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Jan 28, 2024

In a falsehood-filled attack, the Washington Post’s ardently pro-Israel Elizabeth Dwoskin attacked The Grayzone’s factual reporting with “research” from a spook-infested outfit closely tied to the Anti-Defamation League.

Dwoskin also relied on an Israeli special forces vet heading a “Digital Iron Dome” campaign to censor social media criticism of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

On January 21, The Washington Post published an article purporting to expose a terrifying and “spreading” phenomenon: so-called “Oct. 7 truther’ groups” who “say [the] Hamas massacre was a false flag.” Unable to name those “truther groups,” the piece’s author, Elizabeth “Lizza” Dwoskin, cobbled together a random assortment of comments by 4chan and Reddit users to create the sense that antisemitic conspiracism was not only sweeping the internet, but taking over city councils across the country.

The piece took direct aim at The Grayzone, maliciously associating our factual reporting on friendly fire orders which led to many Israeli deaths on October 7 with Holocaust denial.

The Post’s Dwoskin went on to falsely claim that “articles on… Grayzone [sic] exaggerated” reports that Israelis were killed by the Israeli army “to suggest that most Israeli deaths were caused by friendly fire, not Hamas.” Yet no one associated with The Grayzone has ever claimed that “most” Israelis who died on October 7 were killed by the Israeli army, nor has it published any material suggesting October 7 was a “false flag.”

The author of the Post’s shoddily-sourced smear job, Elizabeth Dwoskin, is an ideologically committed Zionist who once referred to Palestinians as “desert Bedouins without a sense of national identity as we know it today.” 

During a phone call with The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate during their livestream, Dwoskin refused to discuss her Zionist sympathies and hung up when asked about her reference to Palestinians as “desert Bedouins.” She neglected to quote from the on-the-record call in her piece.

A close review of Dwoskin’s factually-challenged hit piece reveals her work was guided by a shadowy “think tank” manned by a team of former national security state apparatchiks, as well as current and former US intelligence officers. Known as the National Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), the pro-censorship outfit was founded by a former researcher for one of the Israel lobby’s key pressure groups: the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Washington Post relies on ADL spinoff behind hysterical reports on foreign meddling

According to the Washington Post’s Dwoskin, NCRI is a mere “nonprofit tracking disinformation.” 

The NCRI, for its part, bills itself as “the world’s foremost expert in identifying and forecasting the treat [sic] and spread of misinformation and disinformation across social media platforms.” Founded in 2018 by the Rutgers University based “counter-disinformation” operative Joel Finkelstein, the outfit has emerged as a one-stop shop for legacy media publications pushing paranoia about nefarious activity by foreign actors.

A quick glance at media reports dependent on NCRI research makes the organization’s purpose abundantly clear. A Fortune Magazine writeup of an NCRI study claimed with threadbare evidence that “Russian propagandists” are “trying to sow distrust of COVID vaccines,” while an “exclusive” piece in TIME — based largely on the organization’s flimsy claims — screamed in its headline, “Iran Steps up Efforts to Sow Discord Inside the US.”

The hysterical tone of this coverage is driven by the NCRI’s “research.” Its most recent report, bearing a typically bombastic and Strangelovian title, is instructive: “A Tik-Tok-ing Timebomb: How TikTok’s Global Platform Anomalies Align with the Chinese Communist Party’s Geostrategic Objectives.”

The official NCRI website previously boasted of “affiliations” with George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Anti-Defamation League. The section of the site which referenced these affiliations was deleted in 2021 after a report by The Grayzone exposing the supposedly independent group’s connections to the US national security state. The “About” page was removed entirely from the site the following month.

The exact nature of the relationships between NCRI and its affiliates is unclear, but they appear to be quite intimate. As previously documented by Tech Inquiry, “according to NCRI founder Joel Finkelstein’s LinkedIn profile, he was simultaneously a research fellow with the ADL and running NCRI between December 2018 and October 2020.” In 2019, the ADL announced it was partnering with NCRI “to produce a series of reports that take an in-depth look into how extremism and hate spread on social media – and provide recommendations on how to combat both.”

A section removed from NCRI’s website promoting affiliating with the ADL, Soros and Koch

Claiming a danger to Jews “unprecedented in history,” the ADL released a report this January citing a whopping 3000 antisemitic incidents since October 7, amounting to a 360% increase in anti-Jewish activity. However, as The Grayzone’s Wyatt Reed revealed, the ADL reclassified protests against Israel’s assault on Gaza as “antisemitic incidents” to pad its report.

In all, the ADL claimed that 45% of the 2031 supposed antisemitic incidents it tracked were actually “anti-Israel rallies.”

To attack The Grayzone, Washington Post turns to Israeli special forces vet behind “Digital Iron Dome” censorship campaign NCRI was not the only national security state cutout to be featured prominently in the Washington Post hit piece. The publication also cites Achiya Schatz, director of FakeReporter, which the Post’s Dwoskin generously describes as “an Israeli watchdog organization dedicated to fighting disinformation and hate speech online.”

Unmentioned entirely is that fact that — according to his profile on Middle East Initiatives — Schatz “served between 2005 and 2008 as a soldier and commander in Duvdevan,” a notorious plainclothes Israeli special forces unit best known for serving as the inspiration for Netflix hasbara show Fauda. Duvdevan soldiers are actively involved in Israel’s ongoing assault on the besieged Gaza Strip. 

Schatz’s FakeReporter has spun out an initiative called “Digital Iron Dome” which allows users to “report inappropriate, hateful, antisemitic or anti-Zionist content with a single click,” according to Israel21c, a pro-Israel propaganda outlet. In other words, Schatz is leading a campaign to pressure social media platforms to censor content that casts the Israeli military in a negative light.

FakeReporter claims a 55% success rate in requests to censor “inflammatory content” appearing on social media, leading to suspensions for 40% of the accounts it targeted.

From FakeReporter’s Digital Iron Dome webpage

While baselessly accusing The Grayzone of distorting testimony by an Israeli pilot who appeared to open fire on civilians at the Nova music festival, Schatz – and by extension, the Washington Post – ignored the publication of a blockbuster investigation that confirmed our reporting on friendly fire orders on October 7.

According to a January 10 report by Yediot Ahronoth, Israel’s most widely read newspaper, the Israeli military ordered all combat units on October 7 to stop Palestinian fighters from returning to Gaza with captives “at all costs.” It therefore issued a directive “to use the ‘Hannibal Procedure’ [authorizing the killing of Israeli captives] although without clearly mentioning this explicit name.” The Israeli outlet also revealed that 70 vehicles came under attack “by a combat helicopter, an anti-tank missile or a tank, and at least in some cases everyone in the vehicle was killed.” 

On January 23, Grayzone editor-in-chief Max Blumenthal wrote Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee and over a dozen of her colleagues to alert them to Dwoskin’s factual errors, unsourced allegations, omissions, and record of anti-Palestinian propaganda. 

We also inquired about whether the Washington Post routes stories on the Israeli assault on Gaza through its Jerusalem bureau, as CNN does – a practice placing its reporters at the mercy of the Israeli military censor. 

Over 24 hours since emailing Washington Post leadership, we have not received a response.

The full text of Blumenthal’s email is below:

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