How can it be so easy to tell a lie and have the media publish it? Take the story of the Israeli dams that flooded Gaza.
This is not the case of a controversial issues where there can be legitimate differences of opinion. No, I’m taking about an objective, clear lie. One that can easily be disproven with some simple fact-checking. A lie that has not a shred of evidence to back it up.
The sky is blue. It can be cloudy or grey, but it is not green. All you need to do is look up to see that the sky is not green. (Even if someone shows you a photoshopped image.)
So how can it be that when an official with Hamas (and not even one of the well-known ones) told reporters that Israel had flooded Gaza by opening up dams, they took him at his word and printed the accusation as news?
While it started with fringe media well-associated with anti-Israel charges, the story spread. Reporters who didn’t even speak with the original dubious source then repeated the lie. Footage of Gazans dealing with flooded streets and homes was added to make the story more interesting.
At this point, you would think that someone in the loop might ask for some evidence that this flooding — which occurred during rain storms that flooded areas throughout Israel — was unnaturally caused by an Israeli action. After all, the accusation is very serious. Any country that would deliberately open up a dam in order to flood civilians out of their homes should be condemned.
The very serious nature of the charge should have demanded some type of investigation. Anyone familiar with the geography of Israel would be able to point out that there are no dams around Gaza. Even if a news organization did not trust local Israelis, there are many easy ways to find out if there are indeed dams in the area. A reporter could spend a few hours driving around — the Gaza border is not that long. If they found an area where water was pouring in, they could easily trace it back to its source.
One afternoon and the investigation would have been complete.
Even a simple Google search would have failed to reveal any such dams. However, such a search would reveal that this lie is hardly new. Apparently, every year after significant rainfall, Israel is accused of opening up dams and flooding Gaza.
Five minutes on the internet — that’s all it would have taken.
And it’s not like the media are sticking with the story. Now that the lie has been exposed, some are issuing quick retractions. Even Al Jezeera apologized for running the story.
With so much — muddy water — on their faces, it is reasonable to conclude that any journalist will think twice and do even minimal fact-checking when confronted with what sounds like a far-fetched accusation about Israel.
But for some crazy reason, journalists tend to forget everything they learned about basic standards of journalism where Israel is concerned.
So we can put this accusation to rest, now that everyone knows there are no dams around Gaza.
Until the next time it rains.
This article originally appeared on Israel National News.