Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When I first heard about Mudar Zahran, I thought it was too good to be true, that people are way too gullible. I shook my head. How could it be that an Arab would take our side in this way?

I asked this not just as a rhetorical question, but to people in the blogging world, people on my same side, the right side of Israeli politics.

I was referred to the Jordan is Palestine Facebook page, where Zahran held forth before a captive and adoring Jewish audience, protesting his ardent love for the Jewish people and for Israel. Zahran's plan was and still is, to bring down King Abdullah and install himself, Mudar Zahran, as prime minister of Jordan.

The beauty of this is that Israel wouldn't have to give away any more land. The solution would be the solution that already is. It's the British Mandate for Palestine solution. You know, the one in which 78% of the Mandate was carved away from what Balfour promised the Jews and given to the Arabs to be their national homeland, Transjordan, the Palestinian state. All we needed to do is get that durned Hashemite, Abdullah, off the throne.

Could it really be that Arabs and Jews might bring peace to the region via this Arab initiative? It was a wild concept. But all the right people were telling me Mudar was the real deal.

We'd get peace for doing absolutely nothing at all!! We just had to support this guy, the self-described "putative prime minister of Jordan" and spread the word.

But what happened next was ugly. I found out the guy was a fake, but in a way that hurt me. I mean really hurt me. I'd lost my innocence in a deep and profound way.

I wrote up the entire story in a blog piece for the Times of Israel I called: My Lost Arab Hope. I called Mudar "M." I would link to the piece here, except that the Times of Israel removed the piece Tuesday, some four years after I wrote it, subsequent to this post on Facebook.

Here are some excerpts from that 2013 TOI piece:

I ask if I can interview him for a blog. We agree on a time for a Skype call. I wait. M doesn’t show.
Days later M apologizes, reschedules. Again, he is a no-show. He mentions something about being on the run again, more death threats.
Finally, we manage our Skype call. We get through a number of my questions. At one point, I think I hear a toilet flush. I pretend I don’t hear it. We agree he’ll answer the rest of my questions by email.
I wait. M doesn’t follow through.
Then one day, he sends me a link to a webpage all in Arabic. I can’t read Arabic. He swears up and down that the webpage is an anti-Israel article written by a well-known Arab Israeli journalist. One I respect.
The article, M tells me, was written many years ago. He swears up and down that it says what he says it says and that his sources are very high up.
It doesn’t sit right with me. I tell him I want to have someone translate the piece into English, so I can verify what he tells me.
M is offended. He makes me feel guilty for spurning his offer of truth. Is he not my friend, M asks? Would a friend lie to a friend?
I hem and haw, and hurt, he lets me go.
I look for someone to translate the article and find someone. He’s busy, perhaps tomorrow.
Before my translator friend can get to the work, M writes: it was all a huge mistake. The journalist he smeared the day before is a prince among Arab men.
I am gobsmacked.
And offended.
Had I spread the slander to my contacts, my credibility would now be in tatters. I would be reviled for sloppy work and for besmirching the name of a respected journalist.
I log on to Twitter and confront M’s tweet: “[Respected journalist M smeared the day before] is a prince among Arab men.”
It lights my fuse to read this. I tweet, “Funny. That’s not what you said yesterday.”
M messages me on Facebook. “My contacts misled me. I apologized to [said journalist]. It’s all been worked out. Please remove your tweet.”
I do so.
One week later, M messages me, “Dear precious varda, it was a moment of weakness and treason from someone I trust, I care for you much, and respect the wonderful things u ve always said and done.......I did injustice to [said journalist], and it was because of a sleeper who abused my trust......forgive my dear and I truly hope we start a new page at least as fellow zionists!”
And I see M has unfriended me.
It is a spear to the heart.
I try to reason with him. People who are “dear” and “precious” aren’t written off, I tell him.
M will not budge. He writes something a bit firmer, more hurtful, and blocks me.
. . .
M unblocks me. He sends me a friend request. He makes it seem chivalrous: he thought my actions showed I no longer want his friendship.
We chat. I tell him I’m not like him. I am no good at flowery language. My people are from Lithuania, renowned for being cold and unemotional.
M writes, “Ukraine has beautiful people, yet they hate Jews in such a strange fashion. I remember how when the Nazis arrived the locals took the initiative to round up Jews. Amazing, why so many people hate Jews.”
And suddenly I hear it. Not the error in geography. The trope.
The words trip off something essential inside me, turning my veins to black ice. Now I know him. Now.
Had he said, “Some of my best friends are black,” I would have laughed, would have appreciated the joke. But suddenly I know. I know it in my gut: M hates Jews absolutely.
Why is any of this at all interesting now? Because after all these years, the Jews are still being duped by Mudar Zahran, a man who claims to be a political refugee. The Jordan branch of the HSBC bank, meantime, published this advertisement shortly after Zahran left Jordan and arrived in London. The bank did this because Mudar owed the bank 47,000 Jordanian Dinars (the rough equivalent of $66,000), and his whereabouts were unknown. 
This is no secret. It's all on the web.
Mudar's own father very publicly and repeatedly condemned and disowned him. This too is easily found on the web. Now think what it means in the Arab culture when a father condemns a son, a culture most concerned with honor. It means that Mudar is an outcast. Since he is an outcast, no one can claim damages against his family. And this outcast has the stupid Jews duped that he could rule Jordan!

What I didn't say in my Times of Israel piece (because it hadn't yet happened, duh) is that approximately one year after I'd severed all contact with Zahran, someone purporting to be Israeli and Jewish threatened me in a private message on Facebook. I thought of going to the police, but did not. I'm told now that Zahran creates fake Jewish profiles on Facebook and threatens people. One of those people he threatened is way smarter than I, because that one person did file a police report. 

Aside from what people tell me and the threat I experienced, I've seen with my own eyes the abusive comments and obnoxious threats directed at a friend of mine, with Zahran calling her Abu Toameh's girlfriend, because she takes him to task for his libelous comments. 

What I don't get is how the guy continues to have so many followers when people like Ruthie Blum, Caroline Glick, and Harold Rhode are saying it straight out: HELLO-O. This guy's a fraud.

Excerpt from Caroline Glick's longer Facebook post

I mean, Gatestone Institute deleted his entire archive. GATESTONE INSTITUTE. You know, the Gatestone Institute of which Ambassador John Bolton is chairman? They deleted Mudar Zahran's archive. There must have been a good reason.

A post shared by Varda Epstein (@epavard) on

Khaled Abu Toameh, on the other hand, is an honest journalist for whom no one has a bad word—except for Mudar Zahran who has some kind of bug in his psychotic ear about the guy—is it jealousy???  Abu Toameh is one of the few writers I seek out when looking for something good, something real to read, knowing that whatever he writes will be the truth. There's no bias, no slant in his work. He's straight up. A professional. Which is why he won the 2014 Daniel Pearl Award. When Mudar ripped into Khaled, that's when the jig was up for me. It just did not pass the smell test.

Award-winning journalist Khaled Abu Toameh
Mudar's Jordan is Palestine Facebook page is rife with posts attacking Khaled Abu Toameh, to the point that it is practically an all-Khaled, all-the-time page. It's some kind of obsession with Zahran.

Happily, not everyone is duped.

And if you read Arabic, you can see that some Arabs are none too happy with the way Zahran manipulates information. For instance, Zahran uses photos from various Jordanian events, and pretends they are connected to his upcoming conference. That's a classic example of deception. The photos are obviously for illustrative purposes only. Zahran, however, creates a false impression that the people you see in the photos are connected to his conference and are his supporters. In Arabic he claims that Jordanians have been invited to the conference.

The comments are hot. There is much cursing and talk of suing the website, believed to be managed by Zahran. Zahran is accused of forgery and termed a deceiver.

Note that Zahran is posting his anti-Khaled screeds mostly under aliases with fake Facebook accounts, some of them "Jewish." Michael Ben Avraham and Michael Ben Abraham are, by the way, two of the names Zahran uses to fake people out about his Jewish support. You might have seen blogs by these Michaels, such as this one.

Abu Toameh says that Mudar's friend Rachel Avraham helps him with these aliases. Avraham posted a slanderous article under the byline Michael Ben Abraham for Jerusalem Online (JOL) where she was, at the time, an editor. The article was swiftly removed by her seniors and Abu Toameh was informed that Rachel Avraham had been relieved of her duties at JOL. After this, more slander-filled articles appeared, with a slight change in the spelling of the byline (Michael Ben Avraham). Abu Toameh' s lawyers are now preparing a libel suit against Rachel Avraham and JOL despite the removal of the article.

Both Rachel Avraham and Mudar Zahran continue to claim that Michael Ben Abraham is a real person and that he's a Republican Jew and lobbyist named Michael Ross.

Moving right along, here's some irony for you: what Mudar has done is to create a Jewish conspiracy in the flesh. He has the Jews trying to help him overthrow the King of Jordan! And the Arabs are talking about this! In Arabic. They see the upcoming "Jordan is Palestine" conference (slated for October 17) as part of a wider Israeli-Jewish conspiracy against Jordan.

The Arab media is mocking the fact that Zahran is affiliated with "extremist right wing Jews" who believe he can be the president of a Palestinian state in Jordan. The Arabs are saying: the Jews are helping Mudar Zahran overthrow the king (except they aren't, because no one in the Arab world takes Mudar Zahran seriously). Not a one of them supports him or would vote for him. But those stupid Jews. . . oh how they are throwing money at him to do this thing. It's a crazy Zionist conspiracy!

It's true what they say: the Jews supporting Zahran are some of the most right-wing, most religious Jews I know, and these oh-so-right-wing Jews are helping Zahran plan this foolish going nowhere Jewish conspiracy. They're helping him plan that conference. The only problem is financing it. To that end, a Gofundme campaign was initiated 18 days ago by the International Jewish-Muslim Dialogue Center (IJMDC).

If you Google the International Jewish-Muslim Dialogue Center (IJMDC) you'll find a Facebook page and this spammy-looking website with some dude named Michael Ross listed as "Executive Director" but who is actually the only member of the board listed under the plural heading "Board of Directors." There is no biographical information offered about this Michael Ross, no link, nothing. The Facebook page of the IJMDC, meanwhile, is all about Mudar Zahran and carries two reviews, one of which was written by Mudar Zahran.

In other words, the Gofundme campaign is organized by none other than Mudar Zahran. The good news is that in 18 days, he's only managed to raise 461 pounds (as of this writing) out of 18,000 pounds. Not going well at all. Tsk. That conference may have to be canceled.

But never mind, because really, what could Zahran viably bring to such a conference? The photo for the Facebook account of his "Shadow Secretary for Homeland Security" Naseem Gheewan, for instance, is of an U.S. pilot who died ten years ago.

At this point I want to shake my right wing fellow bloggers and friends who still support this nothing burger of a man, Mudar Zahran, and say to them, "What the hell is wrong with you??"


UPDATE: Reader David Fink reminded me that nothing ever disappears from the 'net. My Times of Israel article, My Lost Arab Hope, can be accessed HERE.

UPDATE (EOZ): Mudar Zahran is threatening to sue me (not for the first time), claiming everything Varda says here is a lie. So for the record - he disagrees with this post. He says he doesn't hate Jews. He says there was no toilet flushing. He gave me a laundry list of what he says are lies.

I'm sure that there are some Jews he likes. After all, some of them  have been supporting him. Outside of that, for the record, I believe Varda more than I believe him. I also believe Khaled Abu Toameh more than I believe him. And if he wants to sue me, go ahead.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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