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April 13, 2020 8:34 am

Did UK Pharmacy Publication’s Gaza Story Steal From Antisemitic Site?

avatar by Adam Levick

Opinion

A medic checks equipment during a tour by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of a quarantine facility set up at Rafah border crossing amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, March 22, 2020. Photo: World Health Organization (WHO) / Handout via Reuters.

Last week, we posted about a grossly misleading article at the London-based site Pharmafile.com, blaming Israel for Gaza’s COVID-19 healthcare problems. Pharmafile.com describes itself as a leading portal for pharmaceutical professionals “with pharma news, pharma events, and pharma service company listings.”

Their “report” on Gaza reads like a hatchet job you’d expect from an anti-Israel propaganda site, certainly not at a pharmaceutical industry publication. Following our post, we tweeted that the article was retracted by editors without explanation — and their tweet was deleted.

However, it turns out that they simply republished it with a different url, slightly different headline, and some largely superficial textual alternations.

Though the headline was changed from “Israeli blockade has made COVID-19 a ‘death sentence’ in Gaza” to “Palestinians fear Israeli-Egyptian blockade may be a ‘death sentence’ for COVID-19 patients in Gaza,” some new sources added, and a few paragraphs re-arranged, the new piece doesn’t represent a substantive departure from the original.

But, upon further analysis, we’ve concluded that the article(s) share a curious degree of overlap with a piece published at Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA), a virulently anti-Israel publication that often peddles antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories.

CAMERA has written that WRMEA brands Israel’s defenders “fifth columnists,” “Israel-firsters,” “viruses,” “bacteria,” “cancer,” and an “alien intrusion” operating “against the interests of the United States.” The White House, the State Department, Congress, and the media have been characterized by WRMEA as “Israeli-occupied territory.” The ADL reported that WRMEA “frequently serves as an apologist for Muslim American groups advocating antisemitism and support for terrorism.”

The WRMEA article, “Gaza on the Ground,” by Mohammed Omer (a former Electronic Intifada contributor), was published in their May print edition, but was online by April 5 at the latest — a day before the Pharamfile piece.

Here are the passages which overlap.

WRMEA:

“Coronavirus is a death sentence to all of us here in Gaza,” says Nida’a Abu Saleem, a 21-year-old student. “Being locked in a cage, we thought we were protected, but in fact, one patient is all it takes to put 2 million at risk,” she added. “The one thing that I know for sure, is that with the coronavirus outbreak becoming a global concern — Gaza will remain in the margins, without much media attention.” “We never made a choice to live in a cage, and we should not die in that cage either,” she concluded.

Pharmafile (original):

Nida’a Abu Saleem, a 21-year old student, has described contracting the virus as a “death sentence” adding that: “Being locked in a cage, we thought we were protected, but in fact, one patient is all it takes to put 2 million at risk. We never made a choice to live in a cage, and we should not die in that cage either.”

The revised Pharmafile piece moved the paragraph further down in the article and (interestingly) credited WRMEA with that quote.

WRMEA:

As of this writing, Gaza has 12 confirmed cases. The enclave also lacks sufficient testing kits, with Israel providing just 200 kits in March. At the same time, Israel boasted that its Mossad intelligence service was able to procure 500,000 test kits from undisclosed nation(s).

Pharmafile (original):

The region currently has 12 confirmed cases, but this is expected to be much higher and the number is low due to a lack of testing. Israel has provided Gaza just 200 testing kits while being able to procure 500,000 for themselves from undisclosed nations.

The new version of the Pharmafile article merely adds additional sources and revises the text somewhat.

WRMEA:

Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, Gaza was suffering from the lack of medical supplies and medicines, due to the harsh Israeli blockade.

Phramafile (original):

Gaza had already been suffering from a lack of medicinal supplies before the spread of COVID-19. The 13-year Israeli blockade and attacks on Hamas, which often result in civilian casualties, has put the region’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse.

The new version was tweaked to note that it was an Egyptian and Israeli blockade, and acknowledged the internal (PA-Hamas) conflict as a contributing factor.

WRMEA:

On March 19, Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, said he is worried about the potential impact of the novel coronavirus on Gaza due to its collapsing health system. He urged Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to live up to their international legal responsibilities.

Pharmafile (original):

On March 19, Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, said: “I am particularly worried about the potential impact of COVID-19 on Gaza. Its health care system was collapsing even before the pandemic.”

In addition to the clear overlap between the two paragraphs, note that the WRMEA piece is actually more fair to Israel in noting that Lynk urged not only Israel, but also the PA and Hamas to “live up to their international legal responsibilities.”

In the new version of the Pharmafile piece, this paragraph remains the same, but is used in the opening paragraph, whereas in the original it was further down.

WRMEA:

Meanwhile, Qatar has pledged $10 million to help Gazans deal with the coronavirus outbreak and the World Bank has transferred a grant of $7 million to Palestinians to address the coronavirus crisis.

Pharmafile (original):

In terms of international assistance, Qatar has pledged $10 million to help the region deal with the outbreak while the World Bank has transferred a grant of $7 million.

This sentence hasn’t changed in the new version.

WRMEA:

The Ministry of Health in Gaza has already enforced the medical isolation for 1,400 Gazans suspected of having contracted the virus from their travels to Egypt, the West Bank and Israel.

Pharmafile (original):

The Ministry of Health in Gaza has already put 1,400 patients with suspected coronavirus into isolation, with many suspected of contracting the virus while visiting Egypt, the West Bank and Israel.

This sentence hasn’t changed in the new version.

WRMEA:

Policemen began inspecting passengers at Rafah Crossing with Egypt, but appear with simple masks that provide no protection to travelers or police officers.

Pharmafile (original):

Policemen have been inspecting travelers coming or returning to the region, but they often have no protection against COVID-19 apart from simple masks.

This sentence hasn’t changed in the new version.

Finally, in order to provide a sense of scale regarding the similarities, note that the original article is only 533 words long. The total word count of the overlapping sentences comes to 279. At the end of the day, it seems extremely likely that the Pharmafile article was based — to a very large degree — on an article at an antisemitic propaganda site.

One last note:

It looks like the journalist who wrote the Pharmafile pieces, Conor Kavanagh, is a hardcore Jeremy Corbyn fan. See the YouTube channel he highlights on his Twitter profile,

See this video where he defends Jeremy Corbyn, and this one where he “debunks” the “Hysteria around the British Anti-Semitism Row.”

Adam Levick covers the British media for CAMERA, the 65,000-member Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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