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Fact vs. Fiction: Internet Rumors and Email Hoaxes Debunked

This section of our blog is dedicated to a listing and analysis of the hoaxes and rumors currently circulating on the Internet and flooding your email inboxes.  This list is not all-inclusive; it is a work in progress.  Your submissions are invited and welcome.

October, 2010
FICTION:  In the Pennylvania Senate Race, a rumor is being spread on the Internet that Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak is not pro-Israel and his Republican challenger former Rep. Pat Toomey is.  Unfortunately there are numerous campaigns in which this accusation is made.  This is just one example.

FACT: In addition to Sestak's pro-Israel votes in the House, the  naval missions he conducted show an affinity for Israel plus an understanding of the the unique challenges she faces and the military assistance she needs. A naval Admiral who has served in the Middle East is a qualification not often found.

We do not consider the letter that he signed regarding Gaza to be evidence of an anti-Israel bias, although we wish that letter had not been sent.  We do not consider letters nearly as important as votes on substantive measures that support Israel, such as foreign aid appropriations and sanctions on Iran. On those measures, Sestak measures up. 

Which brings us to Toomey. His votes on aid when he was in Congress were not favorable.  Throughout his House tenure he voted against aid to Israel, as follows:  HR 3196,  vote #572, 11/5/99; HR 4811, vote #546, 10/25/00; HR 2506, vote #266, 7/24/01; HR 2506, vote #505, 12/19/01; HR 2800, vote #429, 7/24/03; HJRES 2, vote #32, 2/13/03; HR 4818, vote #390, 7/15/04. (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes.xpd?chamber=House&year=1999&person=400408

A voting record is the gold standard used to judge whether a person is pro-Israel.  By that standard, Toomey is about as "anti-Israel" as you can get.  And his views on domestic issues  which are the consensus priorities of the Jewish community, are equally negative. Israel should not be a reason to oppose Sestak. Given the record, Toomey is the one to be most concerned about.

The criticism of Sestak is the Swift Boaters all over again -- undeserved personal attacks and false accusations that disregard the truth.  People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.  These rumors about Sestak are the work of those who claim that only one party constitutes the true believers where Israel is concerned.  This belief  harms the cause of a safe, secure Israel with the bipartisan support in the US, its partner and champion.

August, 2010
FICTION: In his own words. You read, you decide.
This email focuses on quotes from President Obama's two books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from my Father, mistitled in this email as Audacity of Hope and Dreams of my Father.  

FACT:  This email contains doctored-up, falsified "quotes" put together in 2008 by those who opposed  Obama's bid for the presidency more than they cared about  the truth. Numerous statements are either taken out of context or made up altogether.  The email does not provide the page numbers where the quotes supposedly appear, which should be the first indication that this missive is not on the up and up. It's just another page in the Obama-haters playbook.

June, 2010
FICTION:  Former New York Mayor Ed Koch is circulating an email in which he alludes to a Weekly Standard article that claims the Administration is calling for an international UN-led investigation of the flotilla incident. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/sources-obama-administration-support-anti-israel-resolution-un-next-week

FACT:  Editor William Kristol made this up, basing his "report" on "sources in the Administration." The White House has issued a statement to the contrary, as reported in the Jerusalem Post:

'We didn't endorse UN flotilla probe'
06/11/2010 21:20
Obama administration officials deny 'Weekly Standard' report.
US officials on Friday denied reports that the Obama administration plans to support the establishment of an international UN-monitored commission to investigate last week's flotilla raid.

“We know of no resolution that will be debated at the UN on the flotilla investigation next week," one senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. He stressed that Washington continues to support "an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent.

An email hoax from last year is once again making the rounds.
February, 2009
FICTION:  An email hoax has been circulating in the Jewish community.  It claims that President Obama has issued an executive order that provides $20,300,000 in funding for migration of Palestinian terrorists from Gaza to the United States. Some versions claim Congressional passage of "HB 1388" and urge calls to representatives.

Although he issued an executive order, it is for humanitarian relief in Gaza, not for emigration of Gazans to the US.  It is not uncommon for a President to issue such an order.  President George W. Bush determined that funds be sent to the West Bank, Gaza, and Sudan more than once during his terms in office FYI, there is no such legislative designation as "HB." Calls to Congress about hoaxes like this do a disservice to the pro-Israel community and the Jewish community in general, making us appear uninformed.

Rep. Nita Lowey's (D-NY) office had this to say about the email:
"I can tell you unequivocally that the conclusions drawn by the author [of the email] are wrong. The $20.3 million is for humanitarian assistance inside of Gaza. Additionally, we have mechanisms in place to ensure that the funding is not going to foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas and are vetted through organizations like the ICRC that provide only humanitarian relief. To reiterate, there is no funding for resettling Palestinians in the US."

The State Department described the relief effort as follows:
Of the $20.3 million in new emergency funds, $13.5 million will go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), $6 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross and $800,000 to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. These agencies will distribute emergency food assistance, provide medical assistance and temporary shelter,create temporary employment, and restore access to electricity and drinkable water for people living in the Gaza Strip, the department said. About 1.4 million Palestinians live in Gaza. “Today's contribution to UNRWA augments the $85 million the United States contributed in December 2008 toward UNRWA's 2009 appeals,” the department said.

There is no truth to this rumor. This Memorandum does not deal with the status of Palestinian refugees nor "open the floodgates to Hamas" to enter the United States.

This message promotes the false impression that ... President Obama in 2009 allocated taxpayer funds to resettle Hamas refugees in the United States. [He] did not. 

June, 2010
FICTION:  Princess Cruises No Longer Makes Stops in Israel

FACT:  After the flotilla incident on May 31st, emails began circulating claiming that Princess cruises had bowed to pressure from anti-Israel groups and would no longer be stopping at ports in Israel. The truth is Princess Cruise line made a decision to redirect the cruise ship because of the crisis and continue on to a scheduled stop in Haifa. According to a statement by Princess Cruise Lines, the next cruise to stop at Ashdod is scheduled for the end of June 2010 and, security permitting, they expect to keep to the published itinerary.

June, 2010
FICTION:  Military Weapons Hidden Behind Humanitarian Goods on Mavi Marmara

FACT:  A much-circulated video claims to show Israeli soldiers unloading military weaponry that was "hidden" behind humanitarian goods on the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla ship that attempted to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. and whose passengers attacked Israel Defense Forces naval commandos. This is a misrepresentation of the video footage.  According to Israeli officials, no heavy weapons were smuggled in any of the ships. Israel's Foreign Ministry has issued a full list of goods carried on the six ships in the flotilla.  The only heavy cargo carried aboard the Mavi Marmara was the passengers' personal belongings and luggage.

FICTION:  President Obama is selling Israel and American Jews down the river with unprecedented changes in US policy toward Israel.  The Jewish Community is willingly allowing itself to be marched to the gas chambers.

FACT:  This level of inflammatory rhetoric illustrates an irrational hostility toward President Obama, America’s first black President.  Email messages that compare Obama to Hitler trivialize the horror of the Holocaust and dishonor the memories of those who perished.  You may disagree with President Obama, but there is nothing in his background or his conduct that warrants his being labeled a Nazi.

Historically, whenever there has been lack of progress in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, American Administrations fill the vacuum with plans of their own.  This President is no different from his last three predecessors, e.g.:

George W. Bush and the Roadmap
Bill Clinton and the Wye River Accords
George Bush I and the Madrid Process

There was plenty of disagreement about the wisdom or efficacy of those plans, but no one called those Presidents Nazis and no one suggested that Jews who supported the President were headed for the gas chambers. Sadly, emails that are being circulated are using this language.

March, 2010
FICTION:  There is a serious rift between the US and Israel.  President Obama personally snubbed Prime Minister Netanyahu when the Israeli PM was in Washington.
FACT:  The rift between President Obama and PM Netanyahu is wholly an invention of the media -- which thrive on controversy and when they cannot honestly report it, will invent it.  President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu had a private working meeting -- one on one, no aides present, no photo ops, no ceremony -- at the White House.  Originally, the President was scheduled to be out of the country in Asia when Mr. Netanyahu was in the US.  Due to a change in President Obama's plans, a meeting was scheduled for one hour at the White House.  When the one-hour meeting was over, Obama went to the private residence and Netanyahu asked if he could stay and continue to discuss the issues with his staff. When Netanyahu's meeting was over, he asked Obama's staff if he could speak to the President again about some new ideas. The President came right downstairs and they spoke for another 30 minutes. Obama and Netanyahu have had more face time than Obama has had with virtually any other head of state.  Netanyahu has said that “friends can disagree” and that there is no rift in US-Israel relations.  Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the US, has made repeated public statements that the "snub" story is not true.  JAC called the Israeli Consul General to the Midwest and received confirmation that there was no snub or any mistreatment of PM Netanyahu by President Obama. Netanyahu himself said that this story was false. 
Both President Obama and PM Netanyahu have made it clear that friends can have disagreements over particular policies and still remain friends.  The Obama administration policy on settlements is no different from that of Presidents Bush, Clinton, or Bush I.  President Obama has clearly, emphatically and repeatedly established that the US and Israel have an unbreakable bond.  The Obama administration allocated $205 million to the Iron Dome program that is vital to protecting Israel from Hamas and Hezbollah rockets, as well as far-reaching support for other systems — Arrow III, Arrow II and David’s Sling — designed to intercept longer range missiles from Iran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor General Jim Jones delivered widely publicized speeches reiterating the administration’s dedication to Israel’s well-being. And President Obama, in a letter to Alan Solow, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, pledged, “our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable and that no wedge will be driven between us.”

June, 2009
FICTION:  President Obama, in his June, 2009 speech in Cairo, was weak on US support for Israel. 

FACT: Even after a year, emails are circulating that refer to this speech in their attacks on the President. Here is what some pro-Israel stalwarts had to say about the speech:
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), a staunch supporter of Israel, said in an interview that it was no small thing for a U.S. president to offer an extended defense of Israel before a Muslim audience.   'If you're delivering a speech in Cairo directed to the Arab world and you mention in the speech that Israel has a right to exist and right to exist in security, that it grew from the ashes of the Holocaust and that America has an unbreakable bond, that demonstrates extraordinary courage,' said Engel.” -- Politco.com, June 4, 2009
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the speech as a “signal achievement” and dismissed criticism by Republican colleagues that the speech was too apologetic…. Obama's language on Iran was tough enough and was meant to reassure Arab countries, which also are concerned about Iran's quest to acquire nuclear weapons, Lugar said.  -- Bloomberg.com, June 5, 2009
“What useful purpose does it serve to demonize so popular a president, or claim his policies are motivated by animus, when it's hard to discern where they differ substantively from those of his predecessors?”-- Jerusalem Post editorial, June 2, 2009
JAC official statement:  President Obama told the Arab and Muslim world that America's bond with Israel is “unbreakable.” He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”  He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is “deeply wrong.” He said that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” And he said that “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.”

FICTION: President Obama is soft on terrorists, extending them Miranda rights and other benefits of the American justice system. 

As a presidential adviser on anti-terrorism once said, “Terrorists are criminals. They commit criminal actions like murder, kidnapping, and arson, and countries have laws to punish criminals. So a major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are - criminals - and to use democracy's most potent tool, the rule of law against them.” That anti-terrorism expert was not an adviser to Barack Obama, but rather to Ronald Reagan.
In this country, criminals -- foreigners or citizens -- are tried in our courts. We do not have a separate system for foreigners or for criminals we especially dislike. Terrorists are criminals, not soldiers fighting in a war.  As such, they should be tried in our courts and that is where the majority of convictions of terrorists have taken place. America does not need torture chambers or Kangaroo Courts or lesser forms of justice for the most heinous criminals.  Our strength is our democracy and public trials show the world who we are and what we stand for.

Under the Constitutional separation of powers, it is NOT the President who determines procedures such as Miranda. The Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that defendants must be informed of the right to consult with an attorney and of the right against self-incrimination in order for their testimony to be admissible in court.  The high Court upheld that ruling in 2000. President Obama does not dole out (as if by Presidential fiat) constitutional rights as favors -- to foreign terrorists or anyone else.

April. 2010
FICTION:  President Obama announced that the U.S. will not retaliate with nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear country-even if that country hits us with a devastating biological or chemical weapons attack. 

FACT:  That statement is incomplete and implies the President will not go to great lengths to defend America from attack.  White House officials ALSO said “the new strategy would include the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if the development of such weapons reached a level that made the United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.” 
April, 2010
FICTION:  President Obama bans characterizations such as “jihad” and “Islamic extremism” from our national security strategy. 

FACT:  National Security Council staffer Pradeep Ramamurthy runs the administration's Global Engagement Directorate, a four-person National Security Council team that Obama launched last May with little fanfare and a vague mission to use diplomacy and outreach ‘in pursuit of a host of national security objectives.’
Since then, the division has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terror but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio.
Before diplomats go abroad, they hear from the Ramamurthy or his deputy, Jenny Urizar. When officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned from Indonesia, the NSC got a rundown about research opportunities on global warming.
‘Do you want to think about the U.S. as the nation that fights terrorism or the nation you want to do business with?’ Ramamurthy said.
To deliver that message, Obama's speechwriters have taken inspiration from an unlikely source: former President Ronald Reagan. Visiting communist China in 1984, Reagan spoke to Fudan University in Shanghai about education, space exploration and scientific research.
He discussed freedom and liberty. He never mentioned communism or democracy.
Like Reagan in China, Obama in Cairo made only passing references to terrorism. Instead he focused on cooperation. He announced the United States would team up to fight polio with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, a multinational body based in Saudi Arabia.”

Claims and Forecasts by Juval Aviv
April 7, 2010
An email has been circulating about a meeting in California with security consultant  Juval Aviv and a group who gathered to listen to his forecasts.  They are very alarming and appear to show that the United States has "abandoned" Israel. Two reputable internet hoax websites say Aviv has greatly exaggerated his resume and did not make correct predictions of terrorist attacks.  This email is more than 3 years old and the attacks he predicted did not occur.

According to www.truthorfiction.com, "Juval Aviv is a noted author and speaker on terrorism and security matters who immigrated to the United States from Israel.   Aviv investigated the 1988 Lockerbie crash of flight 103 for PanAm airlines and is the founder of the New York based security consulting company, Interfor. "

Juval Aviv has a security business in the US and is on the speaking circuit.  He did NOT, as he claims, lead Golda Meir's security team and or  serve in the Mossad. He also claims to have led the attack on the terrorists who murdered the Israeli Olymic athletes in Munich in 1972. The Mossad does not know of him.  It is not even clear whether he was a major in the IDF as he claims.  According to a 2006 article by the Guardian, Mr. Aviv never served in the Mossad or any Israeli intelligence organization.  They were able to verify he worked as a gate guard for El Al Airlines in the early 1970s.

The following are some of the other items contained in this email:
FICTION: Obama has withdrawn Israel's landing rights in Turkey and Iraq. Israel now has nowhere to refuel in the middle east.

FACT:  How could the US suspend landing rights for one sovereign nation in another sovereign nation? The US does not have that authority. Israel never had landing rights in Iraq, so they could not be taken away.  Turkey refused Israel permission to fly in Turkish airspace during long-range training missions for its fighter jets.  Turkey has seen an increase in right-wing leadership in its government in recent years, turning it from a predominantly secular government to one increasingly influenced by Muslim rule, including the Muslim Brotherhood.  This has led to a damaged relationship with Israel, especially following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and culminating in a break in diplomatic relations over the flotilla incident in which Turkish citizens tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza and were killed in a melee with the IDF.

This is another variation on the "Obama-snubbed Netanyahu" hoax:

FICTION:  PM Netanyahu was instructed to come to the White House for a meeting. He was brought in through a servants entrance – the only head of state ever in US history to be given that disgraceful treatment.  He was not offered even a cup of tea – but was lectured to by Obama who told him that he is not permitted to attack Iran and that he has to withdraw all forces from the West bank and may not build any more settlements (neighborhoods) in East Jerusalem.

FACT:  President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu had a private working meeting -- one on one, no aides present, no photo ops, no ceremony -- at the White House.  Originally, the President was scheduled to be out of the country in Asia when Mr. Netanyahu was in the US.  Due to a change in President Obama's plans, a meeting was scheduled for one hour at the White House.  When the one-hour meeting was over, Obama went to the private residence and Netanyahu asked if he could stay and continue to discuss the issues with his staff. When Netanyahu's meeting was over, he asked Obama's staff if he could speak to the President again about some new ideas. The President came right downstairs and they spoke for another 30 minutes. Obama and Netanyahu have had more face time than Obama has had with virtually any other head of state.  Netanyahu has said that “friends can disagree” and that there is no rift in US-Israel relations.  Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the US, has made repeated public statements that the "snub" story is not true.  JAC called the Israeli Consul General to the Midwest and received confirmation that there was no snub or any mistreatment of PM Netanyahu by President Obama. Netanyahu himself said that this story was false.

FICTION: Obama has refused to oppose Syria’s re-arming of Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel now sits in imminent danger from the amounts of missiles that can be sent into her territory.

FACT: The United States, and President Obama, have reissued the sanctions (they had not lapsed) against Syria for supporting terrorism, accusing Damascus of supporting terrorist groups and pursuing weapons of mass destruction.  

FICTION: Israel will never tell the US again of its plans – since they cannot trust us.

FACT:  Many members of the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and Ambassador Oren have stressed that relations between the White House and Israel remain strong.

FICTION:  Israel intends to attack Iran –there are over 30 installations of which 4 have underground bunkers that contain nuclear weapons.  Israel cannot wait any longer. The US is no longer supporting Israel’s self defense.

FACT: Israel received an increase in military aid from the US.  In FY 2010, aid to Israel is $2.7 billion, with a significant portion of that identified as military aid, including the US-Israeli Missile Defense Shield, called “Arrow” estimated at $202.4 million.