Saturday, February 20, 2010

2/17/10: HuffPost manipulates headline to falsely incriminate Israel in assassination (Users unleash hate; HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

This is another instance of HuffPost's pervasive anti-Semitic bias.

On February 17, after ignoring credible reports from news sources it regularly relies upon, HuffPost published a severely biased account of the recent assassination of a top Hamas terror operative. It created two incendiary, deceptive headlines that could only lead to the incitement of hatred of Israel, on unproven grounds. Users responded to this incitement by submitting comments containing hatred, libels and conspiracy theories against Israel, and support of Iran and the Palestinians --- which HuffPost dutifully reviewed, approved and decided to publish.

See updates at end.

"A lot of the discontent with traditional journalism is because too many reporters have forgo
tten that the highest calling of journalists is to ferret out the truth, consequences be damned."
- Arianna Huffington, July 29, 2008




In order to understand how egregiously anti-Semitic HuffPost's actions were in regards to this story, it is best to begin with a brief background of the issues it addresses.

On January 20, 2010, top Hamas terror operative* Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh was assassinated in Dubai. Al-Mabhouh admitted to murdering two Israeli soldiers, and has been known for smuggling arms to terrorists for decades. Most recently, he is known to have been serving as a weapons conduit between Iran and Hamas. (*For a reminder of what Hamas is and does, see here, here, here and here.) In addition to Israel, Al Mabough was also being pursued by the governments of Jordan and Egypt (where was imprisoned in 2003).

From the start, many speculated that Israel was behind the assassination, even though there was not a shred of proof. Others asserted that given Al Mabhouh's self-admitted history, and a nation's right of self-defense, Israel had the moral right to kill such terrorists whenever and wherever the opportunity arises
; see this article by Alan Dershowitz.

But as the days passed, and more information came to light, the indications pointed
away from Israel. Three key facts emerged in news sources (below) that HuffPost relies upon on a regular basis --- and which were published before HuffPost decided to address this story, on February 17:
  • Aside from Israel, there were apparently no shortage of individuals and even nations that wanted Al-Mabhouh dead --- including the Palestinian Authority, according to... Hamas.

  • There is speculation that a variety of Arabs may have assassinated him, according to... other Arabs.

  • Two Palestinians are the only individuals arrested thus far by the Dubai authorities for this crime.

These facts, among others, emerged via the following articles:

Feb. 1, Jerusalem Post: ‘Mabhouh Died After Interview' (speculation that fellow terrorists killed him for giving unauthorized interview)
Top Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was identified and killed following an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera on instructions from the movement’s leadership in Syria, according to a Fatah-affiliated news agency. The interview with Mabhouh was conducted against his will and against the advice of his colleagues in the armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam, the agency said. The Palpress news agency said it did not rule out the possibility that the killing was an “inside job.”

“Did he know too many secrets and that’s why they decided to get rid of him?” the agency asked. “Perhaps he knew about the weapons convoy [to Hamas] that was destroyed by Israel about a year ago?”

Feb. 2, from the
Israelmatzav blog, citing recent articles in Haaretz and YNetNews:
Although Iran is now blaming us, and Hamas has used his death as a pretext for sticking a fork in the 'terrorists for Gilad' negotiations, maybe Israel didn't kill Hamas murderer and weapons smuggler Mahmoud al-Mabhouh after all.
Hamas Representative in Lebanon Osama Hamdan insinuated Tuesday that it was possible that the Palestinian Authority had been involved in the assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. "Several of the PA's intelligence apparatuses may have been involved in the assassination," he told the al-Manar network.
And then there's this one, also from Hamas. A preliminary investigation conducted by Hamas suggests that the assassination of one of its officials in Dubai last month was likely carried out by agents of an Arab government, and not by Israel's Mossad spy agency.

Feb. 15, The Wall St. Journal: "Suspects Named In Hamas Killing"
Shortly after the murder, [Dubai police chief Gen. Dhani] Tamim told the local press that the tactics in the killing resembled those used by the Israeli intelligence service. But Monday, he appeared to back off that suggestion, saying that it wasn't clear what, if any, organization was behind the death. He also didn't rule out involvement by Israel or other states. [T]amim said Dubai police had arrested two Palestinians in the city-state in connection with the murder. He said the two may have provided logistical assistance to the suspects.

Keep these facts in mind as you evaluate how HuffPost decided to cover (and not cover) this story.




On the morning of February 17, 2010, HuffPost decided to publish the following teaser on its front page:
Israel Doesn't Deny Involvement In Hamas Chief Assassination

And here's the story page it led to:

Wait. The
front page teaser said...
Israel Doesn't Deny Involvement In Hamas Chief Assassination

... but the
story page headline said:
Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh Killing: No Reason To Think Mossad Involved, Says Israel

These headlines clearly lead the reader to two fundamentally different conclusions. What is the reason for this discrepancy?
Let's read the first few paragraphs of the story:
JERUSALEM — Israel's foreign minister said Wednesday there was no reason to assume the Mossad assassinated a Hamas military commander in Dubai, even as suspicions mounted that the country's vaunted spy agency made the hit using the identities of Israelis with European passports.

While few people are privy to the cloak-and-dagger operations of the Mossad, senior Israeli security officials not directly involved with the affair said they were convinced it was a Mossad operation because of the motive and the use of Israeli identities. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a government order not to discuss the case, characterized it as a significant Mossad bungle.

Anonymous sources,
who may or may not be real, accusing Israel of murder. Then, a bit further down, the story reads:
"I don't know why we are assuming that Israel, or the Mossad, used those passports," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio in Israel's first official comments on the affair. But Lieberman did not deny involvement outright, saying Israel rightly maintains a policy of ambiguity where security operations are concerned.

"Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies," he said. "There is no reason for Israel to change this policy."

So at the end of the day, what we have here is nothing more than Hamas's accusations against Israel, as unquestioningly published by the AP, and picked by HuffPost as a single source --- to the exclusion of credible, exonerating sources that were published before this one.

This kind of manipulation is actually nothing new at the AP, whose anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian bias has been documented time and time again over the years (more: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

And even though all the facts are not in (or are pointing away from Israel, as even Hamas has acknowledged), Hamas is already promising violence against Israelis:
At a Gaza rally of some 3,000 supporters, Hamas' military wing vowed revenge. Addressing the crowd by phone, Mashaal said the al-Mabhouh assassination "paves the way for capturing soldiers until we free all our prisoners from (Israeli) prisoners."

Yet HuffPost chose to not include this fact in either a separate story, or let influence its headline on this one. This is not the first time that HuffPost chose to not cover a story that exposes Hamas terrorism, see a previous “blackout” here.

Two key questions:

If HuffPost is what it claims to be, a "non-partisan newspaper," dedicated to "ferreting out the truth, consequences be damned," and to "debunking the left-right way of thinking," we have two key questions:
  • Why would it take such an egregiously lopsided, anti-Israel approach to this story?

  • Why would it rely upon only one source for this story, when it has made it a practice of using multiple sources for other stories concerning Middle East affairs? (Examples here, here, here.)




Sometime between 4:00pm and 5:00pm the same day, HuffPost manipulated this story's headline --- and promoted it at the very top of the site (again): Here is the front page splash headline that appeared at 4:55pm:

When one clicked on that story, here's the page that came up:

See that story teaser at the upper left? Let's take a closer look:

As shown below, the story remained exactly the same --- anonymous "officials" making accusations. But now, HuffPost matched this statement with the picture of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman --- falsely implying that he was one of the anonymous "officials" making this accusation.

Here are PDFs of the story threads taken at 12:45pm, and at 5:00pm. You'll note there is no difference between the stories; nothing was added, and there were no updates (example of HuffPost providing updates to a story here). It is the exact same story.


p1 -


p1 5pm - now HL says Isr officials CONVINCED of guilt -

So what could have been HuffPost's motive in changing this headline in such a fundamental way, if not to deliberately incite hatred of Israel? (It's not as if this is exactly a new practice at HuffPost; see archive

Perhaps one day someone in a position of influence will ask HuffPost about this.

Perhaps they'll also ask HuffPost if its incitement of hatred against Israel has anything to do with the fact that an estimated 135,000 of its monthly visitors originate from two of the nations most responsible for fomenting, exporting and supporting global Islamist terror, including in Hamas-ruled Gaza --- Iran and Pakistan (see Section 4.3 here).




As you review these comments, which HuffPost admits only appeared after it reviewed, approved, and decided to publish them, ask yourself: Are you looking at an American-owned and operated website --- or one that caters to radical Islamist propagandists?

Here's a sampling of the comments that were incited by HuffPost's headline manipulation. Note that users with more than 20 "fans" are bolded, indicating that (a) they have been users for some time, and (b) they are not the hit-and-run "trolls" that HuffPost likes to blame for "offensive comments" that "accidentally slipped through":
RandVictims 185 fans permalink
This kind of rogue, murderous imperialism is why I truly hope Iran successfully builds nukes.
Posted 12:29 PM on 2/17/2010

gast1kc permalink
Israel people are the best lyers of the world [...]
Posted 11:47 AM on 2/17/2010

HuffDave13 permalink
It's Israel... that's no big deal. They are doing God's work unlike those terrorists/ murderers / Assassins Muslims. :)
Posted 07:04 PM on 2/17/2010

cliffhammond 281 fans permalink
They'd do it to our own leaders if they would ever stand up to them.
Posted 05:45 PM on 2/17/2010

From "Skialethia," one of HuffPost's most protected, long-term anti-Israel propagandists and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists... 12,000 comments since January 2009, and more than 243 "fans"...
skialethia 243 fans permalink
Innocents are always killed by Israel anyway, whether they assassinate commanders or not. [...]
Posted 12:35 PM on 2/17/2010

243 fans permalink
[...] to everyone's detriment Israel established the rules of the game. [...] If Israel can commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with total impunity; so can everyone else! [...]
Posted 03:02 PM on 2/17/2010

skialethia 243 fans permalink
And the global community has every right to issue warrants for the war criminals who ordered the Gaza invasion and the ongoing collective punishment of a million and a half civilians in Gaza.
Posted 12:55 PM on 2/17/2010


foxfury 21 fans permalink
First of all, israelis are allowed to do whatever they want because they're a protected ethno-religious group. [...]
Posted 04:44 PM on 2/17/2010

David Rozgonyi 105 fans permalink
Let's not forget that the only resistance the palestinians have been able to provide in the face of the US-backed occupation of their territory is ineffectual bottle-rockets. [...]
Posted 03:44 PM on 2/17/2010

dylansfan 55 fans permalink
[...] Israel can never do anything wrong (other than bombing civilian areas from the sky that is) ...
Posted 11:36 AM on 2/17/2010

Also see:
Archive of anti-Israel, ant-Semitic bias, libels and hate at HuffPost

Special Report: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel Hatred on the Huffington Post
. .
We contend that the facts contained in this article demonstrate how HuffPost is guilty of acts and omissions that incite unjustified hatred of the Israel, to the global audience that uses it as a “news” resource.

If you share our concerns and would like to express your views directly to HuffPost,
here's how.




UPDATE 1, Feb. 20: HuffPost published a story that Hamas accused Fatah of involvement in Al-Mabhouh's assassination --- but placed it beyond its readers' immediate view, and didn't promote it

We ran periodic searches for "
Al-Mabhouh" at HuffPost, and found that on Feb. 20, it published the following article on its "World" page (note red underlines on screencap), but not on its front page, which is where it almost invariably places its anti-Israel propaganda:
Dubai Killing: Hamas Accuses Fatah Of Involvement

So did HuffPost trumpet this shocking development, with comparative fanfare to the amount it devoted to inciting hatred of Israel? Judge for yourself: Here is a screencap of HuffPost's front page splash headline on Feb. 20:

And here is the screencap of the story page that came up when one clicked on that headline. Clearly, HuffPost decided that Hannah Giles' commentary on her ACORN wardrobe was important to promote --- but the fact that Hamas decided Fatah, not Israel, was to blame for the assassination of one of its terror leaders, was not worthy of mention:

Note the arrows at right and left of the three teaser stories; we scrolled left and right, and found that this was not a fluke --- HuffPost made no mention whatsoever of the Hamas vs. Fatah story:

Only several weeks ago, Ms. Huffington hypocritically criticized others for what she described as “inciting hate,” and engaging in "heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, conspiratorial fantasy… and inflammatory claims."


UPDATE 2, Feb. 27: Various HuffPost news sources, as well as bloggers and investigative journalists, begin to tell the rest of the story --- directly implicating Hamas in this assassination; HuffPost runs none of these stories

Feb. 26: Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post: "When Rhetoric Rules The Roost." According to the Dubai police chief, two of al-Mabhouh's assassins departed Dubai for... Iran. To our knowledge, the Mossad and Iran are generally not on friendly terms (but we stand to be proven incorrect).

Feb. 22: Pajamas Media founder & editor Roger Simon: "If It's Monday, It Must Be (More On) Dubai." Important news stories that indicate Hamas involvement in al-Mabhouh's killing.

Feb. 19: PowerlineBlog: "Murder More Or Less Incorrect." A detailed and somewhat humorous roundup of the prognosticating and intercontinental hyperventilating over the death of al-Mabhouh.

Feb 19: Roger Simon: "Annals Of The Mossad: What Happened In Dubai?" Hard-hitting questions, and a link to an Arabic news source that claims "An additional suspect arrested in Syria is believed to be a senior Hamas fighter."

Feb. 18: Investigative journalist Tom Gross: "Is Israel The Only Subject Over Dubai Death?" An excellent roundup of all the stories and data that points away from Israel, and to Hamas. Caution: Contains disturbing photos of child victims of al-Mabhouh's weapons smuggling to Hamas.

HuffPost featured none of these stories.


UPDATE 3, March 2: Hamas now claims an Arabic state is responsible for al-Mabhouh assassination; HuffPost makes no mention of this, decides other stories are far more important to cover

On March 2 (US time), one of the sources HuffPost relies upon most for Middle East news, Haaretz, published a story, "Hamas: Jordan Or Egypt Likely Behind Dubai Hit." Key excerpt:
Hamas suspects the security forces of an Arab state were behind the assassination of a senior group operative in Dubai earlier this year, the Al-Quds Al-Araby daily reported on Tuesday. Mahmoud Nasser, a member of Hamas' political bureau, told the newspaper that slain commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was likely being tracked by agents from Jordan and Egypt prior to the January 19 killing.

The story was mentioned in a 9:40am post at PowerlineBlog. As shown via this Google search, news outlets and blogs around the world reported on this development, early and throughout the day on March 2.

Given the top-line treatment HuffPost devoted to insinuations that Israel was behind the al-Mabhouh assassination, one might think it would devote similar attention to the fact that even Hamas was now claiming otherwise. One would be very, very wrong.

Because at 5:00pm on March 2, HuffPost had zero mention of this story anywhere on its site. We also did a front-page and top-teaser analysis, following the methodology documented above, and it was the same thing: zero mention of Hamas's accusation (full photo-documentation available).

Below, however, are some of the "news" stories that HuffPost decided were more important to feature --- on its front page (starting at the top and working our way down):

Nope, no anti-Semitic, anti-Israel bias at HuffPost... none at all. As a reminder, here's a partial listing of quotes from Arianna Huffington regarding HuffPost’s allegedly nonpartisan journalistic principles:
“I actually believe that the news is not right-wing news or left-wing news, it's the news. And that will be the sensibility, that will basically permeate our news coverage.”
- May 3, 2005

“The editorial stance of the Huffington Post is to debunk the right-left way of thinking, which has become completely obsolete."
- November 14, 2007

“[T]oo many reporters have forgotten that the highest calling of journalists is to ferret out the truth, consequences be damned[H]uffPost doesn't pretend not to have opinions, but it does make them transparent.”
- July 29, 2008

“[Arianna Huffington] is offended and bewildered by the suggestion that other news outlets think she's getting a free ride. She sees herself as the future of journalism, not the end of it.”
- March 19, 2009

“[W]e are increasingly seen ... as an Internet newspaper, not positioned ideologically in terms of how we cover the news.”
- May 22, 2009



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