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Jordanian Journalist Who Fabricated Syrian Rebel Chemical Weapons Story, Wrote Recent Jerusalem Post Column Extolling Israel

I’ve been following the story of a few weeks ago, claiming that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia was shipping chemical weapons to the Syria rebels, which they were using on the battlefield. As so much of the reporting on this subject, this story really stank. But I didn’t give it much thought until I learned more about the professional histories of both Dale Gavlak, the AP reporter who helped birth the story; and Yahyah Ababneh (aka Yan Barakat) who allegedly “reported” it from Syria.

The quick background on this is that Gavlak, who works for a number of news organizations including AP, recommended that the Mint Press publish a story she’d received written in Arabic, purporting to describe a Syrian rebel chemical weapons attack. After the story had circulated for a week or so journalists began questioning various elements of it. Eventually, Gavlak dissociated herself from the story even though she played a critical role in getting it published. Mint Press was hung out to dry because it hadn’t done due diligence itself and couldn’t say whether the story was true or false. It had relied on Gavlak and trusted her judgment.

Antiwar.com also republished the story on its website. But it apologized to its readers within a few days of the controversy beginning. That was more than its editors offered me when they yanked my published profile of Meir Javedanfar, under the censorious direction of Justin Raimondo.

What, if anything, about Yan Barakat/Yahyah Ababneh, is real?

Gavlak must’ve thought she’d got hold of a great story and in her eagerness to publish and take credit, she rushed it into print. Only afterward, did she begin to realize she may’ve been had.

Yahya Ababneh, the journalist credited with the story seems to be a charlatan. Everything about him seems either fictional or dubious. Though he does appear to exist, nothing beyond that seems certain about him.

This intrigue would still be little more than minor skirmish in the battle for truth and credibility in the Syrian story were it not for Gavlak’s and Ababneh’s connections to Israeli journalism.

Brian Whitaker, former Comment is Free editor, writes in his blog that Ababneh and Barakat are one and the same. He also notes that Barakat published a piece in the Jerusalem Post. What, you may ask, is a reputed Jordanian journalist doing publishing in one of Israel’s most right-wing newspapers? Good question.

The column is one of those feel good stories that Israel’s media love to publish about Arabs who see the errors of their ways and liberate themselves from the anti-Israel propaganda they drank with their mother’s milk. In other words, it’s typically self-serving and propagandistic. I’m guessing that someone in the foreign ministry came across this guy on social media and contacted him and asked him if he’d expound the wonders of Israel for an Israeli audience. This isn’t a rare occurrence. There are numerous similar episodes involving people like Mark Halawa, Walid Shoebat, Tawfiq Hamid, and a host of Iranians (Reza Khalili and Amir Fakhravar). The latter have regaled Israeli audiences about their lives as Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers before they saw the light and turned against the Iranian forces of darkness.

CORRECTIONS: I’ve just discovered an Israeli blog post written by someone who claims to have hosted a meeting with Barakat in Israel. So while some parts of his Jerusalem Post story may be true, there remains much that strains credulity.

Further, since Israel no longer considers Jordan an enemy state, Israelis do visit Jordan (mostly on day tours to Petra). But any citizen of an Arab country attempting to visit Israel would be vetted extremely closely by the Shabak, which controls border crossings with bordering Arab states. That means that Ababneh received a visa after a Shabak security interview. It may mean that the security services and/or foreign ministry were much more involved than that in arranging his visit.

Read the following in light of these caveats.

* *

In his article, Barakat claims to have visited Israel on his own form of personal peace mission. This beggars belief. Just as it is illegal for Israelis to visit Arab states it is similarly illegal for citizens of Arab states to do so. So how did the Jordanian journalist do this? Or perhaps more appropriately, did he?

To all this we need to add that the Jerusalem Post has a long and checkered history of being ‘had’ by fraudulent reports and reporters. I’m going to hazard a reasonable guess that it’s happened again. Just as Yahyah Ababneh claimed to have witnessed rebels using chemical weapons inside Syria, Yan Barakat claims to have traveled to Israel to explore making peace with the Jewish enemy. We know his claims about Syria are false. I’m reasonably certain his claims about Israel are as well.

If the Jerusalem Post had any journalistic integrity it would’ve demanded that Barakat provide evidence of the meetings he claimed he had with scores of Israelis during his visit. I’m virtually certain they didn’t do that before publishing and won’t do it now that his credibility has been shot to hell. The Post wanted to believe an Arab loves Israel. But a good rule of thumb is that if a story looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Understanding this requires care and skepticism, something the Post lacks when it comes to publishing stories by or about “good Arabs.”

What’s clear is that Ababneh/Barakat is a petty con man. Like all good con men he knows how to tell his audience what they want to hear. He also knows how to aggrandize himself with readers and probably get paid well for his troubles. It shouldn’t surprise us that he’s also an actor and has posted pictures of his performances on his social media accounts.

I think those who speculate why he might’ve worked for either Israeli or Jordanian intelligence regarding the Syria story are missing the point. A guy like this doesn’t work for one side alone. He works for whoever pays the best and most. One day it’s the Jerusalem Post or an intelligence agency, the next its Bashar al-Assad (or Vladimir Putin).

Look at it this way: the Syrian government (and its Russian ally) knew it had a huge scandal breathing down its neck. What better way to diminish some of the momentum of the story than to put out a fake rebel CW counter-story. Until the world discovered it was a hoax, it would help counter the damage done by the Gouta disaster. Cynical you say? What intelligence agency isn’t cynical? And there are scores of provocateurs and self-promoters eager to jump on such a gravy train.

There’s also an interesting factor in Dale Gavlak’s connection to Israeli media. Besides working for AP (Gavlak now says she’s been suspended), Times of Israel lists her as one of its writers.. It’s likely she isn’t formally employed by TOI, but that in its desperation for journalistic credibility the publication has glommed onto anyone it re-publishes and calls them a TOI “writer.” Any story she’s written there (or anywhere else for that matter) should be scrutinized carefully to ensure she didn’t take any of the same shortcuts she took in publishing Ababneh’s nonsense.

Further, a commenter has noted that most of her articles dealt with Jordan and Syrian refugees there, making it likely that her “friend” Ababneh was involved in reporting those stories as well.  That may be why AP has suspended her since his credibility is shot to hell.


{ 69 comments… add one }

  • Oui September 23, 2013, 3:48 AM

    Brian Whitaker and Yahya Barakat

    Twitter account of Brian Whitaker, journalist, former Middle East editor of the Guardian newspaper and blogger @al-bab.com. Author of ‘What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East’.

    Yahya Barakat – profile and photo’s on Vkontakte. Petra University 2002 Born: April 30, 1984 Hometown: St. Petersburg.

    VK (Originally VKontakte, Russian: ВКонтакте, literally “in contact”) is the second biggest social network service in Europe after Facebook, it is available in several languages but popular particularly among Russian-speaking users around the world, especially in Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, and Israel.

    Isn’t sour, the Jordanian “reporter” uses the name of Yahya Barakat, director of documentary “Rachel Corrie: An American Conscience.” Strange coincidence.

    What are the chances Yahya Barakat is Russian born and emigrated to Israel? Who is his real paymaster, some intelligence agency?

  • nic September 23, 2013, 8:37 AM

    When has it been illegal for Israelis to visit Jordan or Jordanians to visit Israel?

    • Richard Silverstein September 23, 2013, 12:35 PM

      I’m investigating this question. But even if Jordanians are permitted to visit Israel, which I strongly doubt, they must receive security services permission to enter the country. He would’ve been vetted extremely closely before entering, which indicates the Shabak at the least permitted him entrance but more likely was more deeply involved than that.

  • Brian Whitaker September 23, 2013, 10:50 AM


    I have been looking at Gavlak’s articles in Times of Israel. They appear to be part of the regular AP news service. I don’t think Gavlak has written anything specifically for the Times of Israel.

    • Richard Silverstein September 23, 2013, 12:30 PM

      @ Brian Whitaker: I think you’re right. TOI has a special “Writer” page for her which I think is meant to make it appear she writes specifically for them. Which indicates that THEY are the ones at fault for this bit of deception. But all her articles appear purchased from AP. So I’ve edited that paragraph & changed it from the original.

  • Sherifa Zuhur September 23, 2013, 12:39 PM

    i’m not sure it’s Gavlak’s fault after reading her email to MintPress and their memo to her. But MintPress’s editor and her father are part of the story as staunch Assad supporters. Also, did you see the 2 youtube posts of Ababneh as his Russian buddies memorialize his name in song? So I think he was hired for this task.

    • Richard Silverstein September 24, 2013, 2:39 AM

      @ Sherifa Zuhur: I have no doubt Ababneh was hired. Either by RUssian or Syrian intelligence no doubt. Similarly, someone in Israeli intelligence likes him too (but possibly for different reasons).

      • brian September 26, 2013, 6:25 AM

        conspiracy theory? ‘no doubt’ implies uncertainty: not the basis for a judgement on an issue like this: esp when the fate of acountry and the world is at stake.
        Evidence for this conspiracy?

  • Oui September 23, 2013, 12:41 PM

    On his twitter account, Brian Whitaker mentions the Dale Gavlak articles published in TOI are all AP copyright. Some articles are co-authored and a number are not. The topic of those articles authored by Dale Gavlak alone are all about Jordan and refugees. It’s very likely on these articles, Gale Gavlak worked together with Yahya Ababneh. In the LinkedIn page of Yahya Ababneh [cached version], he mentioned a number of projects including Zaatari Refugee Camp Survey for Relief International (Dec. 2012 to Present). On languages he states bi-lingual fluency in Modern Standard Arabic, Lebanese- and Jordanian Arabic. Education: Petra University Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Journalism and Media Studies 2009 – 2011; Yarmouk University General Studies 2007 – 2009.

  • Oui September 23, 2013, 12:46 PM
  • bar_kochba132 September 23, 2013, 8:52 PM

    Thank you for posting this very important news item. It has been completely overlooked by the mainline media, which is wasting its time worrying about trivial items like the massacre in Kenya, the slaughter at the church in Peshawar, Pakistan, the fratricidal bloodshed in Iraq and Syrian in which hundreds of people have been butchered in Iraq and Syria. At least YOU have the right priorities.

    • Richard Silverstein September 24, 2013, 2:33 AM

      @ bar kochba: Is it a coincidence that all the important news items you mentioned were Islamist terror attacks? You don’t have an ideological axe to grind, do you? Noooo!

    • Oui September 24, 2013, 4:07 AM

      Yes, blowback from ill founded US foreign policy leaves many scars in future generations. Do you imply Israel should heed lessons from this and not support/fund Islamophobia in the Western world?

      For my personal knowledge – The Bar Kochba Debate.

      • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2013, 1:57 AM

        @ Oui: Our Bar Kochba sees himself in a long line of Jewish heroes who lived and died for their homeland like the historical Bar Kochba. Our guy is as much a hero as I’m a Mormon.

  • J.J. September 23, 2013, 10:31 PM

    ” Just as it is illegal for Israelis to visit Arab states it is similarly illegal for citizens of Arab states to do so.”

    Israelis can’t travel to Morocco? What law prevents Moroccans from visiting Israel?

  • brian September 24, 2013, 7:00 AM

    [comment deleted for comment rule violation: off topic]

  • brian September 24, 2013, 7:02 AM

    attack the messenger is poor form Richard/Brian

  • Rowan Berkeley September 24, 2013, 7:07 AM

    “We know his claims about Syria are false.” No, we don’t. You haven’t proved it. What you have done is made some very emotional remarks about him, on the basis of mere impressions gathered from odd media items without substantial implications of any sort. They aren’t valid inferences from the data. You’ve jumped to the most prejudicial conclusions because, by the tone of it, you got out of bed on the wrong side yesterday morning and felt a need to pummel somebody to relieve your ill-temper.

    • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2013, 1:51 AM

      @ Rowan Berkeley: When Rowan Berkeley comes to your defense you know your goose is cooked.

      Ababneh/Barakat’s Jerusalem Post article is data, not inference. The nonsense he spouted in it is there for all the world to see. How you can defend someone who’s in bed both Assad AND publishes pro-Israel hasbara is beyond me. You have a powerful sense of denial is all I can say.

      You should also take the issue of his fakery up with the many other bloggers and journalists who’ve arrived at a very similar conclusion about your boy, Yahya.

      • Rowan Berkeley September 25, 2013, 2:09 AM

        I thought his JPost article was rather charming, actually. I’m sorry you feel you have to resort to immediate ad hominems against me before you can even address the question. But really, you are an ill-tempered person, with a twisted, one could even say self-hating view of your own identity, which is why you react in such a pavlovian way to an innocent travelogue. Your racism shows through, also, when you describe Ababneh as my “boy”. You should be more careful about undertones, unless I suppose you want to end up in a little corner of the Internet surrounded only by curmugeons like yourself.

        • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2013, 9:31 PM

          @ Rowan: Hey, Rowan becoming a Zionist? After you’ve assumed how many other ideological poses? To be accused of being a self-hating Jew by you is rich beyond measure.

          As for “racism,” you wouldn’t know it if it bit you in the ass. “Boy” is not a racist term. Ababneh is a loser and you’ve just laid all your bets on a loser, which makes you a loser. I don’t care what you call him or how you characterize your relationship to him. He’s your Man in Damascus, or wherever he sits when he makes up his reporting. Now you’re stuck with him.

          As for my audience, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. My blog is ranked 190,000 by Alexa & yours…1.8 million. If I’m in a little corner of the internet universe, you’re somewhere beyond Alpha Centauri.

  • brian September 24, 2013, 7:17 AM

    [Editor: this comment edited for comment rule violations]

    ‘Look at it this way: the Syrian government (and its Russian ally) knew it had a huge scandal breathing down its neck. What better way to diminish some of the momentum of the story than to put out a fake rebel CW counter-story. Until the world discovered it was a hoax, it would help counter the damage done by the Gouta disaster. Cynical you say? What intelligence agency isn’t cynical? And there are scores of provocateurs and self-promoters eager to jump on such a gravy train.’

    very poor form: what do we learn but RS is suggesting it was the SAA who gassed Ghouta: evidence? well since the MINTPRESS story is a ‘fake’(IS IT?) the Assad did it must be true?

    ‘the world discovered it was a hoax’..the ‘world’ is a bit larger than RS blog…and no its not been found to be a hoax…not yet…thats just zionistlite wishfiul thinking

    captured/freed pro-FSA journalist has this to say:

    Jordanian journalists are not the only ones bein disparaged: so is a catholic nun Mother Agnes, whos also investigated Ghouta

    here is her report:

    But who has sarin and whose used it?

    hoax you say? or just embarrassing to USrael war plans?

    • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2013, 1:47 AM

      @ brian:

      zionistlite wishfiul thinking

      Listen, buster. This ain’t your home. If you want to shit on your own floor, go right ahead. But you’re here and you play by my rules. If you want to engage in stupid, petty sloganeering again, go ahead & do it elsewhere. Try that again & you’re outa here.

      As for Ababneh’s hoax, I’m afraid you have to deal with a score of journalists & bloggers who’ve taken this subject up before I came along. I’m only covering one small part of the story. For you to debunk this you’ll have to also address some very persuasive material unearthed by Brian Whitaker, Brown Moses & many others.

      And please stop pimping for Assad stooges. Stop propagandizing for butchers. The Catholic nun is coming here on an all expenses paid speaking tour. Who do you think is footing her bill?

      Read my comment rules & respect them. If you don’t you won’t comment here.

      • brian September 25, 2013, 7:53 AM

        spoken like a true autocrat Rich…how can you expect to write on democracy and freedom with that attitude?
        i willl be posting this exchange in my own page for future reference.

        Brown Moses aka Elliot Higgins: the latest in dodgy experts..like Coventrys SOHR…ive had a chat with him on Twitter he was quite civil..but a check of his blog showed he didnt like President Assad…but then neither do you: 70% of syrians disagree with both of you on that issue.

        a look at your experts:

        the Whitaker (of Selective Memri fame(good piece)) persuasive material? what has that to do with the report? it looks like an attack on the messenger.

        so in that spirit: on Higgins:
        ‘HRW’s other expert, Eliot Higgins is an untrained analyst who was recently talked-up into some kind of expert by Matthew Weaver in the Guardian. [9] On his Brown Moses Blog of 28 August 2013 Mr Higgins featured a video sent to him by a source allegedly showing the type of munition linked to the chemical attacks being fired close to Al-Mezzah Airport near Daraya. The video has been filmed at some distance and none of the upwards of 20 men roaming around the site can be clearly seen. An unmarked Mercedes semi-trailer lorry apparently delivers the rocket which is loaded (this is not seen) onto an unmarked white rigid lorry on which the launcher is mounted. The men aimlessly roaming around are mostly wearing army fatigues, although others, including some on the launcher, are in civilian clothes. A number of those in military uniform are wearing red berets. Based solely on this headgear, and the fact that the Syrian Republic Guard as well as the military police are issued with red berets, Mr Higgins is emboldened to state that ‘…this video shows the munition being used by the government forces […].[10]‘

        he’s looks good on military tech issues but not so good on investigative work…

        so what ABABNEH hoax? hoaxes arent exposed by investigating the writer but by investigating the ‘hoax’.Have you dont that?

        you wrote:
        ‘I’ve been following the story of a few weeks ago, claiming that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia was shipping chemical weapons to the Syria rebels, which they were using on the battlefield. As so much of the reporting on this subject, this story really stank. But I didn’t give it much thought until I learned more about the professional histories of both Dale Gavlak, the AP reporter who helped birth the story; and Yahyah Ababneh (aka Yan Barakat) who allegedly “reported” it from Syria.’

        ive been following it as well, it comes down to whodoneit: the insurgents, mosty foreigners, who have sarin and have used it(Allepo), or SAA /Assad who have not used sarin at all in this conflict, and were hosting a UN team investigating chem weapons use…who is more likely to use GAS?

      • brian September 25, 2013, 8:08 AM

        ‘And please stop pimping for Assad stooges. Stop propagandizing for butchers. The Catholic nun is coming here on an all expenses paid speaking tour. Who do you think is footing her bill?’

        Assads stooges? you mean the syrian people. Thanks for showing us and my readers(this goes on my page, and it will be read by syrians) your blatant bias and attack on President Assad and Syria in a time when islamic terrorists (ALQAEDA), israels AIPAC and the US war machine are gunning for the destruction of a sovereign state and: and as for ‘Butchers’: the cannibals are on your team.

        one of those you write is a ‘pimp’:
        The ‘catholic nun’ Mother Agnes, who lives in syria, just happens to be upset at seeing christians genocided by your team. Just google: Syria christians genocide…and consider the goal of your team : the FSA/Alqaeda nexus is not ‘freedom and democracy’ but an islamic caliphate : christians and shia are in the way of a program of purification a lot like that in nazi germany.

        who is footing her bill? the same sort of people whod foot a bill of a poor nun who goes to speak on behalf palestinian christans in GAZA

        • Luca K September 25, 2013, 9:14 AM


          Your correct of course, Brian. Silverstein’s double standarts in respects to the Syrian government are truly disgusting; the guy attacks all who denounce the CW attack BS as Assads stooges at the same time he tries to sell his readership zionist propaganda incriminating the Syrian government as the responsible party for said provocation! At the end of the day, Silverstein wants what’s good for Israel, i.e, Syrias destruction. That would also pave the way for new zionist agressions against Lebanon and further isolate Iran.
          FYI, Silverstein, Assad has had a majority support in his country since the start of this imposed war on Syria. Jonathan Steele, The Guardian’s former international affairs correspondent shows in his article, ‘Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from western media’, that a poll funded by the Quataris( no less!!), found out a majority supported their president. Since then, support has increased as can be seen in the World Tribunes piece ‘NATO data: Assad winning the war for Syrians’ hearts and minds’.
          It’s quite appalling to watch a dude like u, feigning to care for the Syrian people – who are regularly massacred by your islamist heroes – and, for that matter, for the Palestinians.

          • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2013, 9:06 PM

            Zionist propaganda

            BIG comment rule violation. You’re officially moderated & future comments will be reviewed. Any that violate comment rules will result in your banning.

            There are far too many lies here to be worth rebutting. But your delusions should be read because they discredit you and anyone you support including the wise, democratic, and tolerant Bashar al-Assad.

            The idea that Jonathan Steele or any pollster can tell us what SYrians think is also ludicrous. How will they do the poll? With smoke signals? Most of the country is controlled by rebels. Telecommunications are spotty at best. How does a pollster do their job in such a situation? Please don’t make us all laugh.

            And what the hell is the World Tribune? I’ve never heard of it. You also conveniently omit a link so that we can expose the nonsense you offer.

        • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2013, 9:22 PM

          @ brian: Your page is read by “syrians” or so you claim. By which you mean it’s read by wealthy Syrian regime-supporters who are Assad’s Alawite lackeys, cronies & family. All 10,000 of ‘em. The rest of Syria? Not so much.

          Wow, so you have a Facebook page supporting Assad. And you’re going to tell your 100 Friends what a bad, bad man I am. I’m shivering in my boots.

          Just for the hell of it, not that it will matter for a boor like you–but I support neither the rebels nor Assad. Therefore I have no “team.” You folks demonize everyone who doesn’t agree with you & don’t allow for any shades of gray. But I won’t let you lie about my views.

          I didn’t call the nun a pimp. I made a general charge against people like you that you are “pimping” for Assad. For those who need a course in elementary English, there’s a difference between a noun & a verb. I didn’t call you a ‘pimp.’ Most reasonable people (that excludes you, of course) understood I meant that you were engaged in political pimpery. Not literal pimpery. As for the nun, history is full of religious figures who did horrible things out of the best of motives. I don’t think she has the capacity to do much harm. She’s just a symbol of the utter cynicism of the Assadist forces exploiting an innocent nun for to save their own asses & necks. BTW, I dare you to tell us how she’s financing her tour of the States. Who specifically. I dare you.

          If you mischaracterize or lie about my views again you’ll be moderated.

          • brian September 26, 2013, 12:29 AM

            for someone afraid of being mischaracterised, yours is a classic of mischaracterisation! from President Assad , the syrian govt to whom you ascribe comicallly evil character and motives, to a woeful grunge match against a christian nun.: so you single out alwaites en masse and a christian: so to do the’rebels;..lets take a look at your response to my response:
            1 you assume(mischaracterise) my syrian contacts are rich alawites: youve never met them and already theyre the bogey man: this is a eg of how you mischaracterise the war on syria and its actors.
            That there is a ‘regime’ to support: its not a ‘regime but the legitimate govt and is supported by most syrians..esp now
            Supporting a govt is no crime esp one which has behaved so impecablly: syrians in syria see a govt very differnt to the one you attack: even americans support the Obama govt and even with it committing war crimes, lies ,drone bombs and arming islamic terrorists….how much more will syrians support theirs in the face of islamic terrorists who are trying to dismember syria
            2. Alawites: hated by the takfists/salafists/Muslim brotherhood foir noit beig sunni who make up the ‘rebels’ and now by you. They say :alwaites to the grave christians to beirut….you may not support them but by attacking the syria govt you are participating in the demise of christians and shia whos sole protection is that govt: for a jew thats despicable: and so you are unwittingly allying with the terrorists.

            2b. Your contempt for alwaites (lackeys?)matches that of terrorists of FSA and alnusra: they go a bit further than your armchair contempt: by killing them. To the salafists fundamentalists , non-sunni muslims are outside sharia law and can be killed
            3 are you a bad bad man? Well someone who smears an entire grouip pf people: ALAWITES,) in the manner jews/roma/blacks etc get smeared, is hardly a good man: to wage blogging war on legitimate govt of a state hoping to see it fall, with the expectation the result will; be a ‘free and democractic’ society is the sort of thing most good people would find outrageous absurd and very bad..anmd much worse: stupid…look at whats happened in Libya.
            4. you claim not to support the ‘rebels or Assad’…so why are you blogging on syria at all? Don’t tell me you care for syians because they support Assad and the SAA(seee video above)! They don’t want your ‘support.’
            The ‘rebels’ are not ‘rebels’, but insurgents : foreign terrorists from chechnya libya tunisia afghanistan jordan saudi turkey US UK etc,
            and since you don’t support the legit govt, you favor dissolution of authority, which as we saw in libya leads to violent chaos. Or do you suppose the SNC/or alqaedea will conjure up a calm transition?

            This is the NO to war /rebels NO to ASSAD of most left wing types: the result of this is YES to war yes to chaos yes to ‘rebels’. And yes to genocide…its as if the lessons on nazi germany were lost on you.
            What would be the result if a terror group in US overthru the Obama ‘regime’? Peace? chaos? Not a promising position.
            5. Now for the most despicable and revealing comment you made: that could have come from an AIPAC drone: your attack on a palestinian/lebanese nun Mother Agnes. You used the word ‘pimping’ in association with a christian nun: your subconscious dredged up that word: Your charge: she is causing harm in her investigation of GHOUTA, when for years now she has been aiding the christian community in syria;the attacks on which, by the every murderous ‘allah akbar’ jihadis, she has travelled the world to alert the world and so being a voice to those who have no voice. To you this is an eg of ‘cynicism’, an outrage and she should stop go back to her convent and wait till the jihadis come to slaughter her. That takes chutzpah.
            And who are u to tel her what to do or not do?
            Religous figures …horrible things,,, best of motives? What horrible things has she done? Have you ever bothered to liste to her speeches interviews. I have. Your attacks are full of venom but lack any substance: you cant say what ‘horrible things’ she has done: youre skirting libel.
            Meanwhile: secular figures, horrible things, best of motives…that fits deluded leftists who attack ths syrian govt: unpaid(?) supporters of the USaudirael war on syria?
            ‘I dont think she hasn’t the capacity to do much harm’ what an odd statement : how to read that? Harm to what? the ‘rebels’ cause you claim not to support? You mean: she is only nun?
            You cant cause much harm: youre only a blogger
            How are the ‘assadist forces’ exploiting her? Who/what are ‘ the assadist forces’ you call her ‘innocent’ , then imply her actions and motives are suspect. You ignored my comparison with a nun from GAZA who goes around the world to report on israeli killing of palestinian christians: is that also outrageous?

            Finally, you crown your piece by demanding not to ‘mischaracterise your views’ (which is to get rid of the syrian govt and esp ASSAD, which as we know is the zionist position)which is what you’ve been doing freely to Assad, Mother Agnes and the whole syrian resistance(alawite lackeys) to this foreign and foreign backed invasion of their country,

            to sum: Your position on syria is identical to israels/AIPAC..thats no mischaracterisation

          • Richard Silverstein September 26, 2013, 3:01 AM

            I’m going to rein in your logorrhea. You’ve gone on far too long on this subject & to relieve my own boredom & that of others, you may not publish again in this thread. If you do you will be moderated. You may publish comments in other threads as long as they are on topic.

            Supporting a govt is no crime esp one which has behaved so impecablly

            This doesn’t even pass the laugh or the sniff test!

          • brian September 26, 2013, 6:37 AM

            that was aimed at me: since you prefer, let me make be brief:
            1 you sneeringly attack a honest concerned nun and a head of state who had the admiration of late president Chavez and who has the support of his people, while outraged at being mischaracterised : conclusion you are a master of mischaracterising: you position is close to AIPAC.
            2. syrians support a govt which you claim is killing them:
            2 NO to rebels and NO to Assad = yes to islamic terrorism war and chaos: since no govt = no order

            Stick to israel where you may have some expertise and show a little itegrity

          • Richard Silverstein September 26, 2013, 9:15 PM

            @ Brian: Whoa, because Hugo Chavez hearted Assad that makes him kosher? Sorry, not in my book.

            My position is close to Aipac? Which wanted Obama to bomb Syria? Which means I advocate bombing Syria, right? You’re a regular laugh fest!!

            For violating comment rules in 10 different ways, you’re now moderated. Future comments will be published if they adhere to the comment rules.

          • brian September 27, 2013, 5:54 AM

            Outside the closed world of your blog who has the greater credibility, the late president chavez, who has met Assad and dealt with him at the dilplomatic level or you, whos knowledge at best is derived from the MSM?? In your claustrophobic world you and your views on syria may appear supremely important, but run them bysyrians who deal with the issues on aday to day basis: they will find them laughable.: not to mention mischaracterision at its epic best.
            Your position is close to AIPAC: you both want Assad gone: both treat Assad as a butcher of syrians : both ignore the will of the syrian people.
            If you had your way, Assad would be gone and syria would look like Libya now or afghanistan
            You still ignore my comparison: what if a palestinian christian nun went around the world to alert people to the reality of her people? Would you also treat her as a duped innocent/ dodgy character and whered-she-get-the-money? I
            .You also fail to substantiate the basis of your hatred of Assad.

          • Robn September 26, 2013, 7:06 AM

            An important read. As well Sister Agnes is mentioned for having spread false information in the past.


          • brian September 27, 2013, 8:10 PM
          • Richard Silverstein September 27, 2013, 9:17 PM

            @ brian: Human Rights Watch, unlike you, is a dispassionate, credible & courageous human rights NGO. I won’t allow you to attempt to discredit it with nonsense like this.

          • brian September 27, 2013, 10:08 PM

            RS see no evil hear no evil….

            credible is what HRW is not any longer,.didnt you read what i posted? You wont allow me to post alternative views? outside your fiefdom HRWSS dodgyness is common knowledge…do you plan to go on a crusade to defend HRW?

          • Richard Silverstein September 27, 2013, 10:18 PM

            @ brian:That’s so quaint for you to dredge up a Marxist critique of HRW. There aren’t enough neocon attacks on HRW that you have to attack it from the far-left. That’s quite original of you. Your canonization of Hugo Chavez is also quite touching. But ultimately off-putting since he did a great job of speechifying but a terrible job of running a country.

            I don’t need to go on a “crusade” to defend HRW. They don’t require either a crusade or defense. Their work speaks for itself.

          • Luca K September 28, 2013, 1:59 PM


            What violation? Are we supposed to think that there is no such thing as zionist propaganda?? You, Mr. are free to believe that zionist propaganda is credible info, that’s your problem. Don’t expect the rest of us to do the same.
            No, Siverstein, most of Syria IS NOT controlled by the insurgents and terrorists, much less in early 2012. The poll was conducted and tough lluck if you don’t like the results. Months ago, Karen Koning AbuZayd, a former U.S. diplomat, was interviewed about the latest UN Human Rights Council report about the situation in Syria at CBC Radio Show ‘As It Happens’. http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2336416028,2336416291,2336417666

            At 5:35 min into the audio with regard to a question about a possible indictment of Assad a comparison is made to Milosovic and Serbia. There Karen Abuzayd, who was involved with Bosnia, says: “… Milosovic had a lot of his population strongly behind him, throughout, until the end, until now I would say, and THE SAME goes for President Assad – there’s quite a number of the population, maybe as many as HALF, if not MORE, who stand behind him.”

            Ooops! Here’s a link to news from latin American teleSur showing massive rallies supporting president Assad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNEFfdTNaqk
            I suppose, since it contradicts your dellusions, you’ll call it propaganda…

            As for the World Tribune, I gave the articles title, a simple google search will suffice, I did not think that was beyond you.

            On second thoughts, one does not even need to know all of the above to conclude that Assad is supported by a large part of Syrias people. One has only to use basic logic/common sense. If only the Alawites backed Assad, or even if all of the Shia, a mere 12% of Syria, did so, Assad would long ago have fallen. Even more so when the insurgents are fully backed by a huge international operation headed by zusa to overthrow Assad.

          • Richard Silverstein September 28, 2013, 6:27 PM

            @ Lucas K: I’ve grow immeasurably tired of the Assadist True Believers among us. You’re moderated. Spouting propaganda will do that.

          • Luca K September 29, 2013, 9:07 AM

            RS:”You’re moderated. Spouting propaganda will do that.”

            Hmm, that’s called projection Mr.Silverstein! You need to look at yourself in the mirror first…

  • Robin September 24, 2013, 8:14 AM

    The Jordanian’s comment left here is quite classy don’t ya think?


  • Fred Plester September 25, 2013, 12:28 AM

    When I read about the basic claims, I was a bit surprised that the evil Prince Bandar should be responsible for the gas attack and not the saintly President Assad, but the gilding on the lily is that the prince is supposed to have somehow used tunnels to smuggle chemical weapons to the rebels, whom he deceived into using nerve gas by not telling them precisely what it was. (Everyone is innocent except the Saudis!)

    Methinks this is the Russian disinformation machine trying to play on the fears of Israelis, hence the inclusion of so many uniquely Israeli panic buttons, like smuggling tunnels and powerful Arab princes.

    Previously, we have been told that the prince openly threatened President Putin, in Moscow, with Saudi funds for a terror campaign in Chechnya, if Putin didn’t capitulate on Syria. The objective of which was probably to associate the Saudis with all the past trouble in Chechnya. I don’t think that any Saudi would threaten the Russians, on a visit to Moscow, in quite that way, though it wouldn’t utterly surprise me if Saudis less central to the government than the Prince had expressed their sympathies over Chechnya and the destruction of Grozny in a financial or practical way.

    The Saudis are masters of well-mannered duplicity and they are now accused of being RUDE, which doesn’t actually fit their MO.

    • Oui September 25, 2013, 3:35 AM

      Prince Bandar is in a class all by himself. In US history equal to Dulles, McCone, Helms and Kissinger. Prince Bandar offered Russia a nice deal for military hardware ($16bn). Of course Prince Bandar would never threaten a nation with a terror attack. The confrontation in London with PM Blair was …. ehh a misunderstanding.

  • Yovav September 27, 2013, 4:55 AM

    Dear Richard Silverstein,

    I am the Israeli blogger you mentioned in this piece. Your article was brought to my attention by friends in Israel who know me well and were introduced to Yahya while he was in Jerusalem.

    As mentioned on my blog, I know Yahya through CouchSurfing.org, a social media for travelers and hosts. Later on I became an activist, and Yahya asked for my help in issuing a visa to Israel.

    Upon entering Israel, Yahya was not interrogated by the shabak as you assumed, but rather he was welcomed with a “hello” and a swift stamping of his passport. He was probably as shocked then as you are right now.

    Yahya had much to tell me as an Israeli activist, so I decided to arrange an audience to listen to him, as you can is in the picture shown on my blog post, which you provided in this piece.

    On the sofa in the picture there is a certain (charming) Jpost intern from France who later traveled with Yahya to cover the events in Turkey. That same French person was the contact that allowed Yahya to publish his report on Jpost, detailing the rest of his visit to Israel (after he had failed to publish that report in Arabic in his own country).

    As for the Sarin Gas episode in Syria, sadly I cannot offer any new insight. I don’t doubt that Yahya was in Syria to investigate the story, since it’s his job to cover such stories (look at his record and you’ll see he is drawn to conflict zones, unlike the rest of us who sit at home and write blog posts).

    If you can make false assumptions regarding Yahya, then it’s no wonder he can make false assumptions about who used Sarin Gas in Syria. All of us who publish need to stick to the facts and not go overboard with speculation.

    All the best,

    Yovav Kalifon,

    • Richard Silverstein September 27, 2013, 6:31 PM

      @ Yovav: You are absolutely naive if you think Yahya wasn’t vetted by the Shabak before he entered the country. They may even have known about his plans before he did & certainly before you did! You call yourself an “activist?” Of what sort? What Israeli activist would cooperate willingly with a Jerusalem Post minder qua “intern.” Mind telling us who this person was? It would be interesting to research her background as well.

      You don’t doubt that a “reporter” who’s been proven to be a fake actually produced a legitimate story and was on the ground to prove it, when he’s offered no proof that he was? As I wrote above, your credulousness knows no bounds. Instead of saying he’s drawn to conflict zones as you claim, I’d say he’s drawn like a moth to flame or like a con man to a mark. There is nothing wrong with “sitting at home and writing blog posts” as long as write what is true & don’t make it up as you go along (as Yahya/Barakat does) & take in credulous souls (like you).

      It’s good you’re a member of his fan club. He needs all the help he can get. He’ll need to devise some new pseudonyms now that he’s burnt out Ababneh & Barakat. Maybe you can help on that score as well.

  • brian September 27, 2013, 7:32 PM

    Those cuddly “moderate” Syrian rebels are at it again! No sooner had the President, John Kerry, John McCain and Lindsey Graham assured us the majority of those “freedom fighters” are really the equivalent of George Washington and the Continental Army, than the rebels commanders on the ground announced they were joining al-Qaeda. They are through with the “National Council” and are organizing their own “Islamist Alliance”:

    “The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group … Others include the Tawheed Brigade, the biggest Free Syrian Army unit in the northern city of Aleppo; Liwa al-Islam, the largest rebel group in the capital, Damascus; and Ahrar al-Sham, the most successful nationwide franchise of mostly Syrian Salafist fighters. Collectively, the new front, which does not yet have a formal name but has been dubbed by its members the ‘Islamist Alliance,’ claims to represent 75 percent of the rebels fighting to topple Assad.”


    • Richard Silverstein September 27, 2013, 9:15 PM

      @ brian: Brian as usual misconstrues reality. What really happened was that several (not all as you implied) groups who had been associated with the National Council, in a fit of pique because the U.S. didn’t attack & overthrow Assad as they’d expected, renounced the Council & threw in their lot with Al Qaeda. As for what this group “claims” to represent, I claim to represent the galaxy. That’s about as accurate as their claim.

      Brian, do your homework & be more careful when you bring propaganda. We’ll tear it to shreds for you if you’re not careful.

      • brian September 27, 2013, 10:17 PM

        so far youve torn nothing to shreds beyond your dwindling reputation: you ignore my rejoinder to your spiteful attack on mother Agnes(about the palestinian nun); you ignore the mass support president Assad has in syria;

        you show little to no awareness of the reality on the ground in syria…you need to get out more

      • brian September 27, 2013, 10:26 PM

        its not me here misconstruing : thats justin raimondo…take your complaint to him

        if you get that wrong…

        • Richard Silverstein September 28, 2013, 4:11 PM

          @ Brian: Oh so you mean that jackass “journalist” Justin Raimondo said Filkins is the greatest thing since slice bread? The guy who proudly axed a profile of mine Antiwar.com’s editor had already published?? THe guy who protected Israel’s leading Iranian anti-regime apologist, Meir Javedanfar? YOu really stepped in it bigtime bud. Justin Raimondo has as much crediblity here as my dog’s fresh turd.

          • Luca K September 28, 2013, 5:29 PM

            Mr.Silverstein, I have noticed u have been unable to refute any of Brians many good points.
            Your daft attacks on Raimondo have only made you look even worse… if that is even possible!

          • Richard Silverstein September 28, 2013, 6:24 PM

            @ Luca K: Another Marxist time traveler heard from!!

            I suppose you support Antiwar.com abandoning its writers when the first hint of controversy arises? Not standing for freedom of the press? Raimondo is an anti-Semitic scumbag. Everyone but you knows it.

          • Luca K September 29, 2013, 9:05 AM

            Marxist?? Moi? Far from it….

            RS: “I suppose you support Antiwar.com abandoning its writers when the first hint of controversy arises? Not standing for freedom of the press?”

            Says the guy who keeps ‘moderating’ people when they present evidence debunking him…

            RS: “Raimondo is an anti-Semitic scumbag.”

            Seriously, the old ‘anti-Semitic’ canard?? Yawn.
            Anti-Semitic = someone, a country, ideas or concepts that Jewish supremacists do not like…

          • Richard Silverstein September 29, 2013, 9:59 AM

            @ Luca K: As usual you compare apples with fish. I don’t run a media outlet which publishes different authors. I have published the work of others here & would never take down a piece I published here by someone else no matter what pressure was put on me.

            I moderate or ban commenters, not authors of pieces as Antiwar.com did to me.

            I’m glad to know that you support Antiwar’s censorship. It tells us quite a bit about you.

            If you call me a Jewish supremacist you’ll be banned.

  • brian September 27, 2013, 7:33 PM

    [comment deleted: propaganda videos are not permitted]

    • brian September 27, 2013, 10:45 PM

      [major comment rule violation--if I edit your comment it's for a comment rule violation. If you do what you just did, you won't win the battle, and will end up either moderated or banned. Follow the rules or bear the consequences.]

  • brian September 27, 2013, 10:37 PM

    In this context, the al-Qaeda affiliates aren’t even the worst. As Max Fisher puts it in the Washington Post:

    “As a sign of how bad things have gotten, al-Nusra is actually somewhere near the ideological center of the rebel movement; the al-Qaeda group Islamic State (ISIS), whose fighters are streaming into Syria from Iraq are considerably more ideologically extreme.”

    Yes, you read that right: a group that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda is composed of “moderates” who represent the “center” of the rebel movement, while those baddies over at ISIS are the Real Problem. Once you go down this rabbit hole, you wind up in a kind of Syrian Wonderland, where things get curiouser and curiouser


    • Richard Silverstein September 28, 2013, 4:13 PM

      @ Brian: So you who claim to be a leftist or Marxist or whatever is quoting WashPo’s Max Fisher as the arbiter of the reality in Syria? That’s rich.

      While I used to have great respect for Antiwar.com, not so much anymore.

    • Oui October 1, 2013, 12:11 AM

      In his footnote – Pat Buchanan.

  • brian September 27, 2013, 11:47 PM

    Speaking at Hani’s funeral, Nelson Mandela spoke of this phenomenon: “To criminalise is to outlaw, and the hunting down of an outlaw is regarded as legitimate. That is why, although millions of people have been outraged at the murder of Chris Hani, few were really surprised. Those who have deliberately created this climate that legitimates political assassinations are as much responsible for the death of Chris Hani as the man who pulled the trigger.”

    Turning to the current situation in Syria, we see a parallel between the “climate that legitimates political assassinations” in early-90s South Africa and a media climate that legitimates the “limited military strikes” being planned in Washington.

    The Syrian state has been under direct attack by western imperialism for the last two and a half years (although the US and others have been “accelerating the work of reformers” for much longer than that). The forms of this attack are many: providing weapons and money to opposition groups trying to topple the government; implementing wide-ranging trade sanctions; providing practically unlimited space in the media for the opposition whilst effecting a near-total media blackout on pro-government sources; and relentlessly slandering the Syrian president and government. In short, the western media and governments have – consciously and deliberately – “created this climate that legitimates” a military regime change operation against Syria.

    • Richard Silverstein September 28, 2013, 4:16 PM

      @ Brian: Ah quoting from another one of your Marxist fantasy zines. How quaint. Did anyone ever tell you that Maxism-Leninism has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo bird?

  • brian September 28, 2013, 3:07 AM

    The Syrian “uprising” is a cynical US-engineered plot using provocateurs, mercenaries, Wahhabi fanatics, corrupt NGO’s and the global media. The US, NATO and the feudal emirates are out to smash this independent Arab state that spends on human welfare and refuses to surrender to Israel. The US and Saudi-financed plot turns on the tactic of “Countergangs.” Terrorists – mercenaries and irregulars, the “CIA foreign legion” – shoot both demonstrators and police, blow up buildings, massacre innocent villagers – and then blame the carnage on the targeted government. NGO’s like NED, the “National Endowment for Democracy” (funded by US State Dept, Geo. Soros, Ford Foundation etc) promote “activists,” whose leaders are ambitious sociopaths, eagerly carving out a piece of the carcass for the moment the state is brought down. The corporate lapdog media, cogs in the military-industrial complex, lap up and magnify the Big Lie, creating a fake “reality” that the average person has little chance of seeing through. Subverting Syria reveals how the crusade to destroy Syria follows tactics explicitly set out in the Pentagon’s Unconventional Warfare Manual. – fund NGO’s to create a climate of protest in the target country – provocateurs organize demonstrations, then fire on protesters and security forces alike to stoke violence – staged and mislabeled video footage creates the illusion of repression – mass media endlessly repeat the Big Lie that the nation’s leader is a brutal dictator killing his own people.

    • Robin September 28, 2013, 7:12 AM

      OK Brian now you have hit a nerve with ME. Your dismissal of the Syrian people’s uprising, READ the SYRIAN PEOPLE’S UPRISING is so ELITIST and ignorant there are just no words for it! Without giving intimate details of what I know of this through very close personal friends who fled Syria as LONG time dissidents to the brutality of the Assad regime that has been in place for forty years, you don’t know Jack Poo Poo what you are talking about. Yes there has been others who have gotten involved and that includes YOU with your ignorant “facts” and opinion that takes away their agency! Those still in Syria involved in the non-violent uprising. What about them?!!!! You and your conspiracy theories can go take a hike. I say that on their behalf.

    • Richard Silverstein September 28, 2013, 4:23 PM

      @ Brian: Now you’re just blathering mindless propaganda. I think the time is right for moderation for you. If you can write a comment that doesn’t sound like you’ve one of Assad’s Manchurian Candidates you’ll be published here.

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