Help JNS get the facts out

Distortions and Israel’s dilemma

There’s a long history of playing fast and loose with footage and forensics when it comes to describing events that take place in the Holy Land.

Palestinian journalists take part in a candlelight vigil in the Gaza Strip in memory of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in Jenin during a firefight between terrorists and IDF soldiers. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinian journalists take part in a candlelight vigil in the Gaza Strip in memory of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in Jenin during a firefight between terrorists and IDF soldiers. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
The Report, Nov. 11, 2019

Photo by Bruce Gilbert
Thane Rosenbaum

Tragically, a reporter for Al Jazeera was killed during a skirmish between Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists in one of the most dangerous regions of the West Bank. Almost instantly, Israel was blamed for the continuing spread of COVID-19 and gasoline price-gouging.

Responsibility for the dead broadcast journalist was a given.

In any instance in which a Palestinian life is taken, a guilty verdict against Israel is swift even though the charge may be patently false and libelous. With the damage already done and public attention directed elsewhere, the accusation sometimes gets walked back. A full retraction is a rarity.

Meanwhile, millions of Arabs have been killed in wars by their co-religionists (more than 500,000 in Syria, another 500,000 in Iraq and Iran, 15,000 in Yemen, and counting), but “bloody murder” is scarcely heard. Resolutions condemning Muslim countries for such massive death tolls do not multiply in the United Nations (hardly any are ever drafted).

The lives of Arabs are, apparently, more valuable if Israel is the reason they end. And any Israeli reprisal or preemptive strike in self-defense, regardless of the circumstance, is routinely prejudged a war crime.

Because the demise of the Al Jazeera reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, took place in Jenin where the Palestinian Authority is responsible for security, the bullet that killed her remains in the custody of Palestinian police.

The crime scene was immediately contaminated. Israel called for a joint forensic investigation. The Palestinians refused, and won’t even show investigators the fatal bullet.

For its part, Israel has already identified the IDF soldier and the weapon that may have caused her death. No surprise there—Israel has a long history of accepting responsibility for actions that violate IDF protocols.

Indeed, whenever Israeli soldiers use excessive force or violate the rules of engagement, they are prosecuted and punished in military tribunals. For instance, after a terrorist in the West Bank stabbed an Israeli soldier, he was shot in the head by an Israeli medic, despite being injured and disarmed. Such unlawful actions violate the IDF’s Code of Ethics.

In a more infamous case in 2014, three settlers from the West Bank (an adult and two minors), in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers, kidnapped and burned to death a Palestinian teenager. Two were given life sentences, and a third will serve 21 years in prison.

This is quite different from what happens to Arabs who murder Jews. The Palestinian Authority doesn’t punish but rather incentivizes the killing of Jews, with lifetime monthly stipends and assorted other benefits. The more serious the crime, the more lavish the payout and benefits.

For a press corps that congenitally demonizes Israel and finds Palestinians blameless, such disparities receive scant attention. Unflattering tales of Palestinian moral failure are not newsworthy. The journalistic mission is to spill ink only when Israel draws blood.

And exaggerating the scope of the libel itself is of primary importance. For instance, Israel is now being accused of intentionally assassinating Abu Akleh. That makes a lot of sense-Israel needs to kill a female Palestinian-American journalist like it needs a hole in its head. Isn’t there already enough revulsion directed at the Jewish state?

Apparently not. If you listen to congressional “Squad” leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Israel deserves even more derision, along with the scrapping of America’s military aid.

Just listen to this. Methinks the bartender doth protest too much. And she’s defaming Israel from Queens, New York, not Bismarck, North Dakota! Jewish Democrats seem incapable of reading the tea leaves brewed in this Progressive Tea Party.

There’s a long history of playing fast and loose with footage and forensics when it comes to describing events that take place in the Holy Land.

Remember the notorious video from 2000 of the clash between Israeli troops and Hamas operatives in Gaza, in which a little Palestinian boy cowered behind his father against the wall of a building? According to the film, the boy was killed and the father severely injured. Israel accepted full responsibility.

Over the next 13 years, however, other journalists came forward and began asking questions about the veracity of the video, which had been edited. Meanwhile, Israel conducted its own inquiry. The raw footage showed that the deadly fire most likely came from Palestinians—and weren’t very deadly. The boy was not actually killed, and the father’s injuries apparently occurred at another location, and at the hands of Hamas! What the world saw was staged for the deliberate purpose of slandering Israel.

Don’t be surprised if a similar finding one day emerges from the death of this Al Jazeera reporter.

And let’s not forget the Goldstone Report, a U.N. fact-finding mission following the 2008-09 war between Israel and Hamas. The inquiry concluded that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians. In 2011, however, the judge who chaired the investigation disavowed his own findings and wanted the report retracted—to no avail. Even more self-condemning, he acknowledged that it was actually Hamas that targeted Israeli civilians.

Outlandish claims persist that Israel violates civilized norms. To prove the point, the ancient blood libel has returned, but not without refinements. Instead of Jews making Passover matzah with children’s blood, today, Israel is harvesting Palestinians’ organs. Yes, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Jewish state is interested not in racking up Nobel Prizes for its medical breakthroughs, but rather in furthering the diabolical work of Dr. Josef Mengele. These charges emanate not from the ignorant Arab street, but from more eminent authorities: the Palestinian representative to the United Nations and professors from American universities.

Armed with ignorance and fortified by toxic anti-Semitism, Israel’s enemies spout AOC-style inanities that get retweeted into talking points and recited on college campuses where students disseminate doctored memes rather than read books.

Among the tragic consequences in this age of endangered free speech and an agenda-driven press is that our founding fathers envisioned these rights as a way to ensure a well-informed public. What we are left with are sketchy truths and history served up as trivialized kitsch. That’s all well and good for Israel’s detractors, who depend on skewed impressions of the Middle East.

And that’s precisely the array of distortions we’re receiving.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. His latest work, “Saving Free Speech … from Itself,” was just published. He can be reached via his website.

This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

Israel is at war - Support JNS

JNS is combating the barrage of misinformation with factual reporting. We depend on your support.

Support JNS
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates