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June 27, 2016

Historical Malfeasance of The Daily Telegraph (Australia)

The Daily Telegraph (Australia) headline "Israeli Thunderbolt hostage-rescue raid on Entebbe was a drama worthy of Hollywood blockbusters" is certainly true. Despite the promising headline, the seemingly light "historical" article celebrating 40 years since the daring Entebbe rescue gives credence to a bizarre conspiracy theory from the 1970s.

Following an account of the well-known Israeli heroics popularized in various Hollywood movies, Telegraph history writer Marea Donnelly then ventures into less familiar territory. "[I]ntrigue surrounds" the choice of some westerners to join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorists in kidnapping Israelis, the article alleges. "Adding to the confusion," Donnelly continues, was the fact that the hijackers described themselves as belonging to the "Che Guevara Force and the Gaza Commando of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)".

Readers then unexpectedly encounter an ostensible cause to doubt the heroic narrative:

Then in 2007 Britian’s National Archives released a file suggesting Israel’s Security Service, the Shin Bet, had helped subversive agents in the PFLP stage the hijack.

First secretary at the British embassy in Paris, David Colvin, told superiors a contact in the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association suggested the attack was designed to torpedo the rival Palestine Liberation Organisation’s standing in France, and prevent a perceived rapprochement between Americans and the PLO.

The apparent implication is that the aforementioned "confusion" can be attributed to the alleged Israeli engineering of the hijacking in which three Israeli hostages and one commando were killed.

The claim, popular in pro-Palestinian conspiracy sites, is based on a single "report" given to David Colvin, the first secretary at the British embassy in Paris in 1976. Recently released by the British archives, the document begins: "It might be useful to record some of the theories which are circulating about the incident." In other words, this document recounts various rumors or theories. The report notes the "theories," but does not assess them. Here is the relevant section:

British archives entebbe small.jpg

When the document was first released in 2007, it was widely reported as a curiosity. However, news organizations were careful to note that there was no evidence this "report" was taken seriously. The Telegraph (British) noted: "The message was received without comment." Haaretz added: "The claim is not known to be backed up by corroborating evidence, and the file does not make it clear whether the British government took the claim seriously."

To include a baseless conspiracy theory, without clearly noting that it is unfounded, in a short and light historical piece is incredibly misleading. Casting rumors and conspiracy theories as potentially credible is a disservice both to the historical record and to sound journalism.

Posted by gs at June 27, 2016 05:00 AM


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