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Unraveling and exposing a pro-Assad disinformation and smear campaign.
In an April 6 article for Ha’aretz I wrote with two co-authors, I traced the widely circulated claim that 90 percent of Christians had been ethnically cleansed from the Syrian city of Homs by Islamist militants back to a site known as al-Haqiqa (Arabic for “The Truth”). This site, despite claiming to oppose the Assad regime while being critical of the Syrian opposition, is accurately described by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) as a “pro-Assad” site.
Having shown the dubious veracity of the claim, I received abusive messages via Facebook on the following day from a Syrian journalist named Nizar Nayouf, who is currently living in exile in Europe. He started with, “Had it not been published in ‘Haaretz’, and you taught [note: I’m a student] in ‘Oxford’, I would think you are a member of the ‘Al Qaeda’ or ‘Mujahid’ with ‘Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!!’” He also included a denunciation for working with the “U.S.-Israeli racist Daniel Pipes.”
Nayouf’s attacks didn’t stop there. I was also greeted with my photo (along with a shot of Daniel Pipes) posted with the headline ”Israeli Newspaper Recruits Daniel Pipes’ Boys To Attack ‘al-Haqiqa’ and Defend the Criminals of the ‘al-Farouq Brigade’” on the front page of the al-Haqiqa website.
In the purported exposé, al-Haqiqa supposedly cites an anonymous Iraqi student at Oxford University to claim that I am actually an Israeli spy directing a Mossad operation network in Iraqi Kurdistan, hiding under the pseudonym of Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. As further evidence of this, al-Haqiqa draws attention to the fact that my profile picture on Facebook is an IDF paratrooper badge from the Yom Kippur War, as well as my affiliation with the Middle East Forum.
A self-proclaimed Marxist-Trotskyite and founder of the “National Council for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Syria” (SYNATIC), which is said to be the publisher of al-Haqiqa, Nayouf appears to have started life as a legitimate critic of the Assad dynasty. He was apparently imprisoned for just over nine years by the Syrian regime (from 17 March 1992 until 6 May 2001). He has also received numerous awards pertaining to press freedom.
Nonetheless, many of his recent articles, especially those on al-Haqiqa, push regime-friendly propaganda with numerous stories that can only be described as bogus.
Nayouf furthers his writing by playing to the fringe conspiracy-theorist community. In December 2011, Nayouf was interviewed by and contributed to a story with 9/11 conspiracy theorist James Corbett (an “independent journalist” who has also written a series of essays on the “New World Order”). The interview centered on Nayouf hilariously claiming (based on unnamed sources of his in Jordan) that U.S. troops were amassing on the Jordanian border with Syria.
Nayouf’s other Arabic articles are rife with harebrained conspiracy theories. In a number of other pieces, he makes rambling references to American, Saudi, and Israeli plots against Syria — many following a line established by the Assad regime.
In one note he published on Facebook and subsequently carried on other websites, Nayouf accused French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and Free Syrian Army commander Riad al-Assaad of being agents for the CIA and French intelligence in an effort to assist with, “criminal acts in Afghanistan during the '80s and '90s for al-Qaeda.” In the same note Nayouf addressed a nonexistent “campaign to expel Syria from UNESCO,” stating “all those who take part in the campaign to expel Syria from UNESCO are committing an Israeli and Talbanistic crime.”
He even accused Lebanon’s pro-Western and anti-Assad Sunni Muslim party, al-Mustaqbal, of being a “gang of spies” hell bent on furthering “Wahabbism” in Syria. This was all part of an effort to “open the door for all forms of invaders, starting with the generals of Israel.”
Often Nayouf mixes anti-Semitic themes with his critiques of Islamism by accusing the Wahabbism of being “Talmudic.” In another article covering Mohamed Merah, the al Qaeda inspired gunman who murdered three French soldiers, three young Jewish students, and a rabbi, al-Haqiqa implied that the perpetrator might have been a controlled asset of the Israelis or French intelligence services.
Coming back to the article for Ha’aretz, it is to be noted that one of the reasons that the veracity of al-Haqiqa’s original story on alleged mass ethnic cleansing of Christians from Homs was challenged is that the “report” made no reference to the phenomenon of imposition of jizya (the traditional “poll-tax” in Islam extorted from Jewish and Christian minorities living under the “protection” of Islamic law: a concept not dissimilar to the Sicilian Mafia’s protection rackets).
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