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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Did Al Akhbar get punk'd?

From Al Akhbar, later picked up by Hezbollah's Al Manar newspaper and many others:

The Lebanese government has said it will look into the legality of a “Lebanese society” at an American university hosting a joint event with an Israeli one.

The Lebanese Social Club (LSC) at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is organizing a charity fundraiser with the Israeli Leadership Council “for the disenfranchised children of Israel and Lebanon.”

The group is part of the Lebanese Collegiate Network (LCN), which Al-Akhbar revealed earlier this month is heavily sponsored by the CIA, leading to claims that it was little more than a recruitment center for the American spy network.

The tagline for the “Night of the Arts” event, scheduled for May 6 in the Ackerman Student Union at UCLA, says it “will be a grand celebration of the culture, passion, and ethos of the Israeli and Lebanese peoples.”

It adds “all profits will be divided equally 50/50 among orphanages in Israel and Lebanon,” without mentioning the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians killed by Israel in recent decades.

Adnan Mansour, Lebanese foreign minister, said the government was to look into whether the event was legal under Lebanese law.

“We will investigate whether the Lebanese Social Club consists of Lebanese citizens or Lebanese Americans,” he said.

Lebanon and Israel are in a state of war and according to Lebanese law it is illegal to communicate with any person from an enemy state.
Al Manar even has a copy of the poster for this event.

Only one problem: I cannot find any mention of this event anywhere besides Arab websites.

The UCLA Lebanese Social Club website is down, although the group certainly exists and has a national presence.

The Israeli Leadership Council has a webpage with listings of many events - but not a word about this one.

The poster looks like a typical college poster, complete with the logos of both these organizations. But it doesn't mention the names of the charities, for example.

 This is very fishy.

Was there a planned event that was canceled? If so, there would still be traces of it on the web.

Was this a hoax played against Arab newspapers? The article quotes a real person, who does go to UCLA:
Event co-organizer Patrick Malkoun, from the university's Lebanese Social Club, said he had not been aware of any legal issues concerning Lebanese citizens having dealings with Israelis.

"We are all here as college students to prove our worth in this world, what we can do in the business world. If we can put on events, if we can put on charity fundraisers, if we can contact people to show off communication skills and business skills," he said.

If this was true, I would imagine that Zionist organizations would be making a big deal out of cooperation between Arabs and Jews for charity. (Zionists seem to like things like that. Go figure.)

So I have a hard time believing that this was ever a real event, and while I also have a hard time thinking that some students set out to play a practical joke on Al Akhbar, that seems like a more likely explanation at this time.

The Arab and anti-Israeli blogosphere, for their part, are playing their roles to the hilt - each one of them aghast at the very idea that Lebanese and Israeli American students could possibly cooperate for charity. This story is all over the place.

Except for UCLA.