Washington D.C. — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today warned the American media against accepting Israeli government claims without independent confirmation. ADC’s note of caution comes in the wake of a false Israeli government account of the death of 12 Israeli combatants on Friday.
Numerous American news organizations repeated Israel’s claims that a “massacre of worshippers” had taken place in Hebron. ADC pointed out that a clear pattern has been established of the Israeli government deliberately misleading the media, and urged American news organizations to treat all Israeli claims in future with due skepticism.
On Friday, Nov. 15, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that, “At least 12 persons were killed Friday night in Hebron when Palestinian terrorists opened fire and threw grenades at a group of Jewish worshipers and their guards as they were walking home from Sabbath prayers at the Machpela Cave. The dead included civilian worshipers and soldiers, some of whom were caught in an ambush as they pursued the attackers.” Media across the United States reported that worshipers had been attacked and that an appalling massacre had taken place. Officials including Secretary of State Colin Powell, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and EU foreign policy director Javier Solana all issued stern condemnations of the “terrorist attack” based on this account.
Reports the next day in the Israeli press, however, exposed the absolute fiction of this official account. Leading Israeli newspapers including Ha’aretz, reported that the attack was directed entirely against Israeli occupation forces, that worshipers had all return to safety before the attack began and that no one was killed or injured except for armed combatants. The dead were 9 soldiers and 3 paramilitary settlers whose families have demanded full military burials.
It has also become clear that this deliberate deception was orchestrated by the new Israeli Foreign Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who set the tone by declaring, “The murder in cold blood of civilians and children in Kibbutz Metzer and of Jews in Hebron whose sole sin was praying is a despicable crime.” The Jerusalem Post reports that “Netanyahu convened a meeting of the ministry’s upper echelon and its spokesmen to hone the messages Israel should be sending to the world following the attack it has termed the ‘Shabbat evening massacre.’ Among the key messages is that every time Israel withdraws from the Palestinian cities, it gets more terrorism in return.” In other words, the Israeli government sought to use its false account of a “massacre” to justify its intransigent and belligerent policies. Acting on these instructions, foreign ministry spokesman Gilad Millo said, “This sabbath massacre is the second time in a week that innocent civilians have been senselessly murdered either in their beds or on their way to prayers. No political process can take root while these atrocities continue to be carried out by terrorists.”
By accepting and uncritically repeating the false accounts offered by Netanyahu and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, many American news organizations allowed the Israeli government to mislead their audience for cynical purposes of propaganda. ADC points out that this is only the latest in a long pattern of politically motivated deceit by the Israeli government. ADC urges all journalists and editors to treat Israeli government claims with skepticism and not to simply report them as fact without independent confirmation or verification.