From Berkeley to LA Times: Suhauna Hussain’s Journey In Unethical Journalism

From student editor responsible for the publication of a notorious cartoon oozing antisemitic motifs to Los Angeles Times tech writer practicing unethical journalism in service of the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement, it was a short road for Suhauna Hussain.

In 2017, as an Opinion Editor of University of California, Berkeley’s Daily Cal, Hussain approved the publication of a virulently antisemitic cartoon depicting a spider-shaped Alan Dershowitz hiding behind a mask of liberalism while his foot crushed a Palestinian man and his blood-drenched hand cupped an Israeli soldier shooting a young Palestinian civilian. At the time, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ slammed the image as “offensive, appalling and deeply disappointing” and charged that “its anti-Semitic imagery connects directly to the centuries-old ‘blood libel’ that falsely accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder.”

The subsequent apologetic editor’s note citing the “need for a more critical editing eye, and a stronger understanding of the violent history and contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism,” apparently had little lasting impact on Hussain’s journalistic compass for fair and professional reporting about Israel and Jews.

Last year, she was one of at least 10 Los Angeles Times journalists who repudiated the fundamental values of ethical journalism when she endorsed the open letter signed by hundreds of journalists calling for advocacy reporting featuring a fixed mold starring Israeli oppressors imposing “military occupation and apartheid” and hapless Palestinian victims (“From journalists, to journalists: Why reporting on Palestine has to change”).

Hussain’s commitment to this “contextualized truth,” as the renegade journalists call it, is readily apparent in her March 15 Los Angeles Times article, “A Worker Objected to Google’s Israel military contract. Google told her to move to Brazil.”

One might think that Israel’s “military occupation and apartheid” would be far afield for a tech reporter, but that’s the thing about “contextualized truth”: it enables the writer to bend, massage and contort both subject and facts at will. What’s relevant is what serves the predetermined essential narrative of “Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.” 

And so a tech writer manufactures a way to write about Israeli’s military occupation.

The synthesis of content to fit the false frame of “Israel’s military occupation” begins with the headline citing “Google’s Israeli military contract.” The article itself likewise characterizes Project Nimbus as “a $1.2-billion contract Google and Amazon Web Services entered into with the Israeli military and government.”

In fact, the Nimbus Project, as Haaretz put it, is “the billion-dollar plan to create one cloud platform for the entirety of the Israeli state apparatus sans the defense establishment.” In other words, far from an “Israeli military contract,” the Israeli government contract excludes the country’s military. Haaretz‘s Yossi Melman explained that Project Nimbus 

was the joint initiative of the accountant general in the Finance Ministry and the Government Information and Communications Technology Authority, then in the Prime Minister’s Office and today in the Economy and Industry Ministry. The main purpose of the Nimbus project was to move all government computer systems to cloud based computing – except for the military and security systems. This would enable better and easier access, and remotely, to all the shared data. The idea was to make things easier for citizens, prevent the need to buy and manage specific computer systems for every application and to cut costs for purchasing and managing computer software and infrastructure. …

Officials in the Finance Ministry told Haaretz that the National Cyber Directorate, IDF, National Security Council and the Director of Security of the Defense Establishment were all included in the brainstorming process – even though Nimbus includes only civilian data and not classified information from security and defense organizations such as the Shin Bet security service, Mossad, IDF, Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and defense industries. The classified defense and security information is stored without any connection to civilian networks. Or in other words, the defense establishment has its own sort of private cloud that operates from very well protected underground bunkers and control rooms. 

So much for the Israeli military contract.

Hussain’s next “contextualized truth” marker turns up with respect to the May 2021 conflict between Hamas and Israel, the backdrop of the journalists’ anti-journalism letter and a subject which its authors directly address, or rather, finesse. The contextualized truthers explain in their open letter:

When Israel attacked Gaza, media outlets framed it as a “conflict” between two equal entities, ignoring the total asymmetry in power. Under the guise of objectivity, rockets fired at Israel — which caused significantly less damage than Israeli airstrikes — were covered just as much as Israel attacking medical facilities and leveling entire residential buildings, clouding the nearly one-sided scale of violence and destruction.

They do not note that Hamas, a designated terror organization, initiated violence by firing off rockets towards Jerusalem and towns in central Israel, committing a war crime with each firing. They do not even say that Hamas, or Palestinians, fired rockets at Israel, opting for the passive voice to conceal Palestinian culpability: “rockets fired at Israel.” They do not note that “rockets fired at Israel” caused significantly less damage than Israeli airstrikes only because Israel heavily invested in building protective shelters for its civilians, while Hamas heavily invested in weaponry which it deliberately placed among its civilians. Information and facts which contradict the “contextualized truth” are necessarily discarded.

Hussain’s preference for anti-Israel advocacy at the expense of ethical journalism dedicated to the “free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough” dictates her egregiously distorted account of the May conflict, egregiously reworked as “an assault on Gaza by Israel that killed more than 250 people.”

The free expungement of information in the name of promoting the anti-Israel cause is the modus operandi driving Hussain’s entire premise: that Google is retaliating against employee Ariel Koren because of her leadership role in the widespread grassroots campaign opposing the “military” contract. Hussain writes that Koren

led efforts to draft a letter among Google and Amazon workers that criticized Project Nimbus, a multiyear plan to open data centers in Israel and provide infrastructure for a full suite of cloud services to the government and military. The letter said the program would facilitate surveillance of Palestinians and the expansion of Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international lawThe letter, which has amassed hundreds of employee signatures, urged Google to cut ties with the Israeli military. Koren was one of two Google employees who spoke to media outlets publicly about the push.

Thus, in the name of “contextualized truth,” Hussain fails to reveal that Koren and two others were the only Google and Amazon employees to sign their names to the letter. The rest of the purported hundreds of employees were anonymous. In other words, it has not been verified that anyone at Google beyond Koren and her colleague Gabriel Schubiner ever endorsed the anti-Nimbus letter published last October in the Guardian. But Hussain covers up this essential information, “contextualizing” Koren and Schubiner as the only two who “spoke to media outlets publicly about the push.” 

(As for Hussain’s assertion that “500 Google workers” rallied behind Koren, “sign[ing] a petition accusing Google leadership of ‘unjustly retaliating’ against Ariel Koren,” CAMERA has been unable to locate and verify the petition. Were the reported 500 petition signatures anonymous, and therefore unverifiable, just like the Guardian signatures?)

Moreover, Hussain’s “contextualized truth” dictates the purging of all information indicating anything other than a grassroots employee campaign against Nimbus. Thus, The Los Angeles Times’ Hussain ignores extensive data which counters the “contextualized truth” embraced by the BDS movement. The Jerusalem Post reported shortly after the publication of the Guardian letter:

However, pro-Israel activists and researchers have asserted that the timing of the #NoTechForApartheid launch and the activist affiliations of Google and Amazon employees involved in the campaign indicate that the letters were not the spontaneous grassroots efforts of concerned employees, but the result of a network of anti-Israel organizations working in concert.

Internet archives show that the #NoTechForApartheid website domain was registered on August 17, almost two months prior to the letter. Critics such as writer and researcher Emily Schrader have asserted that this strongly suggests foreknowledge of The Guardian and NBC letters’ draftings.

Upon launch, 42 organizations had already endorsed the campaign, with another eight signing later. According to experts The Jerusalem Post consulted with, it is unlikely that such a broad coalition of NGOs could be created within less than two days. …

“Given their lack of transparency, we can’t definitively comment on the authenticity of the campaign. But the notion that it’s grassroots stretches credulity,” said CAMERA’s director of communications Jonah Cohen. “Just look at the organizations who’ve ‘endorsed’ the website – they’re well-funded anti-Israel propaganda groups. Executives at Google and Amazon ought to raise a skeptical eyebrow at the whole thing.”

CAMERA UK maintained that the Guardian letter was not a grassroots effort, but “an astroturf propaganda stunt by the anti-Zionist extremists of [Jewish Voices for Peace] and the just-as-toxic ‘MPower Change’ – Linda Sarsour’s group.” About the five Palestinians featured on the “No Tech for Apartheid” site, CAMERA UK wrote:

Ahmad Abu ShammalhAkram AbunahlaIsraa MusafferJan Amin and Baraah Qandeel are from the hard-core BDS propaganda group ‘we are not numbers‘ – which means every single one is an active BDS propagandist. Even worse – all five of these stories were only added to the ‘we are not numbers’ website on 10th October 2021- just two days before the Guardian letter was published.

The person who added all their stories to the site was their ‘mentor’ Catherine Baker from the Palestine Poster Archive. This proves that the whole thing was coordinated in preparation for the launch by players in the BDS movement. Catherine Baker just happens to work alongside groups like Mondoweiss and JVP – who ‘coincidentally’ rushed to promote the campaign.

Hussain writes that the petition in favor of Koren states: “Sadly, Ariel’s case is consistent with Google’s dangerous track record of worker retaliation that has made mainstream headlines in the past few years — and specifically against those speaking out against contracts that enable state violence against marginalized people.”

The journalist’s account of Google’s friction with employees over social and political issues conspicuously ignores one particularly striking case concerning a certain marginalized people. As Forbes reported:

Google pulled its diversity head from his position this week after a past anti-Semitic blog post in which he wrote about Jews’ “insatiable appetite for war and killing” came to light and drew widespread condemnation from Jewish groups.
Regarding the 10 or so The Los Angeles Times journalists who endorsed the open letter calling for an assault on ethical journalism, CAMERA last summer implored the paper’s leadership: “Just as discovering Times staff members had signed a pledge to promote lies and incitement against any other people or state would almost inevitably have elicited a decisive response, so too must such a project against the Jewish state elicit a clear and forceful repudiation.”
Unfortunately, Los Angeles Times executives remained silent, and a young staffer who previously saw fit to publish a vile antisemitic cartoon found a green light to amplify highly partisan, anti-Israel smears of a coordinated defamation campaign, deceptively packaging it as a tech giant’s intimidation and victimization of the leader of a genuine grassroots campaign.