How anti-Israel media in MidEast ‘launders’ rumors about UAE, Israel

It is worthwhile to look at these kinds of reports as a case study because they build on each other until they grow into a kind of crescendo and get repeated in more mainstream English language media

Meir Ben-Shabbat, Robert O'Brien and Jared Kushner board El Al airliner to UAE (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Meir Ben-Shabbat, Robert O'Brien and Jared Kushner board El Al airliner to UAE
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Al-Akhbar, an Arabic newspaper in Beirut, appears to have a scoop. It’s all about Israel and the UAE and the “first fruits” of normalization. Of course, such a scoop may serve an agenda. It could embarrass Israel or the UAE. It may please Iran, Hezbollah or other bad actors.
It apparently did not acquire the information on its own, but rather from another website it names as SouthFront. The story at SouthFront is: “Israel and UAE plan to create intelligence bases.” Publication date? August 28.
So why did Al-Akhbar wait until September 5 to publish this supposedly juicy information? Perhaps to time it with the Hamas and Hezbollah meeting over the weekend? It is not known why.
The report at SouthFront is based on some other “report,” supposedly from Arab and French sources, the article says. From SouthFront the information doesn’t travel directly to Lebanon. First it goes to Turkey, a key ally of Hamas and Qatar and one of the countries that oppose the UAE deal.
Turkey’s Anadolu reported that a “Yemeni tribal leader on Tuesday accused the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia of letting Israel onto the Yemeni island of Socotra.” It also references the SouthFront report and calls it an “American website specializing in military and strategic research.”
Then Turkey’s state network TRT adds to the story on September 3. It claims that “JForum, the official site of the French-speaking Jewish community in Paris, revealed earlier that the UAE and Israel are working to establish a spy base there.” This report asserts that someone named Ibrahim Farhat, a professor at Qatar’s Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, believes the “base” would monitor Iranian activities. The TRT report claims Iran is now “surrounded.”
Daily Sabah, a pro-government publication in Turkey, picks up the same report on September 4. Middle East Monitor also picks it up, referencing JForum.
Reading the JForum post of August 30 leaves it unclear where the information in its report came from. It says: “According to the same Yemeni sources, who provided the information to Syrian sources, Israel and the Emirates are making all logistical preparations to set up intelligence bases to collect information throughout the Gulf of Aden Bay from Bab al-Mandab on the island of Socotra, in southern Yemen, which is under the control of the Emirates.”
The SouthFront report says: “According to reports, a delegation of Israeli and UAE officers recently visited the island and examined several locations for establishing the planned intelligence facilities... The security and military cooperation in the Bab al-Mandab Strait was among the expected goals.”
Israel Hayom ran the story on August 31, claiming that “bloggers and researchers on US and French websites were adamantly claiming... according to the unsubstantiated claims, which were published, among other places, on the news site Middle East Monitor and largely relied on reports from the French-Jewish site JForum.”
The New Arab online site claimed that its report on the same story is based on Turkey’s Anadolu. However, we know that the Anadolu report is based on the SouthFront report, at least in part.
Iran’s PressTV enters the story on September 5, claiming that “reports revealed that Israel, in cooperation with the UAE, is to build intelligence-gathering bases on a Yemeni island in a strategic area overlooking the Bab al-Mandab Straits.”
The final piece in the puzzle is Al-Akhbar. Its long report is based initially on the SouthFront and JForum reports. However, it goes into more details about the agendas involved and reactions to it.
The way that this story was laundered through several different media makes it difficult to verify or track down. The original sources appear to be anonymous. In the murky world of the Middle East, there are many of these kinds of stories. Attempting to figure out what the original version was, and how other details entered the narrative along the way, sometimes appearing to verify or contribute to the authenticity of the account is difficult.
It may mean reading Arabic, Turkey, Russian, Farsi and other languages. In this case, it also meant looking at French sources. Even if one could get to the original source, it isn’t clear if that source knows this information for fact or if they are peddling details with an agenda.
It is worthwhile to look at these kinds of reports as a case study. They build on each other until they grow into a kind of crescendo and get repeated in more-mainstream, English-language media.
For instance, Turkey’s media pushed this story. However, Turkey’s government is intensely hostile to Israel and the UAE, so the agenda is filled by media stories like this. It doesn’t make them more accurate just because Turkey’s state broadcaster repeats them. However, some recent accounts then quote the Turkish account as if that makes it more accurate.
Sometimes, these kinds of stories are designed to use one piece of factual information to push other, less-accurate information. Because it is hard to trace and sort out fact from fiction in these accounts, it is difficult to know what is accurate and what was added later.
For instance, some of the accounts may quote a local person as reacting to the “news” and thus laundering it as factual because now a local leader has “opposed” it. Therefore, what was originally rumor becomes more real by the virtue of having real people react to it.