terrorist state. I say let's help them fight each other as much as they want. Once they all are destroyed, I can celebrate twice over." In the 1980s, Henry Kissinger reportedly made similar comments about his hopes that Iraqis and Iranians would continue killing each other.

Israel has repeatedly threatened Iran with possible attack, which Iran has complained about to the UN Security Council to no avail. And while Iran has not threatened to wipe anyone off the map, Israel's Shimon Peres has said, "Iran can also be wiped off the map," itself a incitement to genocide.

Rep. Rothman mentions the vital importance of enforcing United Nations rules to ensure peace in the world. H. Con. Res. 21 cites the UN charter statement that member states "refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

The United States has openly called for regime change in Iran, has threatened Iran with war (including nuclear attack), has held five Iranian officials in captivity since January, supports militant anti-Iranian terrorist groups such as the MEK and Jundallah in Pakistan, is inciting ethnic divisions among various Iranian groups, and is engaging in other covert activities within Iran. These are not only blatant violations of the UN charter, but also of the Algiers Accord, signed in 1981 between the U.S. and Iran, which stipulates that "The United States pledges that it is and from now will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."



Related links:

VIDEO: Barack Obama and Shimon Peres' Norouz Messages To Iranians

Governor Mitt Romney: Indict Ahmadinejad For Genocide Incitement

Timeline of Iran - Israel Relations, the Jews of Ancient Persia



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