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Schmoozing With Smearmongers

Why is a member of Hamas chatting up -- and endorsing Barack Obama with -- conservative radio host John Batchelor and right-wing WorldNetDaily writer Aaron Klein, who are pro-Israel, anti-Hamas, and anti-Obama?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/8/2008

Everything that comes from Aaron Klein's mouth or pen must be viewed in light of his undeniable bias and dishonesty.

As ConWebWatch has documented:

  • When Eden Natan-Zada, an AWOL Israeli soldier, shot and killed four Arabs and wounded a dozen more on a bus in Gaza without provocation and was then killed by bystanders who witnessed the shooting before he could reload, Klein declared that Natan-Zada was "murdered" by a "mob of Palestinians." He never described Natan-Zada's victims as having been "murdered."
  • Klein falsely smeared the charity group Islamic Relief by claiming it was linked to terrorism and was trying to raise money for orphans that didn't exist. WorldNetDaily eventually retracted Klein's story, but it took a long six months to do so.
  • Klein consistently refuses to tell his readers about the violent, extremist backgrounds of the right-wing Israelis he writes about.
  • Klein has regularly attacked Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- even attempting to undermine him during a time of war.
  • His protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, Klein did, in fact, falsely suggest that Fox News paid a ransom for two correspondents kidnapped in Gaza.
  • Klein keeps a coterie of right-wing sources on standby to issue whatever anti-Olmert talking points he feels need to be made.

Put simply, Klein's history of reporting is such that he has demonstrated that he cannot be taken at his word. There is always -- always -- an ulterior motive, a hidden (or not-so-hidden) agenda.

This untrustowrthiness continues in Klein's efforts to smear Barack Obama with guilt-by-association charges. As ConWebWatch detailed, Klein has fired numerous journalistic spitballs at Obama -- an attack that began in January, when he purported to quote anonymous "Israeli security officials" to attack Robert Malley, a Middle East expert who has advised Obama's campaign, because Malley has previously expressed support for allowing Hamas to take part in Middle East peace talks. Not only does Klein not give Malley or Obama an opportunity to respond to the anonymous charges. To this day, Malley has not been permitted to respond at WND to Klein's accusations, even though his response is on the record elsewhere.

Klein also left out one crucial piece of information: Obama opposes any negotiation with Hamas because it does not recognize the right of Israel to exist. Klein went on to attempt further gulit-by-association links in 11 subsequent articles (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) without noting that Obama opposes negotiating with Hamas.

Meanwhile, on March 22, WND reported Obama's statement that "Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community's conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor." But this appeared in an unbylined article; Klein wrote six subsequent articles purporting to link Obama and Hamas without including this highly relevant , and crucial, information.

That's an egregious act of journalistic malfeasance, one that is hard to imagine taking place in any other news organization. But WND editor Joseph Farah clearly allows Klein to indulge in his biases -- and publish the substandard reporting that derives from them.

A subset of Klein's shoddy attacks on Obama is trying to link him to terrorists in general by claiming their purported endorsements of him. As Klein wrote in a March 11 column: "Terrorists worldwide would indeed be emboldened by an Obama election victory not so much because of the senator's middle name – Hussein – or because of his family background, but because terrorists know many of Obama's policies would translate into victory for the global jihad movement."

Klein also brags in his column about his "recently released, 210-page book, 'Schmoozing with Terrorists.'" In it, as ConWebWatch has noted, Klein uses the gimmick of his being an Orthodox Jew to interview numerous Muslim terrorists -- who, curiously, all manage to reinforce conservative talking points against liberals and in favor of continued military action in Iraq and the Middle East. That's a clear indication that Klein manipulated and/or selectively reported his interviews so that the book, and the terrorists, would conform to his agenda.

Klein, however, has not really offered his readers any reason to take the terrorists' statements at face value, as he presents them. After all, the terrorists may be just telling Klein what he wants to hear. Or they may not know Klein is using their words to foment conservative sentiment against them, which would seem to be a breach of confidence on Klein's part; the consequences for Klein if the terrorists figure out they have been used would surely not be pleasant. Klein also does not seem to consider the possibility that he is being used by the terrorists -- an important thing to consider given that in 2004, 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. In fact, 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." In other words, by appearing to support liberals, bin Laden achieved his goal of getting Bush re-elected because it served his agenda to have the U.S. mired in Iraq.

Klein is somewhat vague in his book on the subject of why Muslim terrorists would deign to talk to him:

I think a lot of Palestinian terror leaders I met were somewhat fascinated at the prospect of meeting a Jewish reporter. For many, I was the first Jew they'd ever knowingly interacted with. Some were stunned I'd debate them from a Jewish perspective. A lot of terrorists didn't know the kinds of questions I'd ask.


But I believe the main motivation of the Palestinian terror groups in dealing with me is that they can claim to the English-language media they are not anti-Semitic. They can claim they are only fighting "occupiers" and not all Jews or Americans. This, of course, is a big fat lie. They admit so in Arabic. These terror groups are at war with America, with Jews, and with Judeo-Christian values.

Still, one has to wonder: Was there some sort of quid pro quo between Klein and his terrorist buddies? There appears to be some sort of deeper relationship going on that belies Klein's repeated criticism of them as "delusional," "not credible as adults," and having "not an ounce of humanity in their bones." One of them -- Jihad Jaara, decribed as the "infamous terror director of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity," even obligingly supplied a blurb for the cover of the book: "Klein was rude. Some of his questions were offensive." Apparently, as far as Klein is concerned, some terrorists are more credible than others.

Further, a Sept. 25, 2007, WND article purports to describe the terrorists complaining about Klein's book. Given that it quotes Klein's terrorist sources, the only person who could have possibly written this (unbylined) story and talked to these folks is Klein himself -- which means he's soliciting quotes about himself. This also suggests that he and the terrorists have a much cozier relationship than he's letting on.

Indeed, Klein has shown that he has no problem with manipulating his reporting to suit his agenda, as his longtime refusal to note Obama's criticism of Hamas demonstrates. Another example is detailed in a Nov. 30, 2007, WND article about a confrontation several months earlier between him and British politician George Galloway over whether Hamas is a terrorist organization. (Klein said yes; Galloway disagreed.) The confrontation occurred months earlier, but Klein "said he and [right-wing radio host Rusty] Humphries had refrained from releasing the tape until after the publication of 'Schmoozing' for fear Klein would lose some Hamas sources. In the book, Klein conducts interviews with the chiefs of most major Palestinian terror organizations, including Hamas." Given that Klein is essentially burning his sources by writing the book in the first place -- remember, Klein chatted up these folks, then branded them "delusional" and "not credible as adults" -- why did it matter if he "would lose some Hamas sources" by revealing the Galloway confrontation when it actually happened? That's never explained.

(Of course, not all acts of terrorism bother Klein so. As noted above, he appeared more offended that Eden Natan-Zada was "murdered" by a "mob of Palestinians" than by Natan-Zada's own murderous acts. Klein has also regularly quoted Yekutel Ben Yaacov, whom Klein has described benignly as a "northern Samaria resident" opposed to Israel's now-suspended policy of "disengagement" from Gaza and the West Bank, without noting that Ben Yaacov (also known as Mike Guzovsky) is a one-time leader of the U.S. branch of Kahane Chai, the offshoot of Meir Kahane's violent right-wing Kach party. The Anti-Defamation League has described how, under Guzovsky/Ben Yaacov'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, and that Guzovsky/Ben Yaacov proclaimed Kahane follower Baruch Goldstein a "hero" for massacring 29 Muslims inside Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994.)

Which brings us to one of Klein's more recent attempts at a guilt-by-association smear of Obama.

On the April 14 radio show of conservative John Batchelor -- reported in an article by Klein, the first one referencing Obama and Hamas in which Klein actually mentions that Obama won't negotiate with Hamas -- Ahmed Yousuf, "Hamas' top political adviser in the Gaza Strip," expressed support for Obama. As Klein wrote, Yousuf said, "I hope Mr. Obama and the Democrats will change the political discourse. ... I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principal [sic]. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance."

The claim has garnered much attention; John McCain's campaign has even designed a fundraising appeal around it. But it doesn't pass the smell test.

First, there's an obvious political agenda going on here. Klein's anti-Obama bias is detailed above; as befits his right-wing views, he's also anti-Hamas as well, even criticizing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for calling Hamas a "resistance" movement while pointing out that the State Department "labels Hamas a terrorist organization."

Meanwhile, Batchelor is also anti-Obama: In February, Batchelor wrote an attack piece on Obama for the conservative Human Events rehashing a number of Klein's guilt-by-association attacks (and has written other Obama-bashing columns as well). Further, a 2006 New York Times profile of Batchelor points out that he "does not stray far from the political leanings of Laura Ingraham and some of his other WABC counterparts," which in practice means a strong pro-Israel stance that one can reasonably assume is anti-Hamas as well. In an April 17 Human Events column, Batchelor described a family clan in Gaza that he claims is "linked directly to extortion, racketeering and homicide in the hire of the Hamas party of Gaza against the remnant of authority of the Palestinian Fatah party in order to wrest control of the Gaza Strip if not yet the whole of the West Bank."

Second, what possible motivation would a Hamas political adviser have to not just chat up a pair of right-wingers who support Israel and oppose Hamas, but to actually further the agenda of those right-wingers?

Indeed, while Klein makes sure to paint Hamas in his April 14 article as an "isolated ... terrorist organization," it's clearly not so isolated that Klein isn't afraid to hang with Yousuf (also spelled Yousef); a day earlier, Klein quoted Yousuf calling former President Jimmy Carter a "noble person" whose planned meeting with Hamas would help the terror organization "engage with the world community," and indeed was citing Yousuf as early as December 2006.

Further, Yousuf is hardly the "isolated" thug Klein wants you to think he is. His op-eds have been published in the Washington Post and the New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor described Yousef as among the "voices that sound far more moderate and cooperative" within Hamas. A 2007 article in the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat called Yousef "a star in Israeli media and a familiar face on national Israeli television channels on which he makes regular appearances to issue statements, in addition to being frequently hosted in interviews."

It appears that Klein and Batchelor either collaborated with Yousuf or played him for a fool.

All of this raises several questions (which can also be applied to Klein's overall interactions with his terrorist buddies):

  • What sort of behind-the-scenes dealmaking went on between Yousuf, Batchelor and Klein to orchestrate this interview?
  • Was Yousuf's endorsement of Obama a condition of his appearance on Batchelor's show?
  • How much of what Yousef said negotiated in advance with Batchelor and Klein?
  • What did Yousuf get in return for spouting Batchelor and Klein's party line?
  • Was Yousef even aware he was reinforcing the political agenda of people who oppose him,or did they dupe him?

Until Klein and Batchelor (and Yousuf) can satisfactorily answer these questions, there's no reason to treat their interview of Yousuf as anything other than what it is: a heavy-handed, guilt-by-association smear by two partisan anti-Obama activists.

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