Anti-Israel Conspiracy Theories Appear in Arabic-Language Media in Wake of Sinai Massacre

Fars, Iran - November 27, 2017

November 30, 2017

November 24 witnessed the deadliest terror attack in Egypt’s history when gunmen detonated explosives at a Sufi mosque in the Sinai Peninsula and then sprayed the worshippers with bullets, killing more than 300 people and wounding more than 100. While no organization claimed responsibility for the attack, it is thought to have been carried out by local militants affiliated with the Islamic State.

Sufism, a branch of Islam, is a minority regarded by the Islamic State (ISIS) as heretical, as it deviates from their interpretation of early Sunni Islam.

Arabic language newspapers covering the attack focused on the danger posed by terrorist groups which target other Muslims, as well as a more general concerns of sectarianism and civil strife.

However, some newspapers carried conspiracy theories which baselessly blamed Israel for the attack, along with, in some instances, certain Western and Arab governments.

For example:

  • The UK-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi published a cartoon showing a Jewish figure representing Israel and another representing the United States fanning the flames beneath the globe, using as kindling “terrorism,” “disunity of brethren,” “separatist strife” and “sectarianism.”
  • The Arabic-language edition of Iran’s Fars news agency published a cartoon accusing Israel and Saudi Arabia of the attack, showing a militant carrying both countries’ flags overshadowing Sinai, with the caption “I am the mother of terrorism.”
  • One of Qatar’s biggest newspapers, al-Sharq, published an article asserting that Israel’s external intelligence service, the Mossad, was responsible along with Saudi Arabia for the massacre at al-Rawda. It asserted the claim was from “experts,” citing only a report by the British news site Middle East Eye. In fact, Middle East Eye had published nothing to that effect, which was confirmed by one of Middle East Eye’s reporters on social media Monday.
  • A column for the Ramallah-based Palestinian daily al-Hayat al-Jadida alleged that Israel and the U.S. were “those who stand behind” the attack, claiming they used its perpetrators as instruments to undermine Egypt’s stability.
  • A spokesperson on behalf of Sinai tribes, Aref al-Akur, made similar claims, baselessly asserting that Israel was behind the attack as part of a purported Israeli scheme to expel Sinai’s inhabitants and alleging that Israel was responsible for the creation of terrorist groups.

Despite the myriad of local and regional themes dominating the coverage of the attacks in Arabic-language newspapers, anti-Israel and anti-Western conspiracy theories continue to play a part in the public discourse. ADL recently documented similar cartoons asserting (without basis) Israeli responsibility for the ongoing diplomatic dispute in the Gulf between Qatar and several of its Arab neighbors. Similarly, ADL documented Arab media alleging that Israel was controlling the outcome of the last US election; propagating conspiracy theories whereby Israel was behind a series of coordinated attacks in Paris in 2015; claiming that Israel was behind the emergence of the Islamic State, and outrageously charging that Israel and the Jewish people perpetrated 9/11.