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5 Major Media Misquotes That Hurt Israel’s Image During the War

The BBC logo is seen at the entrance at Broadcasting House, the BBC headquarters in central London. Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA.

There is a meme (a humorous image generally posted on social media) that has been widely shared online for years.

It depicts a black-and-white image of 16th US President Abraham Lincoln with a quotation: “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.”

While it is clear to everyone that it is a fake Lincoln quote, the same cannot be said of every false quotation.

Whether deliberate or by mistake — either a mistranslation or a misquotation — here are some of the most outrageous examples of false quotes published by the media since the start of the war.

1. BBC News Claims Israel “Targeting” Medics

In November 2023, the BBC was forced to issue an apology after one of its anchors misquoted a Reuters report during a live broadcast, and claimed that the IDF was targeting medical professionals during its raid on Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, which had been used as a Hamas command center.

Reuters correctly quoted an IDF spokesman: “Our medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers are on the ground to ensure that these supplies reach those in need.”

However, the BBC instead announced on-air that the Israeli military was “targeting people including medical teams as well as Arab speakers.”

An apology was later read out by a second presenter, who announced: “What we should have said is that IDF forces included medical staff and Arabic speakers for this operation. We apologize for this error, which fell below our usual editorial standards.”

The IDF clearly states it is bringing medical teams & Arabic speakers into Al-Shifa Hospital to help patients.@BBCNews reinterprets it to libel the IDF as *targeting* medical teams & Arabic speakers.

Just how much lower can the BBC go?

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 15, 2023

2. Israel’s “Genocidal” Intent

In January, a staff writer at The Atlantic, Yair Rosenberg, penned a piece headlined, ‘What Constitutes a Smoking Gun?‘ in part to reference the case brought by South Africa against Israel in the International Court of Justice.

Rosenberg discussed comments made by the Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the early days of the war, in which he allegedly declared that Israel was “fighting human animals,” and that “Gaza won’t return to what it was before … We will eliminate everything.”

The remark was suggested by the likes of NPR and the BBC as evidence of Israel’s intention to violate international humanitarian law.

The major problem with this, Rosenberg pointed out, was that the quote attributed to Gallant was inaccurate.

What Gallant actually said when he addressed a group of soldiers just three days after the Hamas massacre was: “Gaza will not return to what it was before. There will be no Hamas. We will eliminate it all.”

Rosenberg explained:

This isn’t a matter of interpretation or translation. Gallant’s vow to ‘eliminate it all’ was directed explicitly at Hamas, not Gaza. One doesn’t even need to speak Hebrew, as I do, to confirm this: The word Hamas is clearly audible in the video […]

And yet, the misleadingly truncated version of Gallant’s quote has not just been circulated on NPR and the BBC. The New York Times has made the same elision twice, and it appeared in The Guardian, in a piece by Kenneth Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch. It was also quoted in The Washington Post, where a writer ironically claimed that Gallant had said “the quiet part out loud,” while quietly omitting whom Gallant was actually talking about.

As Rosenberg observed, the Gallant misquoting error had profound consequences — it “misled readers, judges, and politicians.”

3. The “500 Dead” in Hospital Blast

The Al-Ahli Hospital blast was perhaps the most outrageous example of poor journalism since the onset of the war.

Numerous respected media organizations abandoned basic journalistic due diligence and immediately blamed Israel for “striking” the medical facility and killing hundreds of civilians in the process.

Evidence quickly emerged that a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket was responsible, and that the death toll was nowhere near 500.

However, author and journalist David Zweig noticed that this was not the only media malpractice that occurred in the reportage of the Ah-Ahli explosion.

In an article on his Substack, Zweig questioned where the “500 killed” line that was uncritically parroted by the media had originated.

After tracking down where the first mention of this figure occurred (in a social media post by Qatari mouthpiece Al Jazeera), Zweig said there was “zero evidence” that was what the Hamas-run health ministry had said.

Zweig explained:

Beyond the evidentiary particulars in the debate over the origin of the blast is the question of whether news outlets should uncritically report claims from Hamas, including, or perhaps especially, when it provides statistics […]

Yet assessing whether or not Hamas’s claims are credible is a step beyond the most basic consideration: Did the media accurately report what a Hamas spokesperson said?

Zweig hypothesizes that Al Jazeera’s English account published the false information based on an interview given by Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman in Gaza’s health ministry.

Here’s a thread of all the news articles from outlets that were incredibly quick to blame Israel, taking statements from Hamas at face value. @CNN quick reminder, the Health Ministry in Gaza is run by Hamas.

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) October 17, 2023

4. Isaac Herzog’s “Entire Nation”Comments

Sometimes misquoting is not done by altering the words of a statement, but by omitting parts of a statement to alter its overall meaning or intention.

This was true of the remarks made by Israeli President Isaac Herzog at a news conference held just five days after the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Speaking to reporters, Herzog said that he held “an entire nation” responsible for the massacre, which he later stressed in an op-ed was a reference to the many Palestinian civilians who also took part in the killings and sexual assaults inside Israel, as well as the crowds in Gaza who desecrated the bodies of dead Israelis that were brought back as trophies.

In the same October 12 press conference, Herzog said there was no excuse for killing innocent civilians, and confirmed Israel’s commitment to respecting the international laws of war.

Yet, the comments from Herzog that found their way into news reports were the former, with media outlets paraphrasing them in headlines such as, “Israeli President Suggests That Civilians In Gaza Are Legitimate Targets.”

President Herzog later criticized the South African prosecution that brought a case against Israel in the International Court of Justice for knowingly twisting his words to suggest genocidal intent on Israel’s part in the war.

5. CBS Misquotes the Pope

As is tradition on the Christian holiday Easter Sunday, Pope Francis presided over Mass in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican and delivered his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the balcony.

During the speech, he addressed the war in Gaza and called for a ceasefire and for the “prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October last and for an immediate cease-fire in the Strip.”

Yet, when CBS News reported the Pope’s address, the word “hostages” had been substituted for “prisoners.”

It was a baffling decision that suggested CBS News saw some kind of equivalence between the innocent Israelis kidnapped on October 7 and the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for whom they may be swapped under the terms of a deal with Hamas.

It is a subtle mistake but an insidious one.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in an undated propaganda video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on May 30, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Thursday released a second propaganda video this week featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In the video, Trufanov says he is doing well and criticizes Israel’s prime minister and government in remarks that were likely scripted by his captors.

There was no information about when the video was filmed. However, Trufanov refers to Israel’s decision on May 5 to order the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, indicating he may have been filmed in the last few weeks.

The latest video came just two days after Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza, released its first video featuring Trufanov.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare meant to torture the Israeli public, especially the families of the hostages being held in Gaza.

Trufanov’s mother said after the first video was released that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but it was “heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

“Seeing my Sasha on my TV was very cheering, but it also breaks my heart that he’s still been in captivity for so long,” she said in a video released by the family. “I ask everyone, all the decision-makers: Please do everything, absolutely everything, to bring my son and all the hostages home now.”

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Sasha was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend. All three women were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

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Israel’s Kafkaesque Ordeal at the ICC

Proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, February 16, 2021. Photo: ICC-CPI/Handout via Reuters.

Israel is facing unprecedented and bizarre proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC), crescendoing with a request by Prosecutor Karim Khan for arrest warrants against its sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant.

These events are the result of a multi-faceted and long-developing campaign by anti-Israel activists that has largely advanced under the radar.

Firstly, Israel is not a member of the Court and does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over its actions. In the late 1990s, Israel was initially a strong backer of the ICC, but during the drafting of the Court’s governing Rome Statute, the Arab League blocked efforts to include terrorism as an international crime and helped invent a new crime that would specifically target Israeli activity across the 1949 armistice lines. For these reasons, Israel refused to ratify the Rome Statute and join the Court.

In any other situation, this would be the end of the matter. However, beginning in 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA), acting in collaboration with UN Rapporteurs and European-funded NGOs linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, attempted to join the Court.

Rather than dismiss the PA’s effort immediately because the PA is not a state — and ICC membership is only available to states — the ICC Prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, launched a PR campaign to ostensibly “debate” the issue. Three years later, he rejected the PA’s application, but instead provided a blueprint facilitating the Palestinians’ ability to circumvent the clear standards of the Rome Statute.

In November 2012, the Palestinians succeeded in upgrading their status at the UN to “non-member observer state.” Merely on the basis of this semantic, rather than substantive change, ICC officials allowed the Palestinians to game the system and join the Court.

Despite these machinations and exploitation of the Court, the next Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, filed a request with the Court’s Pre-Trial chamber (PTC) in December 2019 seeking authorization to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the “State of Palestine,” despite the fact that this state does not exist and has no defined territory. Moreover, she argued that the Court could proceed against Israelis, regardless of whether it was a member of the Court.

This action, endorsed by the PTC in February 2021 in a controversial 2-1 opinion, essentially eviscerated the Oslo Accords, the agreement mutually agreed to between Israel and the PLO in the mid-1990s, which lays out governance of the West Bank and Gaza.

A key provision of the Accords is that the PA would not have any authority to exercise or delegate any criminal jurisdiction over Israelis to the Court. The Prosecutor and the Court completely ignored this issue.

In yet another unbelievable move, the Court next also allowed the Palestinians to retroactively assign temporal jurisdiction going back to June 13, 2014, precisely the day after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, which triggered the war that summer. This meant that Hamas’ brutal murder and kidnapping of Jews, a preview of what Israel would experience on a larger scale on October 7, would get a free pass from the Court.

Fast-forward to Khan’s move to file for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant. Here, too, the Prosecutor’s office engaged in highly questionable conduct. Khan could have already issued indictments against Hamas leaders on October 7 itself, when their flagrant crimes were broadcast around the world. Instead, he chose to wait until after manufactured allegations of “starvation” could be crafted against Israeli officials. He also inexplicably ignored thousands of other war crimes, including each rocket attack on Israel, committed by Palestinians since 2014.

In yet another outrageous move, at the time of the announcement, Khan’s team had been scheduled to attend meetings in Israel. However, the planned trip appears to have been a bad faith ruse. Instead of the team boarding the plane, Khan went on CNN to tell Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview about the arrest warrant requests. It doesn’t take an expert in communications to know that such a step would generate a storm of PR almost solely focused on Israel, meaning attention on the Hamas atrocities and real crimes committed on October 7 would be virtually ignored.

One also wonders if any mind was paid to what this action might mean for any hope of a ceasefire to secure the release of the hostages.

Egregiously, Khan’s actions offended another cornerstone of the Rome Statute, that of complementarity. The ICC is only supposed to act as a court of last resort in situations where a judicial system is unable or unwilling to investigate international crimes. As he himself acknowledged on a visit to Israel in early December, Israel has robust investigatory mechanisms and judiciary — one that has never shied away from intervening in military matters, nor in going after the most senior officials, including prime ministers.

Instead of giving the Israeli system a reasonable time to proceed, however, the Prosecutor disregarded the complementarity requirement and decided to bulldoze forward. In contrast, although Khan has had for years the jurisdiction to act against President Maduro in Venezuela, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and military junta in Myanmar — authoritarian governments responsible for horrific atrocities — no cases have been filed.

Multiple procedural irregularities and political maneuverings of the Office of Prosecutor have been well-documented, and there are several other disturbing aspects to the “Situation in Palestine” not mentioned here. For years, the ICC has been under intense criticism for its lack of accomplishments in its more than 20 years of operation. Khan was brought in to serve as a sober and responsible actor to right the ship. The actions of his office the past few months now call this assessment into question.

In an interview published with the Times of London a few days after his inexplicable actions, Khan stated, “if we don’t hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto.” The Prosecutor would be wise to reflect on his Office’s history and follow his own advice.

Anne Herzberg is the Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research organization.

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