‘Wash­ing­ton Post’ slammed for pub­lish­ing op-ed by an­ti­semitic Houthi leader

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

The Wash­ing­ton Post was crit­i­cized over the week­end for run­ning an oped by Mo­hammed Ali al-Houthi, leader of the Houthi re­bel­lion in Ye­men. The slo­gan of the Houthi rebels is “death to Amer­ica, death to Is­rael, curse the Jews, vic­tory to Islam.”

Sum­mer Nasser, a New York-based Ye­meni ac­tivist, ex­pressed shock in a se­ries of tweets. “How can The Wash­ing­ton Post al­low a Houthi that kills thou­sands of Ye­menites and si­lences jour­nal­ists by killing them, to write an Oped-Ed?”

Peter Sal­is­bury, a se­nior con­sult­ing fel­low at Chatham House, wrote that he never thought he'd see the day that Houthi would have an op-ed at the ma­jor US news­pa­per.

The Houthi leader has been lead­ing a re­bel­lion against the Ye­meni govern­ment. In 2015 when the Houthis were within dis­tance of cap­tur­ing Aden and the strate­gic straits of Hor­muz, a coali­tion led by Saudi Ara­bia in­ter­vened. Since then, mil­lions have been dis­placed by fight­ing, thou­sands have died of famine, and Ye­men, a coun­try al­ready rife by ri­val­ries and ter­ror, has been a cen­ter of re­gional con­flicts be­tween Riyadh and Tehran. Iran has trans­ferred mis­sile tech­nol­ogy to the Houthis and they have fired bal­lis­tic missiles at Saudi Ara­bia, threat­en­ing Riyadh. The US and some other western gov­ern­ments have sup­ported the Saudis. How­ever, the war has be­come con­tro­ver­sial as im­ages of starv­ing Ye­me­nis cir­cu­late in me­dia.

Ye­men has been in fo­cus re­cently af­ter Saudi dis­si­dent jour­nal­ist and for­mer in­sider Ja­mal Khashoggi was mur­dered in the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul in Oc­to­ber. Khashoggi op­posed the war in Ye­men, but he was also a pas­sion­ate critic of Iran's threat to Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies. Nev­er­the­less, The Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished the op-ed by the Houthi leader in which he claimed, “We want peace for Ye­men but Saudi air strikes must stop.”

Many com­men­ta­tors, par­tic­u­larly those who sup­port Saudi Ara­bia or op­pose Iran's in­volve­ment in Ye­men, have been crit­i­cal of the op-ed.

“Free­dom of speech is one thing, but with The Wash­ing­ton Post giv­ing a plat­form to Houthis, a deeply anti-Western and an­ti­semitic ter­ror­ist group sup­ported by Iran, this is in­cite­ment,” wrote Ghanem Nu­seibeh, founder of Cor­ner­stone Global As­so­ciates. The Na­tional in the United Arab Emirates, which is an ally of Saudi Ara­bia in Ye­men, also crit­i­cized the oped.

Ye­me­nis who sup­port the govern­ment also were sur­prised to see the rebel leader in print in the US, a coun­try which the Houthi rebels wish death upon. This is es­pe­cially true since pro-govern­ment views in Ye­men have not been heard in the US and crit­ics won­der why the Houthis, which si­lence dis­sent in their own ar­eas, re­ceive ac­cess to a plat­form in the US.

But oth­ers found the op-ed in­ter­est­ing and im­por­tant. Trita Parsi of the Na­tional Ira­nian Amer­i­can Coun­cil, which was sym­pa­thetic to the Iran Deal, wrote that the oped ap­peared linked to the mur­der of Khashoggi, who was a Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist. Sig­urd Neubauer, an an­a­lyst who fo­cuses on the Mid­dle East, said that “it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber this: peace is not made with friends but rather with en­e­mies.”

NADWA DAWSARI, a non-res­i­dent fel­low at the Project on Mid­dle East Democ­racy, said that it was sur­pris­ing to see the Houthi leader at an Amer­i­can news­pa­per given the fact that the Houthis have “forcibly dis­ap­peared and tor­tured dozens of jour­nal­ists.”

The Wash­ing­ton Post's slo­gan is “democ­racy dies in dark­ness,” which ap­peared ironic given the op-ed. “There are count­less voices that would be bet­ter suited to honor the legacy of Khashoggi than vari­a­tions of those who killed him,” wrote Has­san Has­san, a se­nior re­search fel­low at the Pro­gram on Ex­trem­ism at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity.

More trou­bling is the Houthi slo­gan, which is openly an­ti­semitic. “Death to Is­rael, Curse the Jews” make up the slo­gan chanted at Houthi ral­lies, printed on official flags and even on stu­dent cards at the univer­sity. This makes the Houthis more openly an­ti­semitic than Hezbol­lah or the Ira­nian regime.

Most Western news­pa­pers do not pub­lish op-eds by Hezbol­lah, which is viewed as a ter­ror­ist group in the US. How­ever, some have pub­lished op-eds by Iran's for­eign min­is­ter. In 2007, Columbia Univer­sity hosted a speech by Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, a Holo­caust de­nier. Like the op-ed, the speech by Ah­madine­jad was con­tro­ver­sial and he was con­demned at the time by univer­sity of­fi­cials.

The op-ed ap­pears to come at a time when some in the US see the con­flict in Ye­men through a more par­ti­san lens, ac­cus­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of not putting enough pressure on Saudi Ara­bia to end the con­flict.

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