The Biden administration, in its efforts to fight the spread of disinformation in the Middle East, awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to an anti-Israel nonprofit that has pushed fake news about the Israel-Hamas war.
The State Department gave $573,000 on Oct. 1 to MENAACTION Inc., a Virginia-based nonprofit, to protect "media and society against disinformation" and to train Jordanian journalists how to identify "fake news," according to federal spending records.
It’s a topic that MENAACTION’s founders know all about. Cofounder Chris Aboukhaled pushed Hamas’s claim that Israel bombed Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza. The rocket that struck the hospital was actually fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another terrorist group in Gaza. MENAACTION's other cofounder, Mohammed Abu Dalhoum, who also suggested that Israel was behind the bombing, claimed Israel’s military response to Hamas "isn’t self-defense" and accused Israel of "genocide." Experts agree that Israel’s targeted retaliatory strikes against Hamas do not constitute genocide.
The grants to a group behind that kind of rhetoric could raise concerns about the administration’s ability to curtail disinformation in the Middle East. It also raises questions about the Biden administration’s funding for both anti-Israel groups and initiatives to fight disinformation. Earlier this year, the White House tapped the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an anti-Israel advocacy group, to serve on its "national strategy to counter anti-Semitism." The White House scrubbed references to CAIR’s role on the task force this week after the group’s leader said he was "happy to see" Hamas fighters attack Israel.
The State Department recently awarded $260,000 to a Palestinian university that hailed Hamas as "righteous martyrs," and another known as a hotbed of Hamas activity in the Gaza Strip. The Department of Homeland Security awarded millions of dollars to mosques that have called for the annihilation of Jews to mosques as part of a program to protect against terrorist attacks.
MENAACTION, which says it "advocates for the rights of Middle Eastern youth and the Middle East in general," has been highly critical of the Israeli government and of what it refers to as the "Israeli occupying forces" in Gaza and the West Bank. Dalhoum, the MENAACTION cofounder, suggested Secretary of State Antony Blinken could not serve as an impartial mediator in negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders because he is Jewish.
Details of MENAACTION’s State Department grant are unclear. The agency and MENAACTION did not respond to requests for comment.
The administration’s grants to MENAACTION are part of a broad initiative to stop the spread of disinformation on hot-button political issues. But the cause has stirred controversy, since many of the organizations leading the charge have liberal bias, or have themselves pushed fake news.
Last year, the Department of Homeland Security formed the Disinformation Governance Board, led by Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation researcher who pushed false narratives about Hunter Biden’s laptop and Donald Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia.
The Biden administration has awarded contracts to NewsGuard to help the military spot "misinformation." Conservatives have criticized NewsGuard for what they claim is the group’s anti-conservative bias and its Democrat-heavy employee roster. NewsGuard cofounder Steven Brill pushed the false claim that the release of Hunter Biden’s laptop in 2020 was "a hoax perpetrated by the Russians."