FRESH AIR

Anti-Israel conspiracy theorists try to link Israel with Beirut port blast

Aug 12, 2020 | Ahron Shapiro, AIJAC staff

Skynews Lebanon Beirut Explosion Harbour 5058188

 

The Australian branch of the pan-Islamic fundamentalist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which advocates the re-establishment of a global Caliphate, has a notorious track record of airing wildly anti-Israel views and for promoting antisemitic tropes, including overt Holocaust denial. The group has also engaged in spreading conspiracy theories, including the claim, for example, that Iranian meta-terrorist General Qassem Soleimani, killed by the US in January, was in fact an American agent.

The spiritual leader of the movement, Hebron-born Abu Anas (Isma’il Wahwah) travelled to Syria in 2014, when ISIS controlled most of the country, reportedly to express support for “directing the uprising [against Assad’s regime] to its rightful destination, namely, the establishment of Islam in the form (of) the (Caliphate)”. In the context of the coronavirus, Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia questioned the authority of the government in Canberra to order the closure of mosques and manage the lives of Muslims in general.

Shortly after the Beirut explosion, on Aug. 5, Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia published a video discussion about the event between Abu Anas and senior preacher Wassim Doureihei, also known for his extreme anti-Western views.

The pair devoted much of their conversation to what Abu Anas claimed was “a very strong possibility” that Israel is actually behind the explosion.

Doureihei asked, “Can we take the possibility that this was not an accident, this was not an example of government incompetence, or corruption, [that] this is not necessary a by-product of the Syrian conflict, but in fact an act of war against Lebanon from the Jewish entity?”

In response, Abu Anas stated that “we cannot exclude this possibility. And it’s a strong one [very probable] […] The Jewish identity [=entity] wants to send a message – we are the masters here; we will give you zero tolerance if the issue comes [=threatens] to our security.

Tying his argument to peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, Abu Anas said that “They [Israel] think – let us send the final message before the whole Deal of the Century [US peace plan] – you have to surrend[er], to give up. You have no chance. The ones who stated years and years – we are the Muqawama [Hezbollah], the resistance – look, that’s how I [Israel] deal with them […] You are all [should] give up. It’s a message to the Palestinians, to Gaza and to the world. Look, that’s your end.  It can be that one. [Israeli PM] Netanyahu himself he is stuck [has problems] somewhere, in the politics, in the political life. So can it happen? Yes, it can happen”.

Abu Anas also suggested that Israel may have caused the Beirut port explosion as a response to the threats Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah made in February 2016 to blow up the ammonia storage facility in the port of Haifa. “The Israelis took that concept”, he noted, “and said: OK, you want to do that to me [blow the port]. No, we do that to you. And you [Hezbollah] leave the ammonia in your port, as if you gave them [Israel] an advice. Do that with [=to] us”.

When probed by Doureihei why does Hezbollah conclude that Israel was not involved in the explosion, Abu Anas argued that this is because the Lebanese terrorist organisation is unable to retaliate to what Israel may have done. “To accuse Israel, you will have to respond. If you don’t do that, you are finished. […]”, said Abu Anas. “What would be the only acceptable response by Hezbollah in a case like this?”, asked Doureihei. “To implement what he [Nasrallah] has promised in his speech”, replied Abu Anas. “To go ahead with the threat he made? [to blow up the port of Haifa]”, inquired Doureihei again, “Yes! Yes, OK, if you are serious, please, please do it”, said Abu Anas.

Elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world, some other bastions of anti-Israel sentiment also jumped on the Beirut-blast conspiracy bandwagon.

In the West Bank, the official daily of the Palestinian Authority, Al Hayat Al Jadida, was quick to air allegations  that Israel may be responsible for the tragic event in Beirut.

On Aug 6, Bassem Barhoum used his regular column in the paper to insist it was possible Israel was behind the explosion simply because Israel’s essential nature is to aspire to destroy the Arabs: “We… do not rule out the possibility that Israel had a hand in this catastrophe since this is what it exists for – to destroy the [Arab] nation and any chance of its revival.”

In Iran, the headline of the Kihan newspaper, a mouthpiece for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on Aug. 6, cried: “A huge explosion in Beirut, an incident or a scoundrel?” The story underneath noted that an Israeli, American or Saudi operation cannot be ruled out as the reason for the tragedy in Beirut.

Across social media platforms, anti-Zionist Twitterati raced to disseminate links to an unhinged blog post by Jewish far-left gadfly Richard Silverstein, blaming Israel for the Beirut blast within hours of the incident, based on no credible evidence whatsoever.

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