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Damage Done: How Al Jazeera’s Fake Rape Story Harmed Israel’s Reputation in Less than 24 Hours

The Al Jazeera Media Network logo is seen on its headquarters building in Doha, Qatar, June 8, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

A popular adage states that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

In this day and age of social media and up-to-the-minute news, it has never been faster for a lie to travel around the world — and it’s been even harder for the truth to try and catch up.

That was the case last week, when Al Jazeera spread a malicious libel about Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women in Al-Shifa Hospital during the IDF’s ongoing campaign against entrenched Hamas forces there, before quietly removing the story and trying to silently bury it.

Former managing editor of Al Jazeera: allegations of rape at Shifa were all made up, designed to whip up public anger. pic.twitter.com/WjupfO8l1E

— Eylon Levy (@EylonALevy) March 25, 2024

On the morning of March 24, Al Jazeera Arabic’s principal news presenter, Elsy Abi Assi (who is no stranger to antisemitism and denial of Hamas atrocities), interviewed a Gazan woman by the name of Jamila Al-Hessi on live TV. She claimed that Israeli soldiers operating in Al-Shifa Hospital were raping Palestinian women and brutally murdering other Palestinians sheltering in the medical complex.

These allegations soon spread like wildfire on social media, with popular anti-Israel accounts picking up the story and disseminating it to their large English-speaking audiences.

Then, that night, Yasser Abuhilalah, an Al Jazeera columnist and former director, tweeted that a Hamas investigation into these allegations had concluded that they were not true, and that Jamila Al-Hessi had justified her on-air deception by claiming that she had exaggerated her claims in order to “arouse the nation’s fervor and brotherhood.”

According to some analysts, Hamas had decided to issue a rare public denial of these claims since its dissemination among Palestinians in northern Gaza was having the opposite effect than was intended: Instead of producing enmity against Israel, these allegations had caused Palestinians to flee the area in fear for their safety.

Hamas admits: Reports of IDF raping Palestinian women at Shifa hospital are fake; Gaza woman interviewed by Al-Jazeera made it up; why is Hamas admitting it? fake rape story backfired, prompted many families to flee northern Gaza to protect their daughters; this is not what Hamas…

— Israel Radar (@IsraelRadar_com) March 25, 2024

By the next day, Al Jazeera had removed references to Al-Hessi’s claims from its online platforms, but never formally retracted these libels, even though it had uncritically aired them in the first place.

However, by that point, it was too late. The damage to Israel’s reputation had already been done.

In less than 24 hours, millions of people had already viewed Jamila Al-Hessi’s lies on social media and, despite the denial by Hamas itself, continue to do so through a variety of anti-Israel accounts.

As of this last Thursday alone, the story had been viewed 2.3 million times on the X (formerly Twitter) account of Middle East Eye, 918,000 times on the X account of “investigative journalist” Sulaiman Ahmed, 405,000 times on the X account of “human rights activist”/Hamas supporter Ramy Abdu, and over 305,000 times on the X account of alternative media outlet The Cradle.

Some (including Sana Saeed, a journalist affiliated with Al Jazeera) have even gone so far as to voice skepticism of Hamas’ discrediting of Al-Hessi’s story.

BREAKING: ISRAELIS RAPED WOMEN AT AL-SHIFA CONFIRMED BY EYEWITNESS

Palestinian woman Jamila Al-Hisi:

“Israeli Occupation forces have raped and killed women in the vicinity of the hospital” pic.twitter.com/jganqfY5sc

— Sulaiman Ahmed (@ShaykhSulaiman) March 23, 2024

A horrific testimony from a Palestinian woman upon her exit from Shifa Hospital.
Women have been subjected to rape, starvation, torture, and extrajudicial execution, and the @ICRC is doing nothing.

شهادة مروعة لفلسطينية لحظة خروجها من مستشفى الشفاء.
تعرضت النساء للاغتصاب وتعرضنا… pic.twitter.com/NYAgUDKb1w

— Ramy Abdu| رامي عبده (@RamAbdu) March 23, 2024

The allegation of rape by IDF soldiers in Al-Shifa Hospital is not the first lie about Israel and the IDF that has been spread since Hamas’ October 7 terror attack and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

However, in this case, it was not spread by a lone social media activist or a fringe news source, but by a news organization that enjoys a veneer of respectability among both news consumers and media outlets around the world.

Despite it serving as an official mouthpiece of the authoritarian Qatari regime, and being accused of echoing Hamas talking points, Al Jazeera is viewed as a trusted source of information about Israel and the Palestinians during the current conflict, as well as over the past several years.

In 2022, HonestReporting uncovered that Al Jazeera had been cited by 16 “top-tier news outlets” 116 times in Israel-related news stories, with most never mentioning the Qatari media organization’s inherent bias.

Also, if not for Hamas deciding that the libel about rapes in Al-Shifa Hospital was not in its best interest and issuing a denial of the allegations, it is highly likely that Al Jazeera would have continued to run with this fabrication as a trusted news story.

It’s now been exactly 24 hours since the “Shifa rape” hoax was exposed, and @AlJazeera has yet to publish an official retraction https://t.co/yGcAQGctx9 pic.twitter.com/DLarOym20c

— Eitan Fischberger (@EFischberger) March 25, 2024

In this age of the 24-hour news cycle and instant access to news from around the world, Al Jazeera is serving as a valuable tool in Hamas’ propaganda war, spreading misinformation and sullying Israel’s image around the world at record speeds.

Al Jazeera’s malign influence on the views of social media users is concerning. For mainstream media outlets to rely on it as a source for Israel-related stories is downright journalistic malpractice.

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.

The post Damage Done: How Al Jazeera’s Fake Rape Story Harmed Israel’s Reputation in Less than 24 Hours first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Why No One Mourns Iran’s Dead President

Former Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a meeting with the cabinet in Tehran, Iran, January 19, 2023. Photo: Presidential Website/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

The strange tale of our times is that Ebrahim Raisi — coincidentally — could not escape justice. He was responsible for a signature machine that executed at least 5,000 prisoners and opponents — reported to be 10,000 or more — in the 1980s, along with a host of other crimes during his four decades within the Iranian Shiite establishment.

Amidst the chaos of the news that Raisi’s helicopter had crashed, the Iranian media gradually mentioned that it was an accident. Of course, no signs of emotion or prejudice were seen on Supreme Leader Khamenei’s face. It is now believed that the helicopter may have exploded, and that its GPS malfunctioned. Regardless, Raisi’s death was announced and, according to religious propaganda, the government’s propaganda machine declared him a martyr — which is absurd.

The news of his death brought joy to the survivors of the 1980s murders, and to the families who have been killed and executed in these last three years under his presidency, or reign of terror.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess — though there’s likely to be no visible change at the moment. The clerical regime in Iran fears nation-wide protests by the dissatisfied and oppressed population, who might openly express their joy or distribute candy. There is a huge rift between the Iranian people and the crisis-stricken government, and the balance could be disrupted at any moment.

Interestingly, the pro-regime reformists outdid the conservatives in mourning Raisi’s death. Former president Khatami, who had previously written a eulogy for Asadollah Lajevardi — a notorious criminal of the infamous Evin prison — wrote a heartfelt condolence for Raisi.

Although the mullahs’ regime in Tehran still commits murders, their regime of death and terror is losing its base of power more and more each day. Gradually, both internally and internationally, society has invalidated the Islamic Republic.

Since the rise of the mullahs to power in 1979, Iran has been emptied of identity and authenticity, and has become closer to the Arabian Age of Ignorance in Islam’s emergence. The hostility and vendetta of the clerics against the history and culture of Iran is undeniable. But the culture of hatred, prejudice, mourning, ignorance, and stupidity of the clerics does not — and has not — stood against the high value of Iranian culture.

The Shiite Islamic caliphate is an unpleasant phenomenon in Iranian history that, in 45 years, has reintroduced the sword of barbarism — opening a new chapter of death, bloodshed, and destruction in the historical records.

After 1979, which was a collective suicide of a nation and a deceptive revolution, a destructive and bloodthirsty mullah came to power. And without any conservatism or discretion, it must be said that the 1979 uproar was actually a terrorist riot by Khomeini, a masterpiece of stupidity that has rarely occurred in the history of revolts and revolutions. The Iranian nation became a lab for fanatic leaders that have led a nation to the brink of destruction. The deceptive title of the republic was initially a trick, but it has actually become the Islamic caliphate of the rule of the jurist.

Still, the rebellious and defiant Iranian people — who don’t accept this theocratic and tyrannical rule — are seeking a regime change that would send the mullahs into the mire of history. They have suffered 45 years of frustration, hopelessness, confusion, clean loss, broken helm — and after 45 years of disastrous existence, they prefer an honorable government to lead them forward.

After the death and removal of Raisi, the mafia regime may turn to moderate conservatives who might quickly hold a sham election — or perhaps the government will give up on participation. Still, Khamenei needs an obedient and compliant person.

Eventually Khamenei — one of the bloodthirsty villains of this century — will go. But Raisi’s name was recorded as a criminal executioner in contemporary Iranian history. No human being who believes in humanity is praying for his forgiveness.

In the pages of history, the mullahs in Tehran will leave memories of blood, death, executions, injustice, theft, violence, and warmongering. But the terrible fall of the disaster-stricken country of Iran is also not far from the imagination. Iran might lose much more in the mullahs’ gamble.

Erfan Fard is a counterterrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, DC. Twitter@EQFARD.

The post Why No One Mourns Iran’s Dead President first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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University of Michigan Clears Pro-Hamas Encampment

In the early morning hours on May 21, 2024, police cleared a tent encampment set up by an anti-Zionist group at the University of Michigan. Photo: Dave Boucher via Reuters Connect

The University of Michigan on Tuesday morning cleared a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” with the help of law enforcement, the school’s president, Santa Ono, has confirmed.

The action followed a nearly month-long occupation of The Diag section of campus by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) — an anti-Zionist group — during which both students and non-students destroyed school property, disrupted university business, and amassed outside the homes of school officials.

An inspection of the encampment by the local fire marshal prompted the university to quell the demonstration as soon as possible, Ono said on Tuesday. The marshal determined that SAFE’s “overloading power sources” and “using open flames” after repeatedly being told not to do so could have started a fire that resulted in “catastrophic loss of life.”

Police struggled to gain compliance with their order to vacate the area, according to footage of their engagement with the protesters which emerged on social media. After police approached the encampment clad in riot gear, the protesters began chanting and, locking arms with one another, tensing up for a fight. In response, the officers deployed pepper spray and began dismantling their tents. At least one non-student was arrested for assaulting an officer.

“Moving forward, individuals will be welcome to protest as they always have at the University of Michigan, so long as those protests don’t violate the rights of others and are consistent with university policies meant to ensure the safety of our community,” Ono said in Tuesday’s statement. “To be clear, there is no place for violence or intimidation at the University of Michigan. Such behavior will not be tolerated, and individuals will be held accountable.”

He added, “We must find productive ways to engage with one another. We must leverage facts and reason in a spirit of open debate and find ways to work toward solutions. If we can manage to do that here — a place that is home to some of the most brilliant minds in the country — then our state, nation, and world will continue to benefit from the diverse perspectives that our university brings together on the most important issues of our day.”

Following the clearing of the encampment, SAFE alleged that law enforcement had “brutalized” the protesters and announced a new demonstration outside the Washtenaw County Jail, where the arrested protesters are being processed.

“Please meet us there,” the group said.

The University of Michigan is one of over 100 schools where anti-Zionists took over sections of campus and refused to leave unless school administrators agreed to condemn and boycott Israel. Footage of the demonstrations has shown the protesters chanting in support of Hamas, calling for the destruction of Israel, and even threatening to harm members of the Jewish community on campus. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

In the past three weeks, law enforcement has cleared encampments at Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and George Washington University, among other schools.

In some instances, faculty — dozens of whom attached themselves to the demonstrations — attempted to prevent police from restoring order, resulting in their arrest. That happened, for example, at Emory University in Atlanta, where economics professor Caroline Fohlin intervened to stop the arrest of a student. In response, officers tackled her to the ground while she said repeatedly, “I’m a professor!” Meanwhile, at Northeastern University in Boston, professors formed a human barrier around a student encampment to stop it from being dismantled by officers, and at the University of Texas at Austin, members of the group Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine called for the resignation of their president, Jay Hartzell, because he requested police assistance.

Mass participation of faculty in pro-Hamas demonstrations marks an inflection point in American history, according to Asaf Romirowsky, an expert on the Middle East and executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Since the 1960s, he told The Algemeiner earlier this month, far-left “scholar activists” have gradually seized control of the higher education system, tailoring admissions processes and the curricula to foster ideological radicalism and conformity, which students then carry with them into careers in government, law, corporate America, and education. This system, he concluded, must be challenged.

“The cost of trading scholarship for political propagandizing has been a zeal and pride among faculty who esteem and cheer terrorism, a historical development which is quite telling and indicative of the evolution of the Marxist ideology which has been seeping into the academy since the 1960s,” Romirowsky said. “The message is very clear to all of us who are looking on from the outside at this, and institutions have to begin drawing a red line. The protests are not about free speech. They are about supporting terrorism, about calling for a genocide of Jews.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post University of Michigan Clears Pro-Hamas Encampment first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Top Advisor to Mahmoud Abbas: ‘Oct. 7 Can Repeat Itself 100 Times … Perhaps Even More Seriously’

PA President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank August 18, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/Pool

In an interview three days ago, a top Palestinian Authority (PA) official and advisor to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas — Mahmoud Al-Habbash — threatened Israel that “Oct. 7 can repeat itself 100 times, and perhaps even more seriously.”

Al-Habbash envisions the murder of 1,000 innocent Israeli civilians — babies, children, youth, women, men, and the elderly — more than 100 times. He vows that hundreds/thousands more Israeli women will be brutally raped, and Israeli men will be sadistically killed. He said that 100 more times, 240 innocent Israeli civilians will be taken captive and held hostage for months.

This will happen “if the Palestinian cause will not be justly, comprehensively, and permanently resolved … on the basis of the UN resolutions”:

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations Mahmoud Al-Habbash: “If the Palestinian cause will not be justly, comprehensively, and permanently resolved, at least on the basis of international legitimacy, at least on the basis of the UN resolutions, then Oct. 7 can repeat itself 100 times, and perhaps even more seriously.”

[Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Facebook page, May 18, 2024]

PA leaders have repeated that they “only” want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital — but Palestinian Media Watch has documented numerous times that they tell their own people that they really want all of the State of Israel — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition, the “UN resolutions” that the PA demands fulfilled include UN Resolution 194.

UN Resolution 194 includes the words “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so.”

While this was not totally impossible in December 1948 — when the resolution passed — today, it would mean the destruction of Israel. With 5.9 million people that UNRWA recognizes as “refugees,” UN 194 is the PA’s recipe for the end of Israel.

In fact, the PA’s insistence that all 5.9 million UNRWA “refugees” immigrate to Israel is their way of seeking Israel’s destruction under the umbrella of a UN resolution.

 The author is a senior analyst at Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article was originally published.

The post Top Advisor to Mahmoud Abbas: ‘Oct. 7 Can Repeat Itself 100 Times … Perhaps Even More Seriously’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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