Connecting the dots can be tricky. Ukraine’s Embassy in Israel tried, and came up with a crazy conspiracy theory, claiming Israel critic Max Blumenthal stole the identity of a longtime Haaretz contributor to publish an expose.
Blumenthal is editor of the Grayzone Project website and a longtime critic of right-wing policies in Israel. He has also for years reported on the rise of far-right extremists in post-coup Ukraine and criticized Western media and politicians for turning a blind eye to it.
Ukraine’s ambassador in Israel, Hennadii Nadolenko, believes that on Monday Blumenthal published an extensive expose about Israel’s supply of arms to Ukraine – particularly the Azov Battalion, which began as a far-right extremist group with clear neo-Nazi sympathies and won legitimacy and official support of the Ukrainian government after the 2014 Maidan coup in Kiev. In an open letter to Haaretz, Nadolenko suggested that the author of the piece, John Brown, was actually Blumenthal.
Посол України в Державі Ізраїль 🇺🇦 Геннадій Надоленко спростовує fake news в ізраїльській 🇮🇱 газеті “Haaretz”.
The Ambassador of Ukraine 🇺🇦 to the State of Israel 🇮🇱 Hennadii Nadolenko refuted fake news in the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz". pic.twitter.com/hWDTYX455H
— Ukr Emb in Israel (@UKRinIsrael) July 10, 2018
How the ambassador came to this conclusion is surprising. In the letter, he says a “quick search on the Internet” reveals that the information about the arms cooperation came out earlier on the Electronic Intifada and the Real News websites. The former indeed published a storyon the topic on Friday last week. It was written by investigative journalist Asa Winstanley, a regular contributor for the site.
The Real News hosted an interview of Blumenthal by Ben Norton on Friday, in which the article was discussed. The interview was a follow-up to an earlier one in which Blumenthal, among other things, talked about how the US banned aid provisions to the Azov Battalion due to its neo-Nazi links. In fact, Winstanley refers to this earlier interview in his piece.
John Brown is the pen name of an Israeli journalist who mostly writes in Hebrew. But a “quick search on the Internet” would have revealed to Ukrainian officials his or her earlier contributions to the English version of Haaretz, and the Twitter account in this name. Brown seems surprised to be accused of being a cover for another person. So does Blumenthal.
“I was not the author of any of the articles exposing this scandal,” Blumenthal told RT. “All of my works over the years exposing the rise of neo-Nazism in post-Maidan Ukraine has been written under my name, Max Blumenthal. And it’s the Ukrainian ambassador, not me, who has been spreading fake news.”
Blumenthal was referring to Nadolenko’s insistence that Israel did not provide weapons to the Azov Battalion. Among the facts both publications presented to trace the link is a video published by the battalion’s own YouTube channel, showing its fighters handling the distinctive Tavor assault rifles, which were reportedly produced in Ukraine under a license from the Israeli Defense Ministry.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QopTJkI3_Fs&w=100&h=100]
Whether Brown’s piece was based on the one written by Winstanley is debatable. Many of the things the two authors mention are the same, but Brown said on Twitter he was working on a piece about Israeli arms in neo-Nazi hands before the Winstanley story was published.
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