A mosque in the disputed territories town of Mughayer near Ramallah suffered severe fire damage back in November. The word out immediately was that Jews were responsible. Not just any Jews, of course, but those evil extremist “settlers.”
The mayor of Mughayer, Faraj al-Nassan, told the Associated Press that the Jews were to blame for the fire.
“Only Jewish settlers would do this,” he said.
He neglected to mention any other possibility, including the actual one, the electrical malfunction of a space heater.
Nassan made the statement to the AP, which dutifully reported it, and then the unverified rumor ossified firmly into fact, showing up in dozens of media sources throughout the world.
Yahoo! News posted an AP photograph of an Arab man holding a heavily burned Quran, describing the fire as having resulted from “an attack” against the mosque which “ignited a fire that destroyed its first floor.” The Yahoo! caption included the village’s mayor “blaming Jewish settlers for the attack.”
It wasn’t only an understandably distraught town mayor who blamed the Jews. Reports from villagers blaming Jews were not mere suppositions, they were stated as fact.
The fire in Mughayer took place during a spate of terrorist attacks against Israelis. Many media outlets happily invoked a standard trope known as the “cycle of violence,” where harm to anyone or anything on both sides are presented as similarly motivated acts of hatred.
But as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) revealed on Tuesday, Dec. 16, an investigation of the Mughayer mosque fire conducted by Israeli firefighters determined that “the cause was actually an electrical malfunction.”
The day of the fire, the far-left and popular Israeli paper Haaretz reported that local Arabs “claimed that the mosque had been set ablaze by arsonists from a nearby Jewish settlement.”
Haaretz has since put out a story acknowledging the new evidence, “Mosque blaze was electrical fire, not arson, firefighters say.”
CAMERA’s report provides examples of news outlets which attributed the blame for the fire on “Jewish settlers.” It also describes its efforts to provide to those outlets the results of the investigation, and the determination that there were “no traces of flammable materials or liquids, nor was any racist graffiti found at the scene. The electric fire is believed to have been caused by a space heater. The second floor of the mosque suffered extensive damage.”
Some of those outlets have since issued corrections, such as Haaretz and the AP. Others have remained silent in the face of proof that they provided their readers with a false indictment of Jews based on no hard evidence. Those include Agence-France Presse, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters.