Recently, an Irish government spokesperson – while warning people to keep social distancing on Mother’s Day to prevent the spread of the Covid19 virus – commented that the virus doesn’t take a day off. Unfortunately, the same is true for those who disseminate lies about Israel.
On March 26th, B’Tselem published a story claiming that “Israel’s military” had demolished a clinic that was under construction at “the Palestinian community of Khirbet Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley”. Even the pictures used by B’Tselem cast doubt on the story given that they depict a site that’s in the middle of a field and far from any roads, wholly unsuited for a clinic.
However, those who disseminate lies and slander about Israel have an utterly unquestioning audience who can be relied on to share and retweet any old nonsense. Step forward Senator Frances Black – who has a long history of spreading fake news about Israel – to post the story on Twitter and declare it to be “heartbreaking”.
COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) has refuted the story and their press release is at the end of this article. The truth is that the structure was an illegal building, constructed without permits and B’Tselem retrospectively pretended that it was a clinic because putting such a spin on the story would add extra oomph to the fake news in these difficult times when the world is battling with the coronavirus.
Of course, the reality is that Israel is doing much to assist the Palestinians, providing masks and testing kits, with a major ramping up in cooperation to fight the virus. Combatting the virus requires the ordinary person to change their behaviour, keep social distancing, wash their hands regularly etc. That isn’t made any easier when a Hamas TV preacher assures his flock that Muslims are the least infected by the virus and gives them to understand that it’s a punishment from Allah against non-Muslims and Shiites.
Undoubtedly, the Covid19 virus will result in the deaths of Palestinians and people like Frances Black will put all the blame on Israel. As one person replying to her tweet pointed out, she only has an interest in the welfare of Palestinians when there’s an opportunity to bash Israel.
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COGAT's response to B’Tselem organization's announcement
First of all, we are sorry to see a human rights organization choosing to cynically exploit a global crisis for the dissemination of fake news at a time when joint efforts are being made by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to put a brake on the spread of the coronavirus.
As for the accusation, this episode has nothing to do with an emergency clinic for treating coronavirus patients and nothing to do with any other kind of clinic. It is a complete lie. There was a portable structure erected on a firing zone in the Jordan Valley, and alongside it were poles and sheets for setting up tents, with a purpose unknown to us. We wish to make clear that the Civil Administration received no communication regarding the construction of an emergency clinic at the site — not from the Palestinian Authority and not from any international organization.
The facts are that on March 24, 2020, an inspector from the Civil Administration noticed the construction of a watchtower, built by a resident of Bardala in Area C, who had not received the necessary permits — not from the Israeli authorities and not from the Palestinian authorities. The resident was served an order to halt work, and today (Thursday) the Inspection Unit performed enforcement against the above-mentioned building, including the equipment that had been placed alongside it.
In conclusion, while the B’Tselem organization is spreading false information maligning the State of Israel, COGAT is working, and will continue to work, together with the Palestinian Authority and with international organizations to give all possible assistance in stopping the coronavirus from spreading further. This assistance is in the form of detection kits, disinfectants, and other medical equipment passed into the Judea and Samaria area and the Gaza Strip.
by Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh