A Brand New Myth For The Israeli Right

In the wake of the horrific murders of five family members, including three children, in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, a number of conservative blogs have been pushing a story that crowds of Palestinians in Gaza turned out to “celebrate” the murders.

The story was picked up by the Washington Post’s neocon blogger, Jennifer Rubin, who wrote, “The initial reaction of Palestinians [to the Itamar murders] was grotesque, if not predictable“:

Ynet news reported, “Gaza residents from the southern city of Rafah hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar where five family members were murdered in their sleep, including three children. Residents handed out candy and sweets, one resident saying the joy ‘is a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank.’”

Teeing off Rubin’s post in an article subtitled “Islam is as Islam does,” National Review’s Andrew McCarthy transmogrified the story into a condemnation of all Muslims:

As the Israeli press reported, jubilant Muslims crowded Gaza’s streets, handing out candy and sweets in the wake of the murders. Jennifer Rubin notes that the outpouring of joy over the slitting of an infant’s throat was, according to one resident, “a natural response to the harm settlers inflict” on Palestinians.

It is a natural response, if you are a monster… And these positions, it bears emphasizing, do not represent some fringe Islam of al-Qaeda terrorists who have purportedly hijacked an otherwise peaceful religion. This is mainstream Islam.

A little research revealed that all of these claims are based on a single story from last Saturday in the Israeli tabloid Ynet.

When I contacted Elior Levy, the writer of the Ynet story, he responded that the item was originally “published in [the] ‘Safa’ web site. It is a news agency located in Gaza.” Safa is widely perceived to be Hamas-affiliated. Levy sent me a link, but noted that “I think that they don’t have [an] archive.” Levy also noted that the site “put a picture there of a man that gives candies on the road of Rafah to drivers. The title says ‘Candies in Rafah — celebrating the mission in Nablus.'” (Nablus is the Palestinian city near the Itamar settlement.)

I contacted a number of people who work in Gaza, none of them had seen or heard anything about “jubilant crowds,” or even moderately pleased crowds, thronging Gaza’s streets in celebration of the murders. A search of the Safa site didn’t turn up the story either, but photos of the man handing out sweets in Rafah, three of them in fact, were easy to find, as they’ve accompanied many of the blog posts condemning the Palestinian “celebrations.” Here they are:

Even if the photo caption is accurate, one guy handing out treats to celebrate murder is one too many. But do you see “crowds” of “jubilant Muslims” in those photos? I don’t. (And even if you did, would this say more about Islam than crowds of Jewish Israelis celebrating mass murderer Baruch Goldstein every year says about Judaism? I don’t think so.)

So it seems that what happened here is that a pro-Hamas website tried, lamely and offensively, to spin the Itamar murders as a bold, praise-worthy act of resistance. An Israeli tabloid then reported this (now disappeared) item in typically steroidal fashion. Conservative bloggers then swarmed on it. And that’s how a non-existent mass demonstration of anti-Israel hatred ended up under the Washington Post’s banner as an actual fact, probably to be repeated in op-eds and AIPAC fundraising letters for years and years to come.