In one recent storm in a media teacup, nearly all the news outlets in Israel came up with a similar headline, claiming that Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defence Minister, said in an interview to an American TV channel that if he was Iranian, he would also like to acquire nuclear weapons. Condemnations followed from all corners of the Israeli political swamp.
I am by no means a great advocate of Ehud Barak, his conduct, or the way in which he carries out his duties. In future articles I will severely criticise the defence and security record of the government in which he is the most senior member after the Prime Minister himself.
However – I did take the trouble to watch the relevant part of the interview and hear for myself what Ehud Barak actually said. To the best of my understanding, this is the transcript of the relevant exchange:
Interviewer: “If you were them, wouldn’t you want a nuclear weapon?”
Barak (brushing away the question): “Probably, probably, I don’t know.”
He then continues immediately to expand on his views.
Barak: ”I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They have their history of 4,000 years…”
And he continuous to talk about which of the countries in the world have nuclear weapons and to answer further questions put forward by the interviewer.
At no stage in the video extract of the interview that was put up as proof by the Israeli media did Barak actually say that if he was an Iranian he would want a nuclear weapon. I am not splitting hairs here – Barak was widely quoted as having said something he never did. Nobody checked, nobody retracted the ‘news’, and nobody issued an apology. The papers sold, TV channels saw their ratings go up and news websites were hit to the point of unconsciousness. Everyone was satisfied – except for one shy and elusive being. Truth.