Aaron Klein's Mighty Wurlitzer
In order to pursue his anti-Olmert, pro-right-wing agenda, the WorldNetDaily Jerusalem reporter consorts with terrorists and hides the unappealing backgrounds of some of his favorite sources.
By Terry Krepel
Aaron Klein has had a long, dubious reporting history at WorldNetDaily, his work veering from depicting a murderer as a victim to whitewashing right-wing radicals to undermining Israel's leader, Ehud Olmert, at a time of war.
Klein seems to have cultivated a list of sources he can count on to spout whatever fits his anti-Olmert, pro-conservative agenda, akin what the CIA used to call the "mighty Wurlitzer" -- after the pompous description of old movie-house organs -- for the media network used to disseminate propaganda.
While ConWebWatch has previously examined some of these sources, and what Klein fails to tell his readers about them, a little closer look is warranted. Below is a summary of a selected group of people Klein has quoted, along with the rest of the story.
Klein's terrorist coterie
It's Klein's favorite journalistic gimmick: quoting "terrorist leaders" endorsing views or policies that WND opposes -- which is to say, anything that makes Democrats or even moderates look bad.
ConWebWatch documented how Klein made use of this gimmick to smear Democrats before last November's midterm election by quoting a handful of "senior terrorist leaders" -- in fact, just three -- rooting for Democrats to win. Since then, Klein has used the gimmick twice more -- in December, to have terrorists endorse the Iraq Study Group report that called for withdrawal from Iraq, and in April, to endorse Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria.
Despite Klein presenting these terrorists as speaking for all Islamic terrorists, his pool of interviewees is, in fact, very small. In these three articles, Klein quotes only six terrorists, no more than three of which appear in any one article. One, Abu Abdullah, appears in all three; two others appear in two articles each. Another of this little group, Jihad Jaara, who Klein describes as "a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades," is living in exile in Ireland; Klein never explains how Jaara can be a Middle Eastern terrorist leader when he lives nowhere near the Middle East.
Klein has trotted out his terrorist buddies on other similar stimulus-response occasions. For instance, in an interview of Jaara, he asked if the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades "used pages of the Bible as toilet paper" during a 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. And he has featured another member of this coterie, Abu Ayman of Islamic Jihad, as expressing regret that an American teenager who eventually died of injuries suffered in a suicide bombing in Israel "was not immediately killed."
Klein, however, may actually be the victim of his ever-quotable terrorists, who may want to keep the current American leadership in place by saying things they know will inflame Klein's conservative readership into supporting the Bush administration. Remember when conservatives spun a video released by Osama bin Laden shortly before the 2004 presidential election as evidence that bin Laden supported the election of Democrat John Kerry? As it turns out, in his book "The One Percent Doctrine," author Ron Suskind reported that CIA analysts agreed that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection." Klein has never mentioned Suskind's revelation in any of his articles, presumably because it would ruin the gimmick.
Given that, Klein's expectation that his readers should accept on faith that these bloodthirsty, anti-Israel, anti-U.S. terrorists who just happen to enjoy chatting up an American Jew like Klein are completely on the level and eminently trustworthy is a little on the illogical side.
Klein has written numerous articles featuring Jumblatt, a Lebanese politician and leader of the country's Druze community. In February 2005, Klein touted Jumblatt's conversion from "a sharp critic of Washington foreign policy" to seeing the U.S.-led Iraq war as "a catalyst for democratic change across the Arab world." But Klein doesn't detail just how "sharp" a critic of the U.S. Jumblatt was: A January 2003 WND article reported that Jumblatt "says the true axis of evil is one of 'oil and Jews,' calling President George W. Bush a 'mad emperor' and Prime Minister Tony Blair an 'imperial servant' with a 'peacock appearance.' "
But WND didn't start out praising Jumblatt. In fact, an unbylined January 2004 article detailed how Jumblatt "praised a Palestinian mother's suicide bomb attack, calling the 'fall of one Jew' a 'great accomplishment' and urging lawmakers to support similar efforts against the 'Jewification' of Palestine."
Indeed, Jumblatt has something of a history of anti-Semitism; as Think Progress reported, the United States revoked Jumblatt's diplomatic visa in 2003 for wishing out loud that Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz had been killed in a Baghdad rocket attack. He has also stated that "my joy was great" at the Columbia space shuttle disaster "because one of those killed was an Israeli astronaut ... who had previously been part of the Jewish criminal army, particularly against Lebanon and Iraq."
But, apparently, as Klein became more cozy with Jumblatt, his previous anti-Semitic and anti-U.S. statements -- something you'd think would be important given that Klein is an American Jew -- became too gauche to bring up, as did his support for Hezbollah.
First, Jumblatt issued a statement in support of Klein when he had been denied entry into Syria. Then, the two found something else they could agree on -- bashing Ehud Olmert.
In an August 2006 article, Klein quoted Jumblatt as predicting that "I see Olmert failing and [Likud official Benjamin] Netanyahu coming to power," as a result of Hezbollah's "victory" over Israel in a mid-2006 conflict -- mirroring Klein's own anti-Olmert attitudes. Nowhere does Klein note Jumblatt's previous anti-Semitism or support for Hezbollah, which would seem to color the veracity of Jumblatt's claims.
And following the Democrats' takeover of Congress in last November's elections, Klein again featured Jumblatt claiming that the Democratic win and the resignation of secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld "sent a message of American weakness to Syria that will likely result in 'instability and chaos' in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East." Klein quoted Jumblatt saying that "The Syrians are trying to profit from the circumstances by creating havoc and by using Hezbollah to stage a coup d'etat" in Lebanon while, again, failing to note Jumblatt's previous support of Hezbollah or explaining why Jumblatt's view of Hezbollah had changed, if indeed they had.
Klein's unwillingness to challenge Jumblatt shows that he would rather merely parrot Jumblatt when it suits his agenda than nail down Jumblatt's ever-shifting views and explain why Jumblatt is a credible source rather than an opportunistic politician.
Hikind is a New York state assemblyman who has been quoted in 11 WND articles, all but two of which carry Klein's byline. Among them:
Klein usually describes Hikind only as a "politician" or "an outspoken critic of Olmert's planned evacuation of Judea and Samaria," but it turns out he's a bit more than that. A 1999 Village Voice article described Hikind as "a combative disciple of Jewish Defense League capo Meir Kahane." And we know how Klein has previously whitewashed the Kahane movement's violent history.
It appears that Hikind is little more than a politician with an ax to grind (against a country, mind you, where he is not an elected official) who has a kinship with a reporter who opposes the same things -- Olmert and disengagement -- as he.
A January 2006 article on an effort to create an "autonomous Jewish entity" separate from Israel in what Klein insists on calling Judea and Samaria (better known to the rest of the world as the West Bank) featured the leader of the effort, Yekutel Ben Yaacov, whom Klein described only as a "northern Samaria resident."
As ConWebWatch has detailed, he's a lot more than that. As blogger Richard Bartholomew reported, Ben Yaccov is also known as Mike Guzovsky, a one-time leader of the now-outlawed Kahane Chai movement in Israel. The Anti-Defamation League has described how, under Guzovsky/Ben Yaccov's leadership, Kahane Chai signaled its support of 1994 incidents in which bombs were placed outside the New York offices of two American Jewish groups that supported the Middle East peace process. Guzovsky/Ben Yaacov also expressed his support for Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred approximately 30 Arabs at Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs; Goldstein "did what he did out of a love for the Jewish people ... We don't condemn anybody who is targeting the enemies of the Jewish people," the ADL quotes Ben Yaacov as saying.
Klein is presumably aware of all of this: In an August 2005 article on AWOL Israeli soldier Eden Natan Zada's massacre of four Arabs on a bus in Gaza, Klein described him as "a former Kahane leader" and quoted him portraying the soldier not as a cold-blooded murderer but "the first casualty" of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza: "Had he not been enlisted, had they not forced him to be scheduled to uproot Jews, there wouldn't be any deaths." But Klein is similarly sympathetic to the anti-disengagement movement and, again, has a history of whitewashing the violent backgrounds of the Kahane leaders he quotes (not to mention portraying Zada as having been "murdered" by a "mob of Palestinians" who witnessed his shootings, but never describing Zada's victims as being "murdered"). And Klein featured a "Mike Guzofsky" in an August 2004 article that attempted to show that people like "Guzofsky" -- whom Israeli officials were portraying as "dangerous Jewish extremists" -- were just regular Joes and not prone to violence, and that "Jewish terrorism ... is considered extremely rare." At no point does Klein explain that "Guzofsky" and Ben Yaacov are one in the same or why the man changed his name.
In December 2006, following the issuance of the Iraq Study Group report co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker, Klein's wrote three articles featuring Nir Gouaz -- who Klein describes only as an "Israeli businessman" who is president of a company called Caesar Global Securities -- accusing the law firm where Baker worked of helping a South Korean company collect money owed to it from Iraq, using Gouaz's company as "a middleman to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iraq." WND's bias motive was pretty clear: to discredit Baker and, by extension, the Iraq Study Group. Klein had already trotted out Abu Abdullah and Abu Ayman to praise the ISG plan, and Farah had attacked Baker as "a legal pimp for Saudi Arabia" and a "Council on Foreign Relations hack" and the report itself is called "lying, deceiving" and "evil." (Indeed, attacking Baker seemed to be official WND editorial policy; WND also ran a column by Richard Booker ("a Christian minister and the founder and president of Sounds of the Trumpet Inc. and the Institute for Hebraic-Christian Studies located in Houston, Texas") claiming that Baker "identifies" with "an anti-Semitic British official," based on a senior thesis Baker wrote as a Princeton undergraduate; and its "letter of the week" came from Tim Hirota, who called Baker and ISG co-chairman Lee Hamilton "simple-minded" and wrote, "it would seem that the methodology of the 'Study Group' consisted of James Baker and Lee Hamilton sitting in front of the TV watching CNN 24/7."
But who is Nir Gouaz?
Turns out he, and his company, are a bit on the murky side; Caesar Global Securities appears to have no active website. ConWebBlog documented a now-disappeared Google cache document on a company called Caesar Global Industries, with Gouaz as president, with the following interests: "Diamonds, Energy, Food Supply, Security, Telecommunication, Waste Management and Recycling, Business Development, Debt Collection, Cree Electric Car." Also of note is the following:
Since 1989, Caesar Global Ltd. mine and export diamonds, along with gold from Zaire/Congo, Sierra Leone and Angola under special authorization from the Local governments as part of the Diamonds for Commodities program. Our turnover at the peak of the program was 160 million US dollars a year, and our biggest diamond ever export was measured at 363 carats for a single gem stone bought and exported by Nir Gouaz in July, 1988 in Kinshasa, Zaire.
By the time Sierra Leone’s war broke out in 1991, the country’s then President, Joseph Momoh, had begun to shift away from Lebanese businessmen, towards Israelis. This was encouraged by Israel, which was eager to cut off Lebanese funding for anti-Israeli armed factions in the Middle East. It turned out, however, that Momoh’s new Israeli friends, among them Shaptai Kalmanovitch (of the LIAT Company), and later Nir Guaz (of the SCIPA group), were crooked, with ties to organized crime syndicates. SCIPA, which lasted longer that LIAT, was suspected of financing illegal as well as legal diamond exports, but the Israelis were generally viewed more favourably than the Lebanese. They paid far better prices to miners for their finds, and they imported rice and machinery which they sold at affordable prices.
So, it appears that Gouaz has been involved in some shady dealings of his own. It's not surprising that Klein would decline to share that -- or any of the shady backgrounds of his sources -- with his readers.
A Dec. 6, 2006, article by Klein reported that a "group of prominent rabbinic leaders" urged Israelis to "launch a democratic uprising to bring down the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert." But Klein didn't explain the political nature of the call -- which just happens to dovetail nicely with his own anti-Olmert agenda.
Klein reported that the call came from the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, "a coalition of over 1,200 rabbinic leaders and pulpit rabbis." But as blogger Richard Bartholomew points out, it's a right-leaning group that has opposed Olmert's plan of disengagement from Gaza and the West Bank (better known in Klein-speak as Judea and Samaria). Indeed, Klein has quoted members of the group on that subject before. For example:
Strangely, Klein didn't reference any of the Rabbinical Congress' previous attacks on Olmert in his December 2006 article -- even though he has reported on them. In a Feb. 12 article featuring the Rabbinical Congress' criticism of Olmert for "allow[ing] Muslims to construct a massive minaret on the Temple Mount," Klein similarly failed to mention the group's previous criticism of Olmert.
(9/16/2007 update: Added section on Rabbinical Congress for Peace.)