Turkish state-run media help launder rumours about Israel-UAE - analyst

Turkish state-run and pro-government media are pedalling unverified reports on United Arab Emirates and Israel by building on them to facilitate their entry into more mainstream media, said Seth Frantzman, an analyst and columnist for the Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Frantzman pointed to one particular report by state-run Anadolu news agency, which featured a Yemeni tribal leader accusing the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia of letting Israel onto the Yemeni island of Socotra. The report published on Sept. 1 referenced SouthFront website, which based the claim on another report from unidentified Arab and French sources.

Last month, Turkey’s regional rival the UAE became the first Gulf Arab country to reach an accord on normalising relations with Israel. The move was denounced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an outspoken critic of the Israeli government, as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause, prompting him to threaten suspension of relations with the UAE and withdraw his ambassador from Abu Dhabi. Israel’s enemy Iran and Turkey ally Qatar have also slammed the deal.

Turkey-Israel relations have been on a decline for a decade following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which ten Turkish activists were killed after Israeli forces attacked a Turkish-owned vessel that was part of a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza by delivering aid and humanitarian support.

Turkey’s state network TRT added to the story on Yemen on Sept. 3, claiming that “JForum, the official site of the French-speaking Jewish community in Paris, revealed earlier that the UAE and Israel are working to establish a spy base there,” Frantzman said.

The report referenced Ibrahim Farhat, a professor at Qatar’s Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, who said the “base” in Yemen would monitor Iranian activities and the latter was now “surrounded.”

Pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah also picked up the same report on Sept. 4, followed by the Middle East Monitor and Iran’s Press TV, Frantzman said, all referencing differing sources, including a JForum post from Aug. 30, which does not make it clear where the information in the report came from.

“The way that this story was laundered through several different media makes it difficult to verify or track down. The original sources appear to be anonymous,’’ Frantzman wrote, adding that such reports build on each other until they create a buzz and find their way into more-mainstream, English-language media.