Here are the parts that mention me, but read the whole thing.
Pro-Israel bloggers clearly have their work cut out for them, but that doesn’t faze perhaps the most influential one of them. “We definitely make a difference,” insists the New York-based IT professional who goes by the cyberspace nom de guerre of Elder of Ziyon and enjoys regular attention from mainstream media outlets for his investigative scoops.
Elder, who chose his pseudonym to poke fun at cockamamie conspiracy theories about Jewish power, began frequenting Yahoo message boards a decade ago to challenge the views and logic of Israel’s garrulous detractors. “Arguing one-on-one with people emotionally invested in hating Israel was a big waste of time,” the blogger, who prefers to remain anonymous and describes himself as a “fairly ordinary middle-aged Jewish guy,” tells The Report. “I looked for alternatives where I could write more freely and expansively for a larger audience.”
So in August 2004, he started his own blog. After a first few tentative steps of simply reposting items from the mainstream media, he soon came into his own as a seemingly indefatigable one-man operation, armed only with a computer, chutzpa and stamina. In several new posts daily, except on Shabbat, the blogger — who reaches some 10,000 readers a day and has many fans far and wide, Israel included — links to the latest articles of interest on the Middle East, parses media reports for inaccuracies and overt biases, provides satirical rebuttals to Israel’s fiercest critics, and highlights the Jewish State’s little-publicized achievements. “It takes up a few hours a day; but then again, that’s less time than most people spend watching TV,” he says.
He spends some of that time digging up archival records about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and perusing damning reports by NGOs and the UN on Israeli policy to verify the credibility of their sources and double-check their conclusions. Recently, after delving into a UN document and poring over photographs of damaged buildings in Gaza, he discovered that two Palestinian children whose deaths had been blamed on Israel during its week-long Operation Pillar of Defense offensive against Hamas militants last November, including the much-publicized death of a local BBC correspondent’s young son, had in fact been killed by Hamas rockets. His findings made the headlines.
“Pro-Israel bloggers have served as a sort of ‘information Iron Dome,’” says Dovid Efune, a British Jew who edits the New York-based weekly The Algemeiner Journal, whose website hosts some 500 Jewish bloggers. “During Israel’s Pillar of Defense, they were at the forefront of exposing and intercepting routine bits of misinformation by Hamas before they could land. Hamas and other anti-Israel actors were routinely releasing pictures of bloodied, maimed or dead children with the aim of whipping up anti-Israel sentiments. In many cases, the pictures [some of which were picked up by the mainstream media] were false, taken from different conflicts or scenarios. Larger news organizations [rarely bother combing through] Twitter feeds or translating Arabic Facebook pages.”
But Elder of Ziyon does. Running regular Google News searches on keywords in Arabic, then turning to his trusted aide, the Google Translate tool, the blogger scours the Arab-language news media for reports and op-eds about Israel, mocking, exploring and deconstructing the foibles of anti-Israel firebrands from Iran’s Press TV to Al Jazeera to the Palestinian news agency, Ma’an.
“At this very moment, I did an Arabic news search for ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’” he explains. “It came up with five articles. One was from a Baathist website saying the US involvement in Syria is just like the Jewish/Freemason methods detailed in the ‘Protocols’ for taking over the world. The second was from a Jordanian columnist who sees the ‘Protocols’ behind Turkey’s current troubles. The third came from Egypt’s Al Wafd [a supposedly liberal daily], which claims to have uncovered a nefarious plot by the singer Madonna to convert the world to Judaism through [her study of] Kabbala. She’s also of course using the ‘Protocols’ as her playbook. There’s always some good material there!”
In March, the blogger revealed that the Arabic version of the website of MIFTAH, an EU-funded “moderate” NGO headed by prominent Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, ran an article promoting the old libel that Jews used the blood of Christians and Muslims for their matza at Passover. Cue an international hue and cry. MIFTAH lashed out at the “obscure pro-Israeli” blogger over his “smear campaign” before issuing an apology, in English, a few days later.
“Many pro-Israel bloggers are doing cutting-edge work,” stresses Benjamin Weinthal, a veteran American journalist who is The Jerusalem Post’s correspondent in Berlin. “They’re breaking stories either on their blogs or on social media sites like Twitter.” Weinthal first took notice of Elder’s work in September 2009, when the blogger revealed that Marc Garlasco, an American official for Human Rights Watch and a fierce critic of Israel, turned out, under closer inspection, to be an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia.
“I’ve written several articles based on [revelations by] pro-Israel blogs,” Weinthal says. One of those articles revolved around findings that Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian activist for the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement who was murdered by Islamists in Gaza in 2011, called Jews “rats” and posted anti-Semitic cartoons on his Facebook page.” He adds: “Bloggers have carved out new territory for themselves by zooming in on stories that remain in the cracks or on the edges of mainstream news coverage. They bring these stories front and center into the mainstream.”
Elder himself downplays his influence. “I’ve been fortunate that some of my posts do bubble up to [the mainstream media] but too much of the stuff we bloggers do stays stuck in our little world,” he remarks.
“My standard reaction [to being labeled a paid propagandist] is: ‘When do I get my check?’” Elder of Ziyon quips. “The idea that we’re ‘well-coordinated’ is itself hilarious. Some [anti-Israel blogger] can, with a single tweet, mobilize thousands of people to create a trending topic on Twitter or to vote in some online poll,” he says. “Our side can’t even figure out how to put together a single site that looks as professional as +972 Magazine [an online publication by the Israeli left].”
He himself uses a plain and free Blogspot template for his site.
“We each have our own ideas on how to relate to Islam, on whether to embrace the two-state solution, on what issues are important,” Elder goes on. “I’m in touch with other bloggers, of course, but there’s no Hasbara Central. We have lots of generals and very few troops.”
...As with journalists, so with bloggers, credibility is an important issue. Operating without any editorial control in the Internet’s raucous free-for-all, freelance bloggers can blow hot and cold as they please. “Any way you slice it, a regular person will instinctively trust Reuters as being less biased than someone called ‘Elder of Ziyon,’” the eponymous blogger says. “I try to substitute transparency for my anonymity, so I back up my arguments with references to original sources.”