The anti-Israel propagandists who faked the “Amina Arraf” Gay Girl blog

This is a cross post by Judy of Adloyada

The worst and most irresponsible internet hoax for some considerable time– the Amina Arraf hoax–has now been exposed.

The supposed “Gay Girl in Damascus blogger”, who was supposed to have been arrested and abducted by the Syrian regime, has turned out to be an invention of a couple of extreme anti-Israel activists, Tom MacMaster and his partner Britta Froelicher.

MacMaster, who  is presently studying and working in Scotland, and is very active in Edinburgh University’s Students for Justice in Palestine, has admitted having written every one of the posts supposedly written by an out lesbian in Damascus. This is a hoax which he has been running since 2007.

It’s yet to emerge how he got hold of the photos of the young woman, Jelena Lecic, featured in the YouTube video above,whose image was appropriated by him and presented as that of Amina. The Guardian used those images, and went on using others of Jelena, even after she protested about her identity theft.

Froelicher, according to today’s Harry’s Place post, has a deep interest in Syria.

She presented a paper to the British Society of Middle East Studies this year, in which she argued:

The external perception of Syria’s economy is relatively negative. Most scholars find that Syria is moving into a Russian-style ‘crony capitalism’, in which well-connected individuals have de-facto monopolies with the government’s blessing. […] My research hypothesizes that the reasons for this course of development have little to do with culture and religion or that – as the ‘transition paradigm’ tried to claim – any particular form of development is ‘natural’. Rather, the negative external perceptions of Syria’s economy also impact the desire and ability of western governments to interact positively with Syria, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of mistrust and suspicion. Furthermore, security concerns deepen an existing conservatism towards reform internally.

Froelicher is an associate fellow at the University of St. Andrews. She is researching the topic  ”Economic Reform and the Syrian Textile Industry“. The University of St Andrews has been taking money from dubious Syrian sources for promoting research which happens to burnish the cultural credentials of Syria.

Some of the posts from “Amina Arraf” tried to paint the Syrian regime as not as repressive as the western publicity suggested. Maybe MacMaster was planning to resolve her apparent abduction with a sudden release with her proclaiming how kindly she’d been treated by Assad’s regime.

He previously repeatedly denied to The Electronic Intifada that he was “Amina Arraf”. The Electronic Intifada, itself also a strongly anti-Israel blog, deserves credit for continuing to question and research the veracity of the Amina Arraf blog and MacMaster’s and Froelich’s connections to it, despite such categorical denials as this one:

I am not the blogger in question. Whomever that person ‘really’ is, I have doubtless interacted with her at some point. I do not know further than that about her. When I first read the news story, I momentarily thought I had an idea who she was. As time has progressed that seems much less likely. I understand there are a number of unusual coincidences regarding the blogger and either me or my wife. Those are, as far as I am aware, simply unusual. I am not going to make more of that.

If MacMaster does indeed presently hold an academic post, he deserves to be sanctioned for creating and promoting this particular bit of “hoaxing”– he’s shown himself to be a hardened liar and deceiver who shouldn’t be allowed near impressionable students.

Not only is he pretty well unrepentant about what he’s done, but he uses his admission of the hoax to try and get on a moral high horse about the supposed “liberal orientalism” of the people he deceived:

I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

Some of the posts from “Amina Arraf” tried to paint the Syrian regime as not as repressive as the western publicity suggested. Maybe MacMaster was planning to resolve her apparent abduction with a sudden release with her proclaiming how kindly she’d been treated by Assad’s regime.

But the supposed beautiful lipstick lesbian had quite a turn of phrase when it came to characterizing the people of Israel and the actions of its governments and people. Quite something to know that every word of this supposedly authentic Syrian Arab voice came from Mr Tom MacMaster, sometime of Georgia USA, now of Scotland and Edinnburgh University’s Students for Justice in Palestine.

As soon as I post this, I know, the defenders of the Holy Nation will come and denounce me, will ask why it is that I do not see their cause as holy and my own people, my own heritage, my own history, as nothing more than the squawkings of baboons.

Don’t laugh; I am sure they will come. And they will again and again demonstrate their arrogance and their ignorance. When not claiming that their innate superiority in all things means that democracy is not for the likes of me (after all, how else to justify their state?) or that we are all needing just a firm, pale hand to guide us, they will show their ignorance of history.

I for one know my own history. And I know my own country. I know that Jaulan was lost after the Syrians had agreed to cease fire. I know who started that war; it wasn’t us. I know that the Israelis hold Jaulan because they would steal our water and need a nice platform to keep Damascus in their gunsights. I know that there is no difference between what keeps them there and what took Saddam to Kuwait … I know of American sailors who died to keep the world from knowing … I know that their own generals admitted that all the ‘vicious wicked Syrian attacks’ were provoked by them, not us …

I know also of the ethnic cleansing that they undertook up there; 131,000 people made homeless so that Russian migrants might have a place to illegally live.

And whatever happens in Palestine, no Syrian can forget that they stole our land and made our people homeless.

And we also know who here was guilty of collusion; we know who worked closest with the Soviets then to start the war, who it was who gave the orders to pull back troops from impregnable strongholds on the Jaulan, who it was who would surrender our patrimony without a shot;

The one who gave those orders, the order that, for what it’s worth, meant the death of my father’s older brother, now has a son. And that son is called the President.

Every Syrian knows that; every Syrian knows that Traitor of the Naksa’s second son is President and that another runs his squads of killers. Every Syrian knows that Bashar has never lifted a finger to redeem Jaulan.

So when the lying liars and propagandists, the makers of hasbara and singers of paeans to the so-called Chosen claims that “Bashar tricked us into killing people (if you can call mere Arabs humans and not two-legged dogs) so as to distract fromhis own crimes”, tell them to stuff it. They lie.