Scandal threatens to engulf several prominent foreign correspondents and human rights workers who were revealed yesterday to be engaging in what the Washington Free Beacon described as “an anti-Israel hate-fest” on a private Facebook group. A post to the group, named the “Vulture Club,” sparked open contempt for a new Israeli government investigation regarding France 2’s September 2000 film of 12-year-old Palestinian Muhammad al-Dura. Newscasters at the time characterized the video as evidence that Israeli soldiers targeted and killed the boy, and it quickly became a mainstay of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement. It was playing in the background when jihadists taped themselves beheading journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. The Israeli investigation examined portions of the original film – left unaired by France 2 and determined that the boy was likely not killed. Previous Israeli investigations had already established that he could not have been hit from Israeli positions.
The New York Times described the report as “casting new doubts” on the film and the lethal narrative it inspired. The journalists and activists in the “Vulture Club” group – including reporters from the Associated Press and AFP, and top figures from Human Rights Watch – had different views:
Peter Bouckaert, a senior official at Human Rights Watch, dismissed the report as “typical IDF lies.” “As usual, it takes them a long time to really build up the falsehood,” wrote Bouckaert. Bouckaert also blasted the New York Times for its coverage of the report. “It really isn’t good journalism to write this up as if these are credible allegations when it is a pack of lies,” he wrote.
Correspondents from numerous outlets, including the Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse, also piled on.
“[T]he lobby uses all its strength and is able to push anything in majors [sic] English newspapers or in the NYT[imes],” wrote El Mundo reporter Javier Espinosa. “Israeli embassies call their contacts in all those newspapers and they agree to publish that information.”… Associated Press photojournalist Jerome Delay wrote, “The IDF thinks the earth is flat, btw.”
Observers raised their eyebrows at the online conversation, noting that it’s unusual for journalists and human rights activists to blast media outlets for objectively reporting on a story. The contempt shown for Israel and its institutions is likely to call into question the credibility of figures caught up in the controversy.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Wiki Commons]