Raisi, Robert Fico, Prigozhin and Gaza: double standards in the international press

When the news of the crash of Ebrahim Raisi's helicopter arrived, the first thing that came to mind for anyone with a modicum of critical thinking was: "Is it Israel's doing?"

This is an absolutely legitimate speculation. However, the journalists and commentators who work directly or indirectly for the imperialist propaganda apparatus categorically dismiss it. This is pure hypocrisy. It is they themselves who love to make the most idiotic speculations about everything - when it suits their bosses, of course.

When Evgeny Prigozhin's helicopter crashed, for example, the first speculation made by these propagandists was that the Russian government was responsible. After all, the former Wagner Group leader had spoken out against Vladimir Putin. That was the great fact that underpinned the logic of this argument. He was an opponent of Putin, so Putin would most likely have ordered his elimination. Even if he had reconciled and received a pardon from the Russian president, even if the helicopter had crashed near the Ukrainian border and the Russians had assured him that it was Ukrainian sabotage.

Set-up. Sources?

We may never know the truth. However, US propagandists tried to turn speculation into proof with a ridiculous set-up: The Wall Street Journal published, shortly after the incident, that members of the Russian government set up Prigozhin's murder. The sources? Western intelligence agents. In other words, the CIA, MI6 and their subsidiaries. Everyone knows that they have an endless track record of planting false information in the press against their enemies. Would the WSJ publish a story accusing the Israeli government of shooting down an Iranian president's plane, whose source is the FSB (successor to the KGB)?

Quite the opposite. Most imperialist propaganda outlets don't even raise the hypothesis of Israeli involvement in order to ridicule it. They know that any mention of Israel, even if it makes a mockery of the idea, would plant doubt in those who haven't thought about the possibility.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen suggested that there is the possibility of sabotage related to internal opponents, both inside and outside the government, "but we have no evidence for any of that". But these probabilities, according to what emerges from his comment, are legitimate. What is unreasonable is the "instinct to blame Israel".

"Israeli officials have told journalists that they are not involved in this. It's hard to see how Israel benefits from something that would be interpreted, in practice, as a provocative act of war," pointed out the British channel's international politics editor.

Denial means nothing

Let's break it down. Firstly, the fact that Israel denies involvement means nothing. It's just a rhetorical propaganda weapon for reporters to feign impartiality by listening to "both sides". "So-and-so said this, while so-and-so said that". That's it, the journalist's job is done. No need to investigate anything!

Secondly, the commentator admits to having cognitive difficulties in "seeing how Israel benefits" from the elimination of the head of state of its greatest enemy. In fact, it's nothing of the sort. He is fully aware of how it benefits Israel, as it would benefit any country whose enemy leader is slaughtered. He's just a hypocrite who tries to clear Israel of legitimate accusations. 

Finally, he considers that Israel killing the president of Iran "would be interpreted, in practice, as a provocative act of war". Does he also think that Xi Jinping having Joe Biden killed wouldn't necessarily be a provocation to the US? It's obvious that if Israel shot down Raisi's helicopter, it was an act of war! And therefore Iran would have the absolute right to respond with a war to the war started by Israel.

Israel the protégé

Israel really is the great protégé of the US-led propaganda apparatus euphemistically called the "international press". On 23 October last year, Folha de S.Paulo columnist Joel Pinheiro da Fonseca discovered the absolute truth about who bombed Gaza's al-Ahli Hospital a few days earlier. In a shamefully misleading article, he cited the news reports that pointed to Israel as the culprit and refuted them with the conclusion that, nevertheless, "the emerging consensus is that the missile did not come from Israel. It was a rocket from the Islamic Jihad group that broke apart and fell in the hospital car park. In all likelihood, there were fewer than 500 deaths."

Where did you get that from? He didn't say. He only quoted Folha itself and the New York Times, which decided to be "cautious". He didn't provide any sources for his statement, nor did he even indicate whether the two newspapers had been based on any facts. Also, if he had provided a source for his statement, he would have revealed his total bias: it was Israel and the US that accused Islamic Jihad of attacking the hospital. The pair, responsible for the genocide in Gaza, are a less reliable "source" than the CIA when it was used by the Wall Street Journal to accuse Russia of killing Prigozhin. And the Folha columnist's article was written with all the pomp of one who is above the "narratives", with the sacred mission of disproving that Israel was to blame! 

The columnist hid the source of his "discovery" because he knew that if he revealed it, his article would be mocked and no one would have taken him seriously. He also - wilfully? - investigations by the BBC, Channel 4, Al Jazeera and Bellingcat, published before his article, which pointed out serious inconsistencies in the Israeli-American version and which stated that it was not yet possible to reach a conclusive result on where the attack came from.

Four months later, the research agency Forensic Architecture published a study that also reveals serious inconsistencies in the Israeli-American version bought by Joel Pinheiro da Fonseca and states that "what happened at al-Ahli remains inconclusive", also accusing the Tel Aviv regime of having "launched an aggressive disinformation campaign" after the event.

The study conducted by Forensic Architecture - linked to the University of London and led by Eyal Weizman, an Israeli-born researcher - also recalls that logic blames Israel: in the previous ten days, the World Health Organisation had counted 51 Israeli attacks on Gaza's medical infrastructure; four days earlier Israel had ordered the evacuation of all hospitals in northern Gaza, including al-Ahli; and three days earlier Israel had attacked the cancer treatment ward of the same hospital, possibly as a warning that a larger attack would take place, as Israel is wont to do.

Furthermore, the study concludes, Israel's attacks on Gaza hospitals follow a "consistent pattern" with attacks on the surrounding area, direct targeting, siege and occupation. These notes mean that everything indicates that the direct attacker on the hospital, with almost 500 dead according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, was Israel, and nothing indicates that it was the Palestinians themselves. Therefore, Joel Pinheiro da Fonseca's claim that "it was a rocket from the Islamic Jihad group that smashed into the hospital car park" is not backed up by any serious investigation - and there were already many that refuted it. It is therefore a lie. It's fake news.

Overcoming the falsehoods

But a report in Estado de S.Paulo managed to overcome the falsehoods of the Folha columnist. In fact, it's an AFP dispatch published in the New York Times that Estadão reproduced on 16 May this year. The fake news is so scandalous that it comes in the headline: "Nationalist and pro-Russia activist shoots Slovakia's premier 5 times"

Within the story, there is no proof of what the headline says. Just a description in the headline that the shooter is "an ultranationalist and a sympathiser of Russian President Vladimir Putin" and in another section that "he is a sympathiser of the paramilitary group Slovenskí Branci, linked to the Kremlin".

There is no connection between the information in the article. In fact, the only information that could support the headline is the latter, but being a sympathiser of a Slovak group (supposedly) linked to the Kremlin doesn't make him a "sympathiser of the Russian president", as the headline says, nor does it make him a "pro-Russia militant", as the headline claims.

So far, the report published in Estadão is an aberration that uses a small piece of information at the end of the text to misrepresent and exaggerate it. Technically, its headline can be considered a lie because the text doesn't corroborate what was announced. It's the eagerness to blame Russia for a most repulsive crime.

If that were all there was to it, Estadão would be delinquent. It's just that all the statements are manipulated, not just the headline. Juraj Cintula, the shooter, has, it is true, expressed pro-Russian sentiments, as Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi "discovered" by "digging through his Facebook posts", as mentioned in the report published in Estadão. But that was many years ago. In 2022, when Russia intervened militarily in Ukraine, Cintula began to express support for Kiev and the neoliberal ideas disseminated by the United States, as well as to heavily criticise Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has suspended arms shipments to Ukraine and supports rapprochement with Russia. Cintula even took part in an anti-government protest on 24 April in which the demonstrators carried a European Union flag and shouted "Long live Ukraine", according to a video broadcast by Slovak media.

In fact, the report itself recognises that Cintula is a critic of the government's policies, particularly Fico's position on the press.

The Slovak press, as in any country where the ruling class is a vassal of imperialism, has a pro-NATO, pro-European Union and pro-Ukraine editorial line and has put a lot of pressure on the prime minister and his government to abandon neutrality and fully support NATO's policy on Ukraine and Russia.Fico is labelled a "pro-Russia" leader, i.e. almost a puppet of Putin, by both Slovak and Western media

The Slovak government has been accusing the mainstream media of being the main culprits in the attack, since they are running a "hate speech" campaign against the prime minister and good relations with Russia. The report published by Estadão could easily be included in this campaign, as well as being one of the most bizarre pieces of international fake news in recent days, because it completely inverts the facts and reality.

Furthermore, an attack on a head of state is rarely carried out by a "lone wolf", as Cintula wants to paint it - or as they do with Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy's assassin. Taking into account Fico's political positions and government practice of neutrality and therefore opposition to imperialist orders, and the fact that the shooter is a follower of imperialist politics and an opponent of Fico, and considering the long record of attacks orchestrated by the US and European powers, it is quite possible that they are behind this assassination attempt. Contrary to what Estadão says, Fico was attacked by a "pro-NATO" and anti-Russia militant, not a pro-Russia one.

But let's go back to the Ebrahim Raisi case. It would be the duty of any member of the press to question the conditions in which the helicopter "crashed". We won't see these questions in the major newspapers, because their job is not to put their finger on the wound, but to hide it.

Doesn't anyone find it strange that the percentage of heads of state killed in helicopter or aeroplane accidents is so high? Security policy analyst Michael Maloof raised a question: there were three helicopters together in a convoy and one of them crashed, with no emergency signal. And if it was due to fog, why didn't the other two crash, only the helicopter carrying the president of the republic and the foreign minister?

It seems that aeroplanes really hate heads of state. What bad luck for Raisi and Iran's prime minister, poor things!

But to avoid bad luck, a word of advice for the next Persian president: be careful when getting on a helicopter, especially if your country is in a cold war with Israel, which has already blown up gas pipelines in Iran, assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists and less than two months ago bombed its embassy in Syria. Perhaps, due to technical problems or bad weather, a fatal accident could occur.

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Author`s name Eduardo Vasco