The story of the Anatot pogrom took on a new and even more bizarre twist when Yisrael HaYom, Sheldon Adelson’s vanity newspaper created to boost the political power of Bibi Netanyahu and the Israeli far-right, published a patently false report (page 13) claiming that Yassine Abed Abu Salah Al-Refai, the Palestinian farmer whose cause originally brought peace activists to Anatot to defend his right to farm his land, was a three-time convicted rapist who’d spent 18 years in Israeli jails. The article also claims without providing any evidence that the Palestinian takes pictures of the Israeli children of Anatot and throws rocks at them.
The only problems according to Israeli blogger, Esti Segel? First, the story claimed Yassine was originally from Gaza and gained Israeli citizenship through collaboration with the Shin Bet (an almost certain death sentence in Palestinian circles–you see where this is going). The article also claims he’s married to a Jewish woman. Actually, he’s a native of the village of Anata where his grandfather was mukthar and founded the village of Anata. In fact, settlers disinterred the bones of his grandfather from their burial place.
Refai holds Israeli citizenship by virtue of the fact that half the village is included in the municipal district of Jerusalem (East Jerusalem was annexed shortly after the 1967 War). He has a legal deed to his land from the Ottoman authorities and which Israeli courts and even the settlers of Anatot concede is valid. Second, the story claimed the last imprisonment began in 1995 and was an 14-year sentence, which would make his release date 2009. However, the dispute with Anatot, Israeli activists who document such matters verify, began four years ago in 2007. They have accompanied the farmer to his land at Anatot in that year and others and know he was not in prison as the article claims.
And even if he received early release, the fact that he was a three-time convicted sexual felon would’ve been known far earlier to the settlers who undoubtedly would’ve used it against him in previous legal proceedings that were brought. They didn’t. The story only came up now, after the settlers went on a rampage and needed something, anything to deflect criticism from their OWN sexually aberrant acts. This only goes to show that when Israeli Jews sexually abuse women it’s somehow excusable as long as the cause which it serves is “just,” but when Arabs do the same (and even when they don’t) it’s a tool to exploit to smear and humiliate them and their cause in the eyes of the world.
All that one can say on behalf of this tissue of lies is that they at least allowed Rifai a few words at the conclusion of the story after the damage had been done (not just to the farmer, but to Yisrael HaYom itself). He said the entire story is a lie and fabrication. Those are the only true things in the whole story.
It is no accident that whichever source Bibiton relied on in producing this mess deliberately chose to identify a Palestinian guilty of sexual predation. Because that’s much akin to what the settlers of Anatot inflicted on the Israeli Solidarity activists who came to Yassine’s aid. Because Anatot’s residents were guilty of sexual abuse, they needed to manufacture a Palestinian guilty of similar crimes who could deflect criticism from their own heinous acts. It’s quite devious and could’ve been quite successful in blunting criticism of the pogrom had not a diligent Israeli blogger done her homework to expose the lies.
Here’s what I think happened. The reporter was contacted by a settler resident of Anatot. Probably one of the Border Police residents who had access to the prison records of Palestinians. He found a convict with a name that was similar to Rifai’s. He didn’t bother doing any research to confirm that the record he discovered was the same as the farmer in question. The information was leaked to Bibiton, which also did no due diligence and published it as truth.
I’d like to think that at least the originator of this lie had some thin reason to associate Rifai with these charges. The thought that they made the story up out of whole cloth is even more depressing (though certainly possible).
This is beyond despicable and should earn the newspaper an award as the most disgusting piece of charah (“shit”) published in an Israeli newspaper this year. I doubt it will draw a word of criticism from anyone in the Israeli media (may I be proven wrong). Though thank God Esti Segel published her own due diligence, which an Israeli activist brought to my attention.
Finally, a commenter at Esti’s blog has the final, hilarious satiric word on Yisrael HaYom. Hint: there is a play on words below, in which he calls the newspaper, Yisrael Ayom (“Awful Israel”):
I protest in the name of the readers of the wonderful Yisrael Ayom. We’re speaking of a media source that is unique and innovative, whose like there never was in the whole world. A newspaper possessing a cosmic bond with the consciousness of Israel’s prime minister (with the proper oversight of Sara Tra-la-la [satiric reference to Sara Netanyahu]). We’re privileged to learn every morning what our beloved prime minister dreamt the night before. Shame on those who slander it.
Unfortunately, you learn with a number of Israeli publications and reporters not to trust anything until you can verify it independently. Israeli readers, especially those of the right-wing media are often not even aware that what they read is utterly lacking in credibility. I’ll have to ask my Israeli friends what the Hebrew equivalent of “buyer beware” is. It holds true about too much Israeli journalism.