Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)
Rep. Rashida Tlaib

That such an outrageous smear should be shared after holes in the narrative started to emerge should be of interest to national news media.

By Emanuel Miller, Honest Reporting

Rashida Tlaib is at it again. The controversial politician with an ever-growing record of statements hostile to Israel, the Jewish People’s right to self-determination, and of Israel’s right to defend itself has now an added charge to her resume after sharing an article which claims that “Israeli settlers” torched “Palestinian lands.”

Describing Israel’s supposed actions as “the actions of an apartheid state,” Tlaib makes abundantly clear her position that Israel is responsible for the blaze and that it is evidence of maltreatment of Palestinians.

There’s just one problem, though: there isn’t a scrap of evidence that settlers, much less the State of Israel, were behind the fire at all.

Indeed, both the IDF and a local Israeli politician have claimed that Palestinians were the ones who ignited the fire. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, told The Jerusalem Post that in reality, the Palestinians were responsible for the blaze, while the IDF added that it had evidence for the claim.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian version has been accepted unquestioningly by at least one international news outlet and spread thereafter by Congresswoman Tlaib.

In one of her tweets, Tlaib linked to an article by the London-based Middle East Eye, an organization which has previously faced accusations of publishing editorials praising and defending the Muslim Brotherhood as well as having exclusive access to Hamas. The article cites the Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency Wafa and three local Palestinian men who all claimed that a blaze was started by “settlers.” That claim was backed up by a tweet from the virulently hostile NGO B’Tselem, embedded in the article, which claimed simply: “Settlers torched Palestinian fields in Burin tonight.”

The following morning, a little after 8 a.m., B’Tselem issued a press release to alert the media to this claim. But, The Jerusalem Post reports, B’tselem retracted the charges within a couple of hours, sending a press statement:

“The fires in Burin tonight are being re-examined. I will update with any new information I have.”

According to the Post, no further information was provided.

At around the same time, Avner Gvaryahu, CEO of the Breaking the Silence NGO , admitted on Twitter (in Hebrew) that “there’s a chance I may have been mistaken and that the ones who started these fires, this time, are not settlers.”

Despite hastily sending a missive to journalists to disregard its earlier statements, B’Tselem’s tweets in English remain online. Neither the tweet above, nor the one below, which alleges that this supposed act of Israeli arson is evidence of “apartheid,” have been deleted — much less repudiated.

As a result of its unwillingness to back down on social media, the unfounded claim has now taken on a life of its own. The end result is that one of Israel’s most vocal and prominent detractors, an individual who has hosted a private dinner featuring activists who praised Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists, backed the genocidal call “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be free”, and participated in an event together with known supporters of terrorism, now has new ammunition for her anti-Israel campaign.

Media Failure to Highlight Tlaib’s Hatred

Tracing the lie, B’Tselem has moved from an anti-Israel NGO to a partisan online media outlet to being shared on Twitter by a US politician with a following of almost 1.5 million and an audience of many millions more on that platform alone. That such an outrageous smear should be shared after holes in the narrative started to emerge should be of interest to national news media.

Nevertheless, to say that news coverage of Tlaib’s smear has been scant would be an overstatement: At the time of publishing this article, not a single media outlet had documented that Tlaib spread a baseless lie and used it as evidence that Israel is committing the crime of “apartheid”.

Similarly, not a single major media outlet has documented B’Tselem’s false claim. While this is somewhat more understandable, given the organization’s far lower significance overall, the fact that an international NGO which is routinely used as an “objective” source on matters relating to Israel and the Palestinians could refuse to take down a deeply problematic claim — one it has already attempted to backtrack from — severely calls into question its reliability.

Will journalists re-evaluate their stance on B’Tselem and stop citing its claims uncritically as in the past?

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