The Arab Atrocity Story Again, and Again, and Again
by Michael Widlanski
In the last two or three weeks, we have heard more stories from Gaza about Israel killing or hurting “innocent” Arabs or Western journalists.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyyeh took both the Egyptian prime minister and the Tunisian foreign minister to visit the dead body of a boy who was supposedly killed by Israel so that the three leaders could symbolically dip their hands in the boy’s blood and condemn Israel for murdering an innocent “martyr.”
Arabs from North Africa to the Persian Gulf saw pictures of the child’s blood brandished on Arab TV and the front pages of Arab newspapers. Then it turned out the boy was killed when a Hamas rocket, launched at Israel , misfired and landed on the boy’s house. Arab TV and Arab newspapers did not publish retractions.
That is because the Arab atrocity story is a best seller, but one should treat the Arab authors—the PLO, Hizballah, Hamas (and the journalists who often work with them or are used by them) —with great, great skepticism. When they cry “Israeli murder !!!” we should be careful not to get caught up in their narrative.
“Ya-da ya-da ya-da”—as Jerry Seinfeld used to say.
When you hear Arab accounts of so-called Israeli “massacres” and “bestiality,” remember that the Arab foes of Israel have perfected a modern literary motif known as “the Arab atrocity story” which usually turns out to be a contrived work of fiction.
No, Jews are not perfect, and Israelis are not supermen. Israeli policy makers and soldiers are NOT halo-wearing demi-gods, but almost every narrative of Israeli “massacres” from Lebanon in 1982, Jenin in 2002 and Gaza in 2012 turns out to be either greatly exaggerated or completely false.
Remember Yasser Arafat and his agent Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, claiming that Israel massacred thousands in Jenin. Arafat and Erekat said that Jenin was the Palestinian Stalingrad—at least 5,000 dead. Even the BBC—the British Broadcasting Corporation—bought the PLO claims.
Later, the BBC Governance Unit admitted the BBC had effectively turned itself into an arm of PLO propaganda because 23 Israeli soldiers were killed along with 52 Palestinians, 46 of whom were young adult males, almost all armed terrorists.
Woops!!!!! It turns out that the Israeli commandos carried cameras and recording equipment on them as they searched out the terrorists, and they literally filmed their own military mission.
It seems that Arafat and his crew had turned Jenin into a huge terror base, using some of the inhabitants as human shields. Israel rooted them out at great cost to Israeli soldiers, but almost without any civilian casualties. Even when the UN investigated, the UN—hardly Israel’s protector—found that Israel was telling the truth.
Remember that every time you hear a PLO spokesman or spokeswoman—Saeb Erekat or Hanan Ashrawi—making claims about Israel massacring someone.
In 1982, the same PLO spread stories that Israel had demolished most of the houses in southern Lebanon, and, they claimed, 600,000 people were homeless. The only problem was that there were not even 600,000 people in southern Lebanon.
The cycle of fictionalized violence recurs in Gaza, in Lebanon and the West Bank every time there is a clash between Israel and terrorists.
In 1996 and 2006, Hizballah charged that Israel committed massacres in Kafr Kana in Lebanon. Hizballah built its case by using bodies taken from morgues and other sites. Israel even apologized. It was only much later that analysts showed how Hizballah doctored “evidence,” and planted bodies of children and toys to create a massacre.
Western news agencies wittingly and unwittingly often serve as the publicity agents for these phony atrocity stories, often because the stories are planted by Arab stringers—part-time employees who also get salaries from terror groups.
For example, France 2 TV spread a story of Israel killing a young Arab boy—Muhammad Dura—in 2000, the boy “dying” in his father’s arms. The only problem with the film—shot by an Arab stringer—is that the un-broadcast out-takes showed that the boy shielded his eyes from the sun after he “died.”
Another example: when a Reuters news agency Arab stringer, Adnan Hajj, digitally manipulated his photographs of Israeli air-strikes on Hizballah bases in Beirut in 2006. The pictures were a Reuters best-seller. Only much later and much more quietly did Reuters issue a quasi-retraction.
Meanwhile, you will not hear any stories from Reuters, the BBC, the New York Times, about what Hamas gun men and Islamic Jihad thugs do to their own people—summary executions, frequent extortion and widespread corruption.
You will also never hear how Hamas, Hizballah or Fatah gunmen threaten Western news organizations or suborn them with local Arab agents who disguise themselves as stringers.
Hamas, Hizballah and the PLO have used Arab “stringers”—part-time reporters—to infiltrate foreign news organizations.
The stringers are usually working for the terror organization but act as “fixers” and “enablers” for Western reporters, bringing them interviews, escorting them to refugee camps, bringing them in and out of dangerous areas like the offices of Yasser Arafat or Ismail Haniyyeh.
These “stringers” are basically terrorist chaperons who also serve as informers on the Western journalists.
That was the system used in PLO-controlled Beirut in the 1970’s-80’s, in Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad in 1990, in Hizballah-ruled southern Lebanon, and in Hamas-run Gaza today.
The boy, in whose blood the Tunisian and Egyptian foreign minister and prime minister dipped their hands symbolically, was actually killed by a Hamas rocket. Many Hamas rockets misfire, and many Hamas bombs explode prematurely.
Hamas rarely admits its explosive errors. A few years ago, a Gaza family was killed on a beach. It was an Israeli air-strike, they claimed. Later it was shown to be a Hamas bomb that was left unattended.
Nevertheless, the standard operating procedure is blame Israel. That always sells.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. A former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively at The New York Times, Cox Newspapers and The Jerusalem Post, he was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.