With content that is generic at best, tone-deaf to the realities of the region, silly and propagandistic at worst, Huff Post Arabi was launched last month to great, albeit short-lived fanfare followed almost immediately by an avalanche of scathing critique, derision and collective ridicule from the Arab public.
The Arabic version of the famous, supposedly 'liberal' news blog has so far proved to be no different from those GCC-sponsored websites and royal sectarian news outlets that are a dime-a-dozen nowadays in the Arab World; and it's no wonder; the Arabic edition of the Huffington Post brings together a mish mash of former and current Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya employees, Arab Spring 'activists' and journalists, Islamic scholars, artists, a former intellectual turned lackluster President turned again intellectual in the shape of Tunisia's Muncef Al Marzouki and a couple of ISIS enthusiasts for good measure (more on that below!).
Huffpost Arabi is managed by former AlJazeera chief Wadah Khanfar, who is mostly credited for mainstreaming the Muslim Brotherhood group during his stint with the Qatari-based network, which ended with the complete transformation of that channel into the full-blown visual travesty and beacon of crude yellow journalism that it is today. And from the looks of it, Khanfar seems to be on the same track, with the same mission in mind for the Haffington Post Arabi website, whose editor-in-chief, Anas Foudah, is coincidentally (or not) yet another AlJazeera import.
Right out of the gate, you realize that the site serves, for all intents and purposes, as the new media lair for the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar. From the noticeably skewed editorial policies of its news content that accommodates the MB's political stance especially on Egypt and, dare I say, ideological fantasies, to the thinly veiled regressive and pro-Muslim Brotherhood political diatribe in its blog posts, Huffpost Arabi is nothing more than Al-Jazeera.net 2.0, a lighter, only slightly tamer version of that overtly sectarian cesspool, peppered with just enough pallid liberal sprinklings to warrant that famous green banner at the top of the page; in other words, brazen GCC propaganda steeped in anti-Iran, anti-Shia sectarian discourse, not to mention cheerleading the GCC club's military (mis)adventrures in the region, most notably the wars in Syria and Yemen, along with the rest of the Saudi and Qatari owned mainstream media.
Right on (petro-dollar) cue, in Huffpost Arabi, the Saudi-led war on Yemen, which has so far left more than 3,000 dead and untold scores of others maimed and wounded, is a mere 'military confrontation' between forces of 'legitimate' President Abed Rabboh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi militia, which is not mentioned once without overblowing the group's threadbare connection to Iran.
Purported atrocities attributed to the Houthis are routinely highlighted in the site's content and blog posts (which are written of course by well-known Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood aficionados), while the Saudi-led coalition's daily war crimes and their extensive use of internationally banned weapons are deliberately downplayed if not completely censored out of the site's clearly biased coverage of the ongoing war on the Arab World's poorest country, biased in favor of the aggressor, of course.
Evidently, getting even close to (let alone criticizing) the backward regimes of the GCC club is a definite a no-no for the Arabic version of the Huffpost.
Not only that; the site's pro-war coverage is compounded with a slew of context-deficient blog posts that not only support the ongoing Saudi genocidal campaign in Yemen but advocate the break up of the country into separate warring regions. On July 30th, the site published an insidious blog entry by Mourad Hashim, a Yeminis journalist and former head of Al Jazeera's Sanaa bureau (why am I not surprised?), titled "Yes... We All Want Federalism", shamelessly calling for the actual partitioning of his own country into feuding federal mini-statelets along sectarian lines as the only foreseeable solution for Yemen after the "Houthi militia waged their war on legitimacy". Is that what the site's founder, Arianna Huffington meant when she promised that the site "will showcase the untapped potential of the region"?
Promoting the division of Arab countries seems to be a recurrent theme in the HuffPost Arabi: reporting on the latest terrorist attack which targeted a market in Baghdad and left at least 60 people killed and 200 wounded, the site again floated the idea of dividing another Arab country, this time Iraq, when it headlined in large bold letters: "Is Partition THE Solution for Iraq?" followed by the sub-headline "The largest suicide blast to hit Iraq since Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took office".
Curiously; the Huffington Post's English website ran a tamer headline for the terrorist bombing story than that of its Arabic counterpart: "Truck Packed with Explosives Blows up in Baghdad; Dozens Dead and Hundreds Wounded".
When it comes to Syria, the site fares no better (if not worse). Syria is given the standard GCC-spun, hyperbolic media treatment where everything is seen, dissected and spewed out to the public through a strict sectarian prism. Take this for instance: when Syrian authorities allegedly arrested a relative of President Bashar Al Assad on suspicion of shooting an army officer, sparking protests in the port city of Latakia, Huffpost Arabic, and in true (and unmistakable) Al-Jazeera fashion, headlined: "Huge Alawite protests in Latakia call for the execution of Assad's cousin" and "Assad arrests his cousin who enraged Alawites by killing a high ranking officer" (italics are mine), with the word "Alawites" being one of the few tags for both news items.
Lessons of the day: 1) Latakia's population is 100% Alawite. And 2) the beacon of liberal media has no qualms wading into sectarian waters alongside the worst of the GCC's ever-growing roster of gutter journalism.
Going through the site's blog platform, of which Arianna Huffington said she was most excited, is an exercise in intrigue, befuddlement and frustration; from weird articles disparaging "Selfies" as a threat to the Arab and Islamic worlds (evidently selfie culture is deemed more of a threat than federalism and sectarian discord, which the site and its writers constantly preach), to outright homophobia. Rhe blog section is a menagerie of chauvinism, gender-bias and reactionary politics heavily laced with Muslim Brotherhood flavor and GCC propaganda.
But perhaps the biggest head-scratcher of all is seeing the name of Hakam Al Baba among the site's main contributing bloggers. Let me tell you more about this particular Huffpost writer:
Hakam al Baba is a Syrian screenwriter, best known for writing some of the silliest and most dreadful 'comedies' ever shown on Syrian television. In fact as a scenarist, Al Baba managed to single-handedly nearly-kill the career of Dureid Lahham, one of Syria's most prominent actors, a theater, movie and television icon, when he wrote the widely criticized and derided TV comedy series "Abul Hana's Dreams". But that was a long time ago.