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Paris, 5 August 2020 

“It was inevitable that the tragic ammonium nitrate blast in Beirut would set the stage for conspiracy theories, usually emanating from ‘fake news’ extremists or known hatemonger incitement,” stated Dr. Shimon Samuels, Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations.

It is worrying when it comes from a political commentator and broadcaster – in this case, British co-founder of Novara Media, whose content arguably fixates on the State of Israel.

Aaron Bastani – formerly Aaron Peters from his mother’s maiden name, changed to his paternal family surname from Iran, where his grandmother was, reportedly, Jewish.

Bastani was a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and lobbied for the rejection by the Labour Party of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) Definition of antisemitism. The Party thus accepted only a truncated version.

His most recent tweets include:

- 14 February 2020: “The founding of Israel took place in the context of racism,” adding in another statement: “Israel was indeed founded on racism, massacres and the international displacement of an entire people...”

- 28 June 2020: “Israel has occupied three of its neighbouring countries in recent decades...”

- The latest (apparently hastily removed): “Thermobaric weapon. Only one Air Force uses them so liberally.”

5 August 2020

“It would be nice to consider that he meant Iran, in order for Tehran to indirectly pin the blame on Israel,” suggested Samuels.

“A ‘conspiracy theorist’ would recall the British Telegraph revelation that ‘Terrorists linked to Iran [i.e. Hezbollah] were caught stockpiling tonnes of explosive materials in the outskirts of London in a secret British bomb factory.” In a later edition, the “explosive materials” were identified as “ammonium nitrate.”

Hezbollah sympathizers are calling victims of Beirut “martyrs” (Shaheed) rather than “casualties.”

Moreover, the Tribunal on the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, regarding Hezbollah complicity, was due to announce its verdict this week. The blast resulted in another postponement – an interesting conspiracy focussing on the payoff in Hezbollah favour.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened “to blow up Israel with chemicals from the Beirut blast.” At the same time, intelligence sources have noted that “Hezbollah was seeking to import ammonium nitrate to Lebanon via Syria”... Why? If it was already at hand in Beirut.

The tragedy is that, when the world most needs to come together to survive the pandemic hecatomb, there are countries and organizations bent on conspiracies.

“The Simon Wiesenthal Centre urges Twitter to be ever more vigilant regarding fake news,” concluded Samuels.