The Left's MediaManipulators
By Kenneth R.Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | July6, 2006
During the Cold War, underRonald Reagan’s presidency, the United States government paidspecial attention to Soviet efforts to manipulate world publicopinion against the United States.
They referred to these Soviet efforts as “active measures.”A special unit at the United States Information Agency, headed by atop Soviet analyst, Herbert Romerstein, kept track of the mostvicious Soviet tricks and exposed them as frauds to the public.
Among the Soviet fabrications were such gems as the claim, which waswidely accepted before it was debunked, that the U.S. government hadinvented the AIDS virus and was spreading it throughout the ThirdWorld to decimate non-white populations.
Today, new masters of disinformation have emerged in Iran, Iraq, andthe Palestinian territories.
Although the KGB is no longer behind their efforts to manipulateworld opinion, a new “corporate” entity has emerged. Itsactive agents tend to be Palestinians, who have learned the ropesfabricating Israeli “atrocities.”
They are now exporting their wares to Iraq, and according to Israeliofficials I spoke to recently in Jerusalem, have been personallyinvolved in fabricating U.S. “atrocities” in Haditha andelsewhere in Iraq.
To vehicle their fabrications as fact they frequently turn toleft-wing activitists working for Human Rights Watch and other NGOs.They are aided by a willing press; from the left-wing Guardianand Independent dailies in Britain, to the French state-ownedFrance2 Television, now defending its reputation in a court case forhaving allegedly fabricated the Mohammad al-Dura “Murder”in 2000 that ushered in the 2nd Intifada and killed off any hopes ofa peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians.
The most recent example of this new, KGB-style media manipulationoperation hit the big screen on June 9, when international mediaspread worldwide the image of a bereaved Palestinian girl, wailing ona Gaza beach, after an Israeli artillery shell killed her entirefamily during a picnic.
The only problem was, it never happened –at least, not as themedia first told the story.
A self-styled “military expert” for Human Rights Watch,Marc Garlasco, alleged that an Israeli artillery shell, fired inretaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks into Jewish towns insideIsrael, had strayed onto the beach and killed the Palestinianfamily.
The Israelis agreed a bit too hastily that Garlasco’s versionmay have been true. They had been firing against Palestinianterrorists several hundred meters away, and agreed to launch aninvestigation. But as the Israeli government investigation proceeded,all the evidence pointed in another direction.
Garlasco, who has no artillery experience or forensics training, hasnever explained how a 155 mm artillery shell could explode amid sanddunes without leaving a huge crater. Despite this, internationalmedia organizations considered him to be a credible “expert,”when he accused Israel of the killings.
Accordingto a French Media watch organization,Media ratings,¬Ý France 2 television quoted Garlasco asclaiming that he had picked up scrapnel on the beach from an Israeliartillery shell.
But even Arab media had reported that the beach had been cleaned ofscrapnel by Hamas and Palestinian security officials immediatelyafter the incident.
And Israeli officials told me that the wounded who were eventuallytransported to Israeli hospitals had been picked clean ofeasily-accessible scrapnel by Palestinian doctors.
Garlasco also misrepresented a meeting he had with the head of theIsraeli military forensics team investigating the incident, Maj. Gen.Meir Klifi.
After a three-hour meeting with Klifi and other Israeli officials inTel Aviv on June 20, Garasco told the Jerusalem Post that he “cameto an agreement with Gen. Klifi that the most likely cause [ofthe blast[ was unexploded Israeli ordnance.”
But an Israeli official present at the meeting told me that was notthe case. “We agreed that no Israeli shell was fired at thebeach that day, and that we could not yet determine what caused theexplosion,” he said. “It might have been an old Israelimine, or an unexploded shell. Or it could have been a makeshiftexplosive device.” The Israelis taped the meeting.
The Israeli government has said that Hamas operated an explosivesfactory not far from the site of the beachfront accident.
Dr. Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University has been trackingnon-governmental organizations operating in Israel for several years.“Human Rights Watch has a political agenda, based on Israelbashing, and Garlasco is not what he purports to be,” he toldme in Jerusalem.
An earlier Human Rights Watch report that used Garlasco as a militaryforensics expert made “unverified and unsubstantiated claims”that Israel had razed Palestinian neighborhoods in Rafah, on theborder between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, he said.
News organizations plastered the photograph of a terror-strickensix-year old girl, grieving the loss of her family on the Gaza beach,on front pages around the world.
But the photograph was staged by Hamas fighters who rushed to thescene after the explosion, new video footage of the immediateaftermath of the attack shows, Israeli officials believe.
Israeli military officials identified a Palestinian photographer withknown ties to Hamas from video footage shot in the aftermath of thebeachfront tragedy.
The photographer arrived with Hamas fighters after emergency aidworkers had covered the bodies and taken them to ambulances, andcould be seen giving direction to aid workers to “set up thescene for the photoshoot,” an Israeli official who viewed thefootage told me.
The Palestinian photographer coached the girl whose photograph hitthe front pages around the world, the official said.
“This is very similar to the Mohammad al Dura case,” theIsraeli official said, “where Palestinian stage-managers havecreated fictional facts that many in the media bought intouncritically.”
The alleged killing of a 6-year old Palestinian boy by Israelisoldiers in September 2000 led to the second Initifad.
An Israeli army investigation, which examined all footage taken byPalestinian camera crews on scene, concluded that it was physicallyimpossible for Israel soldiers to have shot the boy, since they werepositioned around a corner.
Mohammad al Dura and his father could be seen looking fearfully atPalestinian gunmen positioned directly across from them just beforethey were shot, in video footage that was aired on France 2television.
The Palestinians were now trying to export their “stage-managedmassacres” to Iraq, the Israeli official said.
Another Palestinian photographer, Mazen Dana, was killed by U.S.forces in Fallujah in 2004 when American soldiers saw him encouragingFallujah residents to stage a riot for a camera crew.
The Israelis believe that Dana was just one of several Palestinianswho have since gone to Iraq to coach Iraqi insurgents in mediamanipulation techniques.
U.S. military lawyers defending the Marines on trial for the Haditha “massacre”last November would do well to take a much closer look at theaffiliation of the so-called “witnesses” who shot theincriminating footage of civilian victims after the runninghouse-to-house battles in Haditha between the Marines and anti-U.S.insurgents.
They will find a similar pattern to many of the so-called Israeli “massacres”in Gaza and elsewhere; stage-managed events, planned and coordinatedby Palestinian media manipulators, seeking to achieve maximum impacton world public opinion.