Fake news: Bogus Haaretz websites claim Israel behind Saudi, Russian activity in region

Phony articles claim to describe Israel expanding its influence in Afghanistan, Sudan and other countries.

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Fake websites spreading false information about Israel and the region and purporting to be owned by the editor-in-chief and senior security reporter of the Haaretz news site have been exposed after they were cited by Hezbollah’s Al Manar and others outlets in the region, Haaretz said in a report published Monday.

Calling it a “sophisticated influence operation,” Haaretz said the English-language sites contain both real articles authored by its chief editor Aluf Benn and senior analyst Amos Harel interspersed with bogus articles, with the aim of “escalating tensions in the region.”

The fake stories are littered with spelling and grammatical errors, but this did not stop them from being cited by media outlets including Hezbollah mouthpiece, the Al-Manar satellite network, as well as Greek, Turkish and Yemeni websites.

The most recent articles masquerading as Benn’s own reporting falsely claim that an Israeli company won a contract from the United Arab Emirates relating to airport security in Afghanistan, after the Taliban takeover.

The false Haaretz article purports that “the management of Afghanistan airports has a strategic value for the Israeli army, Mossad and other security structures.”

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It said in the near future that Israel will “have a role” at airports “in Sudan, Somalia and other Middle Eastern countries … one of Israel’s greatest strategic successes in the region.”

Another article supposedly written by Harel includes a fictitious interview with former Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz who “reveals” Israel’s secret partnership with Saudi Arabia in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

“It is only for the operational support of the Israeli army in Riyadh, and this is well understood by all military commanders. Muhammad bin Salman [sic] has repeatedly been ready to withdraw from the Yemeni war and declare Saudi’s defeat,” the articler eads, referencing the Saudi Crown Prince also known as MBS.

The fake Katz said that former Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi has close ties with Israel and paid a secret visit to the country on two occasions to ask for help.

In another fake, Benn interviews the CEO of an Israeli high-tech company that monitors and analyzes commercial maritime traffic. According to the headline, the company promised the United States that it could curb “95 percent” of Russian maritime activity.

Another article outlines how the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which a boat load of anti-Israel activists and terrorists from Turkey attempted to infiltrate Israel’s maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip, was orchestrated by Jerusalem and Ankara, citing former Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem as its source.

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According to Haaretz (the real one), sites built on identity theft are often used for phishing, or “attempts to fraudulently obtain sensitive information – especially, for example, when the target is a Haaretz journalist in touch with security officials with access to sensitive information” in addition to spreading misinformation.

Both sites are clean and include a bio and headshots of the supposed authors, lifted from their Wikipedia pages.