I was extremely disappointed after reading Elana Wenocur’s column (“Iran’s Wristbands Are Reminiscent of Nazi Germany,” Daily Nexus, May 24, 2006). Wenocur expressed her horror upon reading an article by Amir Taher printed in the conservative Canadian National Post about legislation that would institute a dress code for religious minorities in Iran. Her dismay would be quite understandable — if the story were true. However, the column she read — and that many others have undoubtedly been misled by — was a hoax pushed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the preeminent Israeli lobby AIPAC.

On May 19, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement acknowledging that “while it is factual that the Iranian parliament is considering some kind of dress code, there is no evidence of any discussion or legislation concerning badges or the like for Jews and others.” The following day, both Reuters and the Associated Press corroborated ADL’s report, which refuted the National Post author’s claims by obtaining a copy of the Iranian bill and listening to a broadcast of the parliamentary session where it was given preliminary approval. The false allegations have since been acknowledged by the Jewish Week and other pro-Israel publications.

Wenocur’s op-ed was published on the May 24 — the day the National Post issued an apology and retracted its story, and five days after it had first been called into question. Public opinion is built to a large extent upon stories transmitted by the press. Editors are to be held responsible for validating the factual content of columns before they are published and seen by thousands of readers. The media have a solemn responsibility to ensure they do not propagate an alarmist agenda intended to drum up domestic support for belligerent foreign policy.

I feel strongly that it is a civic duty to stay informed on world events and that inflammatory stories like Taheri’s should be viewed with healthy skepticism. Misconceptions are best challenged through education — the hugely successful panel on Iran a couple weeks ago in I.V. Theater was proof that there are many in our community who would rather get informed and seek the truth than hastily jump to conclusions.

It’s important to avoid provocative statements and casually toss around the notion that Iran, or any other nation for that matter, “is developing nuclear weapons.” Unlike Israel, Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It has not violated International Atomic Energy Agency regulations, and according to U.S. intelligence reports, the country is at least a decade away from producing any weapons.

In an effort to promote peace and stability — which ultimately will serve to protect Israel’s interests, too — I think it’s crucial to highlight efforts made toward brokering a diplomatic solution to recent escalations.

Last week the Washington Post reported that President Ahmadinejad followed up his letter to the White House with yet another overture for diplomatic negotiations. Paul Pillar, a recently retired senior CIA Middle East intelligence analyst said, “There is no question in my mind that there has been for some time a desire on the part of the senior Iranian leadership to engage in a dialogue with the United States.”

At this critical moment, it’s in everyone’s best interest to emphasize diplomacy and constructive discourse, and avoid exaggerated rhetoric.

Heather Buchheim is a senior global studies major.