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Palestinian Blood Libel By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is now perpetrating a blood libel by continuing to post on its website (under “Press Releases”) a blatantly false report about a “Palestinian Shepherd Killed by Settlers” after having featured the story for over a week.


The body of the 19-year-old shepherd, Yihya Atta Bani-Minya, was found late on Saturday, September 27, near the Israeli settlement of Gitit in the Jordan Valley. As the Jerusalem Post noted in an editorial this week, “both police forensic teams and the autopsy performed on [him] revealed that not only were there no signs of the victim having been shot, death was in fact caused by his having handled an unexploded 40mm-shell.” Already on September 29 Haaretz reported that “[police] spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said forensics experts determined…the shepherd’s body suffered shrapnel wounds, and there were no signs [he] was shot.”


Yet the account on PCHR’s website continues to state that while the shepherd “was transported by Israeli ambulance” to the forensic institute where the autopsy was done, “according to eyewitnesses, his body had been hit by about 20 bullets to the neck, chest and legs…. PCHR reiterates its condemnation of this violent crime….” PCHR’s story simply is not updated even to mention the results of the Israeli inquiry into the cause of death.


PCHR, a Gaza City-based NGO founded in 1995, describes itself on the site as “enjoy[ing] Consultative Status with the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] of the United Nations” and being “an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists-Geneva, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)-Paris, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network-Copenhagen, Arab Organization for Human Rights-Cairo, and International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC)-Stockholm.”


NGO Monitor describes PCHR as “pressing [an] anti-Israel agenda in media and international organizations” with its “reports condemning Israel policy often lacking] credibility” and as “also active in criticizing [the] Palestinian Authority’s failure to promote human rights.” NGO Monitor lists PCHR’s funding sources as: “European Commission, Ford Foundation, NOVIB Holland, Christian Aid, Open Society Fund-USA..., CAW Social Justice Fund-Canada, Dan Church Aid-Denmark, Grassroots International-USA…, Danish Representative Office, Representative Office of Norway, Ireland Aid.”


A 2006 NGO Monitor report on PCHR notes that a June 28 press release by the organization that year referred to the abduction by Hamas of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as a “military operation conducted by the Palestinian resistance” and “[did] not condemn the illegal abduction, call for the soldier’s release, or call for him to be treated humanely as required by the Geneva Convention.” More recently PCHR was one of the organizers of the “Free Gaza” voyage, a publicity stunt by anti-Israeli activists, and successfully petitioned a Spanish court to issue arrest warrants against six senior Israeli political and military figures.


With such a record, and with the blood-libel tactic having previously proved so effective for the Palestinians particularly in the Jenin and Muhammad al-Dura cases, it’s no surprise PCHR is currently using it in the case of the shepherd. A search reveals the quick dissemination of the slander particularly in Arab media. For instance, Al-Jazeera states that “A Palestinian shepherd has been shot dead by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank….” Palestine Monitor says “an 18 year-old shepherd…was executed by Israeli settlers while grazing his sheeps in the fields surrounding his village.”


Khaleel Times (UAR) carries an AFP (Agence France-Presse) story that cites “Palestinian security officials” saying “The young man…was among a group of shepherds grazing their flocks…when they were attacked by settlers. The others managed to flee, but relatives found [the young man’s] body….” Electronic Intifada titles its story “Rights org [i.e.—PCHR]: Israeli settlers slay Palestinian shepherd.” Like PCHR’s own press release, none of these mention the Israeli forensic and autopsy results.

As the al-Dura case proved in particular, such lies provoke attacks by Arabs and other Muslims on Israelis and Diaspora Jews and keep violent passions at a fever pitch. So long as PCHR’s site keeps carrying its “Palestinian Shepherd” press release—one of the original sources of the libel—all those other organizations that work with it and fund it are complicit in propagating dangerous incitement.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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