Independent Arabia after a year: lies, propaganda and conspiracies

To mark Independent Arabia’s first anniversary, we’re presenting six of the headlines their editorial staff found worthy of publishing (under The Independent’s logo) during the past year.

To mark Independent Arabia’s first anniversary, we’re presenting six of the headlines their editorial staff found worthy of publishing (under The Independent’s logo) during the past year, along with a short summary of the item they introduce (none of the six previously appeared in UKMW). Just to remind our readers, here’s what The Independent in English – a joint venture between the UK based Independent and the Saudi media group SRMG – stated less than two years ago in its own report, announcing the newspaper’s intention to open an Arabic website:

“All editorial practices and output will conform to the world-renowned standards, code of conduct and established ethos of The Independent.”

It should be emphasized that the headlines and items – covering various subjects, from Anne Frank to nuclear waste – are of the kind that The Independent in English would almost certainly avoid; although all six echo and/or reinforce common, albeit toxic, myths about Israel which, though are not uncommon among Arabic-speaking media outlets, rarely find their way to Western ones (All translations, emphases and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic):


“THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ISRAEL! – it is the only observer in the ‘wedding’ of blood and ‘celebration’ of displacement [presented] at the Middle East theater”, June 21st, 2019

A Libyan columnist says that Israel is the root cause of an entire history of Middle Eastern suffering (echoing the “Israel is an incarnation of the Eternal Jew myth)

Libyan pundit Ahmad al-Fitouri found the hidden reason behind the Middle Eastern turmoil of the past decades: Israel, whose lack of visible involvement in these regional conflicts since 2011 seems suspicious to him. To prove his point he explains that Israel is the result of “Europe absolving itself of a chronic problem known as the Jewish question”, and that its creation is:

“the fundamental reality which tampered with the security in the Middle East. A heavily armed fortress of security with nuclear fangs was [subsequently] erected, intending to defend the Ghetto that the European Jewish citizens have become.”

Israel, he claims, has consequently been engaging in warfare ever since; al-Fitouri’s op-ed even refers to military campaigns as the “meaning of [its] existence”. Accordingly, even when Israel is not fighting the Arabs openly, it leads:

“secret wars of intervention against Arab states, the region and everybody it considers to be an enemy. These are day-to-day wars, indeed they are the oxygen of this army-of-a-state’s existence”.

Israel’s silence and apparent absence from current conflicts is therefore nothing but a smoke screen, meant to disguise it from the Arab mind, particularly with the Deal of the Century in the horizon. In addition to the quotes above, throughout the 640-word op-ed al-Fitouri also refers to Israel as follows: “the state of army and war!”, “the state of the mysterious deal!”, “the religious Ghetto-state”, “Sparta of the modern era”, and of course, the all-time favorite pejorative “Zionist state”.

“ISRAELI DEVICES OF DEATH – LIFE AT THE HANDS OF THE PALESTINIANS – turning bullets, stun grenades and tear gas grenades into masterpieces, accessories and necklaces”, November 18th, 2019

A West Bank reporter calls riot gear “Israeli Devices of Death”, praises vendors who make handicrafts out of their remnants as turning “death” into “life” (echoing the “Peaceful Palestinian Protestors” myth)

West Bank correspondent Raghda ‘Atmeh covered the story of two Palestinian vendors who use metal wires and riot gear (e.g. stun grenades and tear gas containers) to make handicrafts bearing political statements. Selling their work as souvenirs to tourists and activists, a major goal for the two is “to remind the entire world what we are living through in Palestine”, as one of them says. Despite what the headline suggests, there is no evidence that live ammunition (“bullets” or any other kind of such weaponry) is used to that end by either of the two. Other human interest reports concerning the sameartists” also indicate that “Israeli devices of death” are in fact little more than used riot gear.

Interestingly, ‘Atmeh approvingly reports about the refusal of one of the vendors, Haitham al-Khatib from Bil’in, to engage with Israeli parties who allegedly “beg” him for the privilege to sponsor his “rare and striking” art. She adds that al-Khatib was even forced to rebuff “an Israeli activist” who showed up at his doorstep “trying to convince him to sell his works to an Israeli merchant”, an offer he turned down “categorically”. ‘Atmeh implies here that these interactions are just another form of Israeli harassment to which the noble Palestinian artist is subject, and that acquiescing to the Israeli who pleads to be involved in distributing his precious items might put his “art” under supervision or censorship, or worse – allow greedy Israelis to profit off of it.

However, anyone who is even slightly familiar with Israeli “activists” who visit Bil’in and interact with its local residents understands that such appeals are done out of little else but commitment to the Palestinian struggle, certainly in comparison to presumed admiration of such “rare and striking” wire figures, of the kind that is quite common outside the West Bank as well. Could it be that al-Khatib’s refusal comes from his inability to distinguish between different Israelis, which leads him to turn down even the most pro-Palestinian among them? If that’s the case, it is not what ‘Atmeh wanted her audience to think about the situation.

“RULA HAMADEH REVEALS THE TRAGEDY OF THE PALESTINIAN WOMAN – IN THE GAME OF THE VICTIM AND THE HANGMAN – ‘A Letter to Anne Frank’ is a play that projects the image of Nazism onto the occupying power”, September 27th, 2019

A Lebanese theater critic applauds a Beirut play whose adaptation of Anne Frank depicts a bloodthirsty Israeli looking to deprive a Palestinian widow of her home (A good example of “Holocaust Inversion”)

Lebanese theater critic Abdoh Wazen was deeply moved by the play “A Letter to Anne Frank”, written by Soumaya Chemali, directed by ‘Awad ‘Awad and featuring main actress Rula Hamadeh, which was performed in Beirut several months ago.

The play, aiming to promote the cause of Palestinian women by connecting their suffering to the story of Anne Frank, depicts a Jerusalem Arab woman named Hanan, played by Hamadeh. Hanan is a cartoonist who whose journalist husband and their two sons were tortured to death in Israeli prisons, while she had her fingernails ripped out by the Israelis as punishment for her mocking cartoons.

The play begins a little while after Hanan’s daughter Wa’ed was also arrested and taken to prison during the demolition of their house for the third time. Wa’ed sends her mother a letter bearing the enigmatic title “A Letter to Anne Frank”; later on, when Hanan embarks on re-building the family house yet again (it was made precisely out of 1948 bricks – “the symbol of the Occupation, or the Nakba as we Arabs call it”, to quote Wazen), a girl named Anne catches Hanan by surprise as she wanders nearby at nighttime.

The play portrays Anne as a European Jew, sixteen years of age, who is lost and lacks shelter (at this point Wazen bothered to remind his readers that historical Anne Frank was also sixteen at her death, and that in the play, Anne’s condition of homelessness and straying alludes to “the Western Jews, or Ashkenazim, who arrived in Palestine”.) Hanan welcomes Anne, feeds her and engages in a conversation with her, but alas! It is then when this surviving version of Anne Frank “reveals […] her Israeli fanatic face and her affiliation with the ranks of the butchers.”

The two women are then swept into a struggle, which according to Wazen is fought between “the ultimate Palestinian victim”, Hanan, and her rival, Anne, who is “the refugee in Palestine” and nevertheless “represents her [Hanan’s] opposite, being a daughter to the Occupation and the new murderers or Nazis, defending the butchers and singing about the dream of usurper [can also mean: rapist] Israel”.

The Lebanese critic then elaborated on the conflict between the two characters in the following words:

“a theatrical game between the victim who revolts against his victimhood and rejects it, and the butcher who insists on being one even if he has the body of a sixteen year old girl and bears the name Anne. She [Anne] insists on reading the letter the captive Palestinian girl Wa’ed wrote to Anne Frank, whose [own] status of victim binds the two together. It is as if the Israeli girl knows that the letter has the confirmation that the Jews, whom the Nazis persecuted, have themselves become the new Nazis after having occupied Palestine, and writing a letter to Anne Frank was done solely to make her a witness to the Israelis’ Nazism.”

He also added that Hanan, the Palestinian character, “finds in the face of the Israeli girl the image of the usurper, oppressor other.”

Luckily for Wazen and the rest of the anticipating viewers, by the end of the play Hanan is  able to, as Wazen puts it, “overcome” her vicious nemesis; he did not specify, however, what then became of this Israeli-Neo-Nazi adaptation of Anne Frank, i.e. how exactly was Hanan able to get rid of the sixteen year old Jew and drive her out of the house, or rather entire “Palestine”.

“A NEW ISRAELI PROGRAM TO COMPLETE THE JUDAIZATION OF JERUSALEM – Concessions and incentives to whoever replaces his Jerusalem Identifying Document [can also mean: Jerusalem identity] with an Israeli one”, February 27th, 2019

IA’s Israel correspondent believes that more Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel would somehow turn Jerusalem more Jewish (echoing the “Jerusalem is in Danger!” myth)

It is most likely that Independent Arabia’s Israel correspondent, Nazareth-based Amal Shehadeh, created this hot scoop merely by reframing an existing, benign Ha’aretz item that was published a day prior; she even briefly (and inaccurately) quoted it. In her report, Shehadeh exposed Israel’s sinister scheme to Judaize Jerusalem by turning more of its Arab Muslim and Christian residents into Israeli, but nonetheless Arab Muslim and Christian, citizens:

“In the latest Israeli novelty aimed at completing the Judaization of Jerusalem and adjusting its demographic balance towards an absolute Jewish majority and an Arab minority, the Israeli […] ‘Population and Immigration Authority’ has launched a campaign of concessions and incentives [dedicated] to the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, inviting them to replace their Jerusalem ID with an Israeli one while guaranteeing its acquisition within less than a year. And [just] so this step will not encounter any legal objections, the Authority […] obtained an official endorsement on behalf of the Israeli Supreme Court”.

In reality, all the Population and Immigration Authority did was attempting to extend the Israeli government’s reach in order to better meet the already-existing needs of Arab residents who wished to become Israeli citizens.

This was particularly alarming to Shehadeh (who is an Israeli citizen herself; she has even been serving as a member of Nazareth’s municipal council on behalf of Hadash). To further emphasize the danger such an ease of regulations poses to Arabs, her report even contains a video featuring Temple Mount clashes between Muslim protesters and the Israeli police, as well as a footage of the IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi as he visits the Western Wall (!?).

All the same, it is hard to imagine how such an idea falls under the category of “Judaization of Jerusalem”, or how would it create “an absolute Jewish majority” in a city that that already has had such a majority since at least 1922. Additionally, according to Ha’aretz, the Supreme Court did not endorse the plan, but rather it was only initiated in response to a Supreme Court petition filed by a third party; and finally, no special incentives for Jerusalem Arabs who wish to become Israeli citizens were mentioned in either report, be it Independent Arabia’s or Ha’aretz’s.

“UNDERGROND GRAVES IN OCCUPIED JERUSALEM TO CONSOLIDATE THE PRESENCE OF JEWS – Statistics indicate that four thousand people pass away every year”, October 8th, 2019

A West Bank pro-Fatah reporter conflates between East and West Jerusalem Jewish cemeteries, warns of increasing presence of Jews burying their dead in the holy city (reinforcing the “Israel digs under Jerusalem to harm it” myth)

Another one of Independent Arabia’s team of correspondents in the West Bank (along with aforementioned Raghda ‘Atmeh and her colleague Phantina Sholi) is Khalil Mousa, whose revelation from last fall – that Israeli authorities are about to open “an enormous new cemetery” under the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem – was nothing but a work of fiction. What the Ramallah-based correspondent missed completely is that the newly built underground cemetery is actually under Har HaMenuchot, not Mount of Olives, which is located in West Jerusalem.

Mousa was so eager to present his “story” as yet another Israeli-Jewish novelty that is forcefully introduced to the Muslim and Christian landscape of “Occupied Jerusalem”, he also claimed that the Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery, the oldest in the city, is only 110 years old (in comparison with the Muslim cemetery adjacent to the Golden Gate right across from the Mount, which is 1400 years old). In fact, the oldest Jewish tombstones found in the area date back to the Hasmonean period, approximately 2100 years ago. Additionally, Jews have been continuously burying their dead on the Mount of Olives and its nearest surroundings since the 1480s AD to the latest.

“THE DIMONA REACTOR’S WASTE – IS IT SPREADING CANCER IN THE WEST BANK? – Mohammad Shtayyeh announced there are 6251 patients of the disease, promising to internationally prosecute Tel Aviv”, September 23rd, 2019

The same pro-Fatah reporter uncritically quotes his PM’s claim that high cancer rates among Palestinians are due to Israel’s disposal of nuclear waste in the West Bank (reinforcing the “Israel uses stolen Arab land as a landfill for Dimona waste” myth)

In addition to being endowed with a rich imagination, we also regard Mousa as the most proFatah out of all Independent Arabia reporters CAMERA Arabic regularly follows.

For example, it was him who quoted the accusation, that Israeli nuclear waste is responsible for the relatively high Palestinian cancer rates, on behalf of Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, as the latter was inaugurating a cancer diagnosis center in Ramallah. The Palestinian high official then pledged to hold Israel legally accountable in international courts “for its criminal act against the land and the citizen”. Shtayyeh’s communique from Ma’an news agency also included the arguments that Israel uses West Bank lands as “a landfill” for its nuclear waste, and that the cancer rate among Palestinians is higher “in comparison to neighboring countries”; Mousa preferred to present both claims in the anonymous voice of “the Palestinians”.

Had Mousa bothered to fact-check the pompous statements Shtayyeh was making before volunteering to serve as an uncritical mouthpiece at his PM’s leisure, he would have found out that cancer rates among Palestinians are actually lower than Israel’s. As for the “Israel uses the West Bank as a landfill for its nuclear waste” hypothesis, it is nonetheless unfounded. Thus, although it resurfaces every now and then in the Arab-nationalist propaganda echo-chamber since as early as 1999, to the best of our knowledge not a single serious news organization ever gave this unhinged and completely unsubstantiated allegation legitimacy. Moreover, they were not even picked up by pro-Palestinian international NGOs as a talking point, for example the 2017 B’Tselem “Israeli waste” report did not mention the words “nuclear” or “radioactive” even once.

As we stated above upon introducing the list of six news items, the odds that items that are parallel to any of them could appear in The Independent in English seem extremely small. But in this particular case of Shtayyeh and his fictitious “nuclear waste”, this is not necessarily for the better – after all, The Independent was all too eager to publish ridiculous and problematic quotes made by much lower ranked Israelis (compared to the Palestinian PM) before. Perhaps here lies the true point of agreement between the editorial choices of The Independent in English and its Arabic counterpart; both are more worried whether or not their stories would backfire against the Palestinians (or worse, work in Israel’s favor) among their respective audiences, than they are about whether or not the stories are worthy of reporting.

(Research and writing by CAMERA Arabic. Edited by UK Media Watch)

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