Media watchdog CAMERA has blasted the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency after it ran a story claiming that recent flooding in Gaza was caused by the opening of dams by Israeli authorities.
“In fact, Israel has no dams that can be opened in southern Israel,” the watchdog said.
The story, which AFP posted with an accompanying video entitled “Gaza village flooded as Israel opens dam gates” was also carried by media mouthpieces of Iran, Qatar, Russia, China and the Palestinian Authority as well as the UK‘s Daily Mail.
In a blog on its website, CAMERA cited a spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in Israel who said, “The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams. Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.”
The spokesman added: “Prior to the storm, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.”
CAMERA also spoke to Nechemia Shahaf, the head of the Drainage Authority for the Shakma-Besor Region, who confirmed to the group that there are no dams which can be opened and closed in southern Israel. Shahaf said, “There is a diverting dam one meter high which directs water to reservoirs. This is a low dam which cannot be opened or closed.” He also noted that the singular dam, which cannot be opened, is next to Kibbutz Gvulot, and approximately 20 kilometers away from Gaza.
The watchdog said that it has contacted AFP editors and that the French wire service is a repeat offender.
AFP “has trouble passing up on a juicy story, however unsubstantiated and flimsy, accusing Israel of wrongdoing. Three years ago, the influential news agency refused to clarify the unsubstantiated allegation that an Israeli soldier ran over a Palestinian worker with a construction vehicle,” CAMERA said. “Later that year, AFP editors failed to correct the false claim that an Israeli airstrike had killed 11-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah, though multiple other media outlets responsibly clarified that it was Hamas weaponry that killed the boy.”
“Two months ago, the French news outlet declined to clarify an article claiming that an Israeli arsonist was responsible for a fire in a West Bank mosque, though the Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Haaretz all commendably followed up with reports and/or corrections noting that an Israeli investigation determined that it was an electrical fire.”