Tuesday, March 08, 2022

By Daled Amos

Everyone knows about fake news.

Some people know it's all Trump's fault, others know that it's all the media's fault.
And now countries are generating it, using bots on social media.

But for anyone who follows how the media reports about Israel, this is kind of old.

How old?

Daniel Rubenstein addresses this question in his first podcast, featuring Prof. Richard Landes.

Daniel Rubenstein is a tour guide and lecturer, who served as an advisor to Naftali Bennett and also as a social media expert to Netanyahu.
Richard Landes is a medieval historian specializing in apocalyptic millennialism and he blogs about lethal journalism (presenting one side's wartime propaganda as news) at Augean Stables.

Daniel Rubenstein and Prof. Richard Landes

One of the topics Prof. Landes explains is tracing the peaking of media opposition to Israel back to Al Dura.

That incident, in brief:

On Sept. 30, 2000, France2 Television ran a story about Muhammad al Durah, a 12-year-old boy who, along with his father, was pinned down in a cross-fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip. “The target of fire from the Israeli position, the boy was killed and the father badly wounded,” veteran French journalist Charles Enderlin reported. Enderlin distributed the footage to all his colleagues for free, and this story ran around the world in hours.

Landes, who coined the word Pallywood to describe media manipulation designed to win the public relations war with Israel, has written about discrepancies in Enderlin's video footage:

The actual evidence, however, posed serious problems for the explosive narrative of deliberate child-murder. The footage, closely examined, contradicted every detail of the claim that Israel had killed the boy “in cold blood,” as a France 2 photographer put it, from the alleged “forty minutes of [Israeli] bullets like rain” (rather, there were only a few bullets one could identify in the brief footage, all from the Palestinian side), to the 20-minute-long death from a fatal stomach wound (no sign of blood on the ground), to the murdered ambulance driver (no evidence), to the dead boy (who moves quite deliberately in the final scene, which Enderlin cut for his broadcast).

But it was Enderlin's version of the story which spread everywhere, and not just in the Arab world. Bin Laden, for example, used Al Dura as a justification for his terrorist attack on the US. Landes notes that in the West, the Europeans and progressives saw this incident as a 'Get-Out-of-Holocaust-Guilt-Free Card'.

The tremendous influence of the Al Dura narrative cannot be underestimated. It appeared everywhere and dominated the media. One journalist, Catherine Nay, claimed on Europe 1 that 

the death of Mohamed [Al Dura] cancels, erases, that of the Jewish child in the hands in the air, shot by an SS man in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Landes points out the enormity of such an idea:

Here you have a woman saying that a dubious picture of a boy most probably -- if killed -- killed in a crossfire, has erased and replaced an image of a boy who symbolizes the deliberate murder of over a million children.

That journalist was not alone in this view. Landes sees this substitution as being at the core of today's Holocaust inversion, the idea that Israel commits genocide against Palestinian Arabs, making Israelis into the new Nazis and Palestinian Arabs into the new Jews.

And the Al Dura effect persists. The original impact has dissipated over time, but the effects continue.

It's hard to get it more wrong than what happened then and we've been paying the price ever since. This is the first massive and still uncorrected wave of fake news -- not fake news coming from bots in Russia, fake news permeating the legacy mainstream media. Disaster. [emphasis added]

This was during the Second Intifada.
And media mendacity at the time was evident.

Less than 2 weeks later, on October 12, two Israeli reservists took a wrong turn and ended up in Ramallah, where a mob of Palestinian reservists lynched them.


In his 2014 book, Israel Since the Six-Day War: Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow, Leslie Stein describes how the mob massacred the 2 men:

The mob did not prevent the story from getting out, but they did stop a photographer from taking pictures. Mark Seager wrote a personal account of what the mob did to the bodies of the 2 Israeli reservists -- and what they almost did to him:

They were just a few feet in front of me and I could see everything. Instinctively, I reached for my camera. I was composing the picture when I was punched in the face by a Palestinian. Another Palestinian pointed right at me shouting "no picture, no picture!", while another guy hit me in the face and said "give me your film!".

I tried to get the film out but they were all grabbing me and one guy just pulled the camera off me and smashed it to the floor. I knew I had lost the chance to take the photograph that would have made me famous and I had lost my favourite lens that I'd used all over the world, but I didn't care. I was scared for my life.

In a Wall Street Journal article in 2001, Alex Safian of CAMERA wrote about just how effective Palestinian intimidation was:

But it is not just British reporters who have joined Mr. Arafat's journalistic brigades. Riccardo Christiano, bureau chief of the Italian state network RAI, put it plainly in a letter to the Palestinian Authority in October. After two Israeli reservists were lynched by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah, most journalists at the scene had their film and cameras confiscated. But one crew from the private Italian network Mediaset got out with the videotape, which was then shown around the world. Mr. Christiano was determined to let the Palestinian Authority know that, contrary to rumors, his network was not involved. So he wrote this letter, which unhappily for him found its way into a Palestinian newspaper:
"My Dear Friends in Palestine: We congratulate you and think it is our duty to explain to you what happened on Oct. 12 in Ramallah. One of the private Italian television stations which competes with us . . . filmed the events . . . Afterwards Israeli television broadcast the pictures as taken from one of the Italian stations, and thus the public impression was created as if we took these pictures.

"We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way, because we always respect the journalistic rules of the Palestinian Authority for work in Palestine . . . We thank you for your trust and you can be sure that this is not our way of acting, and we would never do such a thing.

"Please accept our dear blessings."

As Safian observes, "in plain terms, respecting these 'rules' means ignoring stories that would anger Mr. Arafat, and reporting on stories that would please him."

The Ramallah lynching was on October 12.

On the very next day, Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the PA's Fatwa Council and a former acting Rector of the Islamic University in Gaza gave a Friday sermon at a mosque in Gaza. Among other things, Sheikh Halabiya stressed the importance of killing Jews:

"...None of the Jews refrain from committing any possible evil. If the Labor party commits the evil and the crime, the Likud party stands by it; and if the Likud party commits the evil and the crime, the Labor party stands by it.... The Jews are Jews, whether Labor or Likud... They do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They all want to distort truth, but we are in possesion of the truth...They are the terrorists. They are the ones who must be butchered and killed, as Allah the Almighty said: 'Fight them: Allah will torture them at your hands, and will humiliate them and will help you to overcome them, and will relieve the minds of the believers...." (emphasis added)

How did The New York Times report this?

William A. Orme Jr. wrote an article, A Parallel Mideast Battle: Is It News or Incitement? where he dealt with the Israeli claim of Palestinian incitement by helpfully summarizing for his readers what Halabiya had actually said:

Israelis cite as one egregious example [of Palestinian incitement], a televised sermon that defended the killing of the two soldiers. ''Whether Likud or Labor, Jews are Jews,'' proclaimed Sheik Ahmad Abu Halabaya in a live broadcast from a Gaza City mosque the day after the killings. [emphasis added]

What incitement?

This partisan self-censorship continues today. As Landes comments:

To this day, readers of The New York Times, listeners of NPR, viewers of the BBC and CNN do not know what kind of unbelievably vicious nazi-like genocidal hatred is aired in the Palestinian public sphere, constantly.

And of course, social media has only made matters worse -- making it easier to spread propaganda without regard for the source (assuming it is even known), let alone viewing it critically. Social media enables the channeling of moral outrage that makes canceling of people as pariahs so effective.

Today we find ourselves in a situation where, as Prof. Landes notes, you cannot defend Zionism -- neither in journalism nor in academia. It has become a taboo subject --

In 2021, when you had the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza, you had hundreds of journalists insisting that the media adopt the Palestinian narrative -- adopt their language, adopt their "Israel occupation army" and stuff and you had academics, including Jewish academics in Jewish studies, coming out with statements in support of the Palestinians in which the role of Hamas and the role of terror is completely expunged from the record. And all sorts of claims are made about what Israel has done that are empirically inaccurate.

We are looking at an anti-intellectual movement that has taken over and literally a collapse of the information professions in terms of their ability to give the public accurate and relevant information.

And to a large degree, this all goes back to 2000, and Al Dura.

Read all about it here!

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