Watchdog: False ‘Water War’ Reporting Highlights Media Willingness to Frame Israel as ‘Malevolent Force’ Oppressing Palestinians
Foreign news reports claiming Israel purposely cut off the water supply to Palestinians during Ramadan is yet another shameful case of the press’ printing of Palestinian propaganda without a critical eye, a media analyst told The Algemeiner on Thursday.
Simon Plosker, managing editor of the watchdog organization HonestReporting, was responding to reports — originating in Al Jazeera — that, according to Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, “Israel was waging a water war against the Palestinians.”
“Israel wants to prevent Palestinians from leading a dignified life and uses its control over our water resources to this end; while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy uninterrupted water service, Palestinians are forced to spend great sums of money to buy water that is theirs in the first place,” Hamdallah said in a statement.
The Arab news outlet was quick to run with the story and, according to Plosker, “It’s hardly a surprise that Al Jazeera is quite happy to broadcast unsubstantiated Palestinian claims with little consideration for the Israeli story.”
International media outlets picked up the story, parroting the accusations against Israel. Al Jazeera later updated its report, adding reactions from Israel’s Coordinator of Goverment Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the IDF and the PA — something it initially failed to do.
According to COGAT, the water shortage was due to a burst pipe that disrupted supplies to the Palestinian villages in the West Bank. Footage of the broken pipe was then shared by COGAT on Twitter.
— COGAT (@cogat_israel) June 15, 2016
Within hours, the pipe was fixed and the water flow restored. In addition, COGAT said, the water supply to Hebron and Bethlehem had been increased by “5,000 cubic meters per hour to meet the needs of the residents.”
According to Plosker, “Part of the problem is when international journalists and media outlets treat Al Jazeera as a reliable, credible source for stories that they then republish without due diligence or fact-checking.”
This, he said, “is also how this latest story found its way from Al Jazeera to mainstream media outlets such as The Independent and the International Business Times. Given the framing of some journalists who see Israel as a malevolent force when it comes to treatment of Palestinians, it’s far too easy to twist a story until it turns into one where Israel is denying Palestinians drinking water during the intense Ramadan heat. This contributes to the demonization of Israel as a uniquely evil state that tramples on basic human rights, when the opposite is true.”
Plosker said that the most “disturbing” aspect about the reporting is “how media outlets were prepared to take outrageous Palestinian propaganda at face value.” These outlets have now become a “willing tool in the smear campaign carried out by Palestinians and their supporters in the anti-Israel activist community.”
What is even more peculiar, Plosker said, is that “not a single Israeli media source reported on this story, which should have rung alarm bells in the editorial departments of those media who published it.”
This is not the first time Al Jazeera has published false stories about Israel. In February 2015, the news outlet reported that Israel opened its southern dams to flood parts of Gaza in what has become known as the “flood libel.” Al Jazeera was forced to issue a retraction and apology after it was informed that the dams did not exist.