AP, AFP reporters trash Israel in secret Facebook group

Israeli Defense Forces / AP
May 22, 2013

A "secret" Facebook group of foreign correspondents and human rights activists quickly devolved into an anti-Israel hate-fest on Tuesday following the release of a new Israeli government report that cleared the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of wrongdoing in the 2000 death of a Palestinian boy.

The Israeli government report contests the claim that the IDF killed a Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, in a famous 2000 incident in Gaza that helped ignite the Second Intifada.

Journalists and activists mocked the report, attacked the IDF, and claimed pro-Israel lobbyists were influencing the media coverage, in a private Facebook group for foreign correspondents known as the "Vulture Club."

Peter Bouckaert, a senior official at Human Rights Watch, dismissed the report as "typical IDF lies."

"As usual, it takes them a long time to really build up the falsehood," wrote Bouckaert.

Bouckaert also blasted the New York Times for its coverage of the report.

"It really isn't good journalism to write this up as if these are credible allegations when it is a pack of lies," he wrote.

Correspondents from numerous outlets, including the Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse, also piled on.

"[T]he lobby uses all its strength and is able to push anything in majors [sic] English newspapers or in the NYT[imes]," wrote El Mundo reporter Javier Espinosa. "Israeli embassies call their contacts in all those newspapers and they agree to publish that information."

"That reinforces lack of media credibility and conspiracy theories as we are being used as mouthpieces for propaganda," Espinosa added.

Associated Press photojournalist Jerome Delay wrote, "The IDF thinks the earth is flat, btw."

The journalists also took shots at Philippe Karsenty, a French media analyst who was sued by France 2 television after he accused the network of airing staged footage of the al-Durrah incident.

"And fuck no, it’s not true that ‘Everyone in France knows the footage is a hoax,’ as Karsenty says," wrote AFP reporter Marc Bastian. "Everyone here knows that [France 2 journalist Charles] Enderlin is an honest man, and Karsenty is an extremist."

"That's about the kindest way to describe Karsenty," replied Bouckaert. "I would add a few descriptive words after extremist."

"I know, I’m always too polite," responded Bastian.

Andrew Ford Lyons, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, which has supported anti-Israel terrorists, called the al-Durrah report "a feeble attempt at historical revision, at best."

Bouckaert, who is currently the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, declined to discuss his comments to the Vulture Club on the record when contacted by the Washington Free Beacon.

"The group is a secret FB group, and our discussions are confidential," Bouckaert said.

Human Rights Watch's founder, Robert Bernstein, publicly broke with the group in 2009 and said the group's anti-Israel activism was distorting the issue.

Human Rights Watch did not comment.

The Vulture Club has around 3,500 members.

Espinosa also declined to explain his comments when contacted over Twitter.

"[Y]ou have some personal examples at the facebook page that you have read," he wrote.

The Associated Press did not respond to requests for comment.

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