Last week, a trove of hacked documents was released detailing the international operations of billionaire George Soros. The leak’s contents offered a window into the activism of one of the world’s most powerful liberal elites. Among the many items revealed in the tranche was the substantial web of Israel/Palestine organizations funded by Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF)—most critical of Israeli policy, and some critical of the Jewish state’s right to exist. One of the grantees listed was Wattan News, a Palestinian media outlet with over 2.7 million followers on Facebook, which received a hefty $405,000 from OSF from 2012 to 2014. An inquiry to OSF confirmed that Wattan remains a grantee today.
That same Wattan News, several bloggers soon observed, has been publishing anti-Semitic content in the form of an article series advocating “anti-Zionism” that has run for the past month. The first installment pushed the discredited conspiracy theory that today’s Jews are frauds who are descended from a people known as the Khazars, and then stole the mantle of the true Jews. (Thus, today’s Jews are not really the subjects of the Bible or native to the Middle East.) The second piece claimed that the Jews invented the myth of being a “chosen people” to manipulate and extort the gentiles. The third piece denied the historical Jewish connection to the land of Israel entirely. The fourth piece explicitly denied the Holocaust, citing notorious anti-Semites and deniers like David Irving and Ernst Zundel. Collectively, the series essentially denied Jewish peoplehood, history, and suffering.
On Monday, Tablet informed OSF that Wattan was distributing these anti-Semitic articles and asked the organization for comment. Soon after, the pieces were taken down from Wattan’s website, although no correction or apology was posted to educate misled readers. This morning, OSF issued the following statement condemning Wattan and promising better oversight in the future, though it did not withdraw funding:
The Open Society Foundations unequivocally condemn the anti-Semitic content published on Wattan News that promotes dangerous falsehoods about the Holocaust. We are shocked and disappointed that Wattan News, an organization we fund and one that has played an important role in contributing to informed debate on Israel and Palestine, would allow such deplorable content to appear on its website. The Open Society Foundations support Israeli and Palestinian civil society groups that defend democracy and human rights, and we firmly believe this work must be based on respectful, informed, and fact-based dialogue on all sides. Wattan News has informed us that they have removed the offending content which appeared in a column for outside contributors and are putting in place procedures to ensure that such a serious lapse in editorial oversight will not take place again.
Oddly, few mainstream media outlets have reported on the contents of the Soros leak, even as similar hacking dumps from groups like Wikileaks have received regular press write-ups. The Wattan News incident suggests that this neglect is a mistake—that there may be much more that is worth investigating in the leak’s contents, and that the public interest is ill-served by ignoring them.
Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.