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January 2, 2009

The Huffington Post: Israeli-Occupied Territory


Why is the Huffington Post carrying water for the IDF? Follow the money …

by Justin Raimondo

Pat Buchanan was widely vilified by the neocons and the politically correct left when he famously described the Congress of the United States as "Israeli-occupied territory." Oh, what a conniption the liberals and the Commentary crowd had! That was during the countdown to the first Gulf War, when almost no one rose to object – and those who did, like Pat, were smeared for their trouble. Today, such an observation is hardly considered controversial: it is simply a known fact.

There is more discussion in the Knesset over the pros and cons of US intervention in the Middle East on Israel's behalf than there is in on Capitol Hill. There's a sense in which this sort of uniformity must be a little embarrassing for the Lobby, in that it underscores their fear that a real debate will suddenly break out. The regularity with which the American Congress endorses every fresh Israeli atrocity has a certain deadening metronomic quality about it – and, while we're on the subject of monotony, the American media, too, plays an identical role as advocate and staunch defender of the Israeli case, as a matter of course. The "mainstream" televised and dead-tree-media has historically been a reliable "reporter" of the merits of the Israeli case. Now, the wannabe "alternative" online media is following suit, with an alacrity that is none too surprising.

It is especially unsurprising in the case of the Huffington Post, which founder Arianna Huffington touts as a "people's media" in which "truth" is the highest value. As she put it to the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

"Our highest responsibility is to the truth. The truth is not about splitting the difference between one side and the other. Sometimes one side is speaking the truth ... The central mission of journalism is the search for the truth."

Taking Ms. Huffington at her word, one can only conclude that, when it comes to Israel's rape of Gaza, the Huffington Post is siding with the rapist. Their "news" coverage of the ongoing devastation is heavily slanted toward the Israelis, with those journalistically unique paragraph-long lead-story headlines never mentioning Palestinian casualties (a number would suffice). When a genuinely antiwar voice is allowed on the site, it is prefaced by an apologia, as our own Jeremy Sapienza reports:

"Huffington Post was so very kind this week to give space to almost frustratingly moderate Palestinian intellectual Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi. In his well-reasoned article, ‘Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood,' he supplied all the basic facts behind the problems in Palestine. … But what gives with the long disclaimer marring the top of Barghouthi's article?

"HuffPo runs all kinds of commentary from all over the political spectrum (or at least its leftish side), but only those who dare speak against the sainted Israelis seem to require an editorial explanation that resembles an apology.

"Shame on Huffington Post for its disgusting lack of integrity."

Shame? Jeremy is a fine lad, and very smart, but perhaps a bit naïve in believing these people even accept the concept of shame, applied to themselves: indeed, they oppose it as a matter of high principle. There's a ready explanation of why, as the Israelis pound Gaza, the formerly antiwar Huffington Post has become a cheerleader for the IDF: it is due entirely to this.

When Arianna nabbed $25 million from Oak Investment Partners, of Palo Alto, California, she was acquired by a financial network that also has significant investments in the Israeli arms industry – an industry, I might add, directly subsidized and controlled by the Israeli government. For example, Oak Investment has invested in IET/Intelligent Electronics, now morphed into Clickservice Software, an Israeli-based company that makes sophisticated weapons systems and sells them to clients such as "an unnamed Far Eastern country." Oak Investment partner Fred Harman now sits on the Huffington Post's board.

Case closed. Mystery solved.

Since Arianna is so into "truth," how about a little when it comes to how she's financing a $25 million media gig that still refuses to pay bloggers! Not only that, but they were recently forced to apologize to a Chicago media outlet for brazenly stealing content. Whatever her contributions to the journalistic profession, let alone the pursuit of "truth," Arianna is sure giving tackiness a bad name.

What's so galling is that the Huffington Post poses as an "alternative" media outlet, the virtual embodiment of the new online populism that gave rise to the blogosphere. The nerve it takes to pose as an opponent of "corporate greed," and war, while taking a $25 million "investment" from an exemplar of both is simply breathtaking – but about par for the course for Arianna. In her odyssey from the Newt Gingrich right to the Obama-ite left, the founder of the Huffington Post personifies the utter vacuity of our age, the emptiness that has nothing at its core but an ideological vacuum waiting to be filled by the dictates of fashion and commerce.

From her days as the high priestess of the "John Roger" cult in California – a New Age outfit grouped around a charismatic and controversial leader "John Roger" – Ms. Huffington has always been an ideological weathervane, taking on the colors of whatever ideological craze is in season. As a kind of Greek sibyl interpreting the divine zeitgeist, her style has lately become even more magisterial, now that she's getting closer to real power. "I only text three people," she boasted at a London dinner, "my two teenage children and Barack Obama."

God help us if that woman has the President's ear, if only because we'll have to endure four long years of relentless name-dropping.

More seriously, though, the Huffington Post's disgraceful performance on the Gaza issue is really just a reflection of the laughable uniformity of Western coverage of Middle Eastern issues, and this is especially true when it comes to Israel and its interests in the region. It's a widely-noted irony that the nature and extent of the "special relationship" is never discussed as openly in the US as it is in the Israeli media. How and why this came about is well-documented by professors John Mearshemier and Stephen Walt, in their book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy [short version here], but a new riff on their theme is the extent to which the online media have been co-opted by the Lobby – in this case, bought outright.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I've gotten a couple of letters noting that, this very morning, the editors of Antiwar.com have chosen to link to an informative piece by Yale University professor David Bromwich on the Huffington Post that contradicts the above. Yet that does little to undermine my main point, which is that Ms. Huffington's alleged devotion to “truth” – as expressed in her declaration “the truth is not about splitting the difference between one side and the other” because “sometimes one side is speaking the truth” – is deemed as somehow not applicable to the Gaza massacre. In any case, please don't anyone try to tell me that the presence of a major investor in the rather extensive (and profitable) Israeli military-industrial complex doesn't have a major effect on the Huffington Post's editorial decisions. Of course it does, and the Bromwich piece doesn't change this – it is merely “splitting the difference between one side and the other,” as Arianna put it to the Bay Guardian – the difference between truth and lies.

Another point: by running the Bromwich piece – which didn't have the embarrassing and unnecessary editorial note attached to the Mustafa Barghouthi blog – we at Antiwar.com are hoping to encourage whatever advocates of editorial sanity remain on the Huffington Post staff. For the inside scoop on what those poor wretches have to endure, go here, here, and here.

 

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