Israelis celebrate Lag Ba'Omer
Israelis celebrate Lag Ba'OmerFlash 90

Far-left Israeli newspaper Haaretz has been accused of fabricating an "attack" by Jews celebrating Lag Ba'omer against one of its journalists in Hevron, in an attempt to incite against Jewish residents of the ancient city.

The article claimed that "settlers" celebrating Lag Ba'omer on Saturday night chose to light their customary bonfire in the middle of a "Palestinian olive grove", and alleged that a group of Jewish celebrants then "assaulted" a Haaretz journalist who was at the scene as he tried to film it.

The article, which was co-authored by veteran Haaretz journalists Amira Hass and Yair Ettinger, claimed that "The owners of the orchard and their children looked on with concern as the fire approached their olive trees...", at which point "Haaretz photographer Emil Salman, who requested to take photographs of the bonfire from close up, was assaulted by several settlers."

The report went on to claim that the event had gone ahead without the permission of Israeli authorities.

But Arutz Sheva blogger and Canadian indigenous rights activist Ryan Bellerose, who was visiting Hevron as part of a solidarity and fact-finding mission - and happened to be present at the bonfire - expressed his shock at the story, which he said simply never happened.

The event did not take place in an olive orchard of any description - either Jewish or Arab - but rather in a park close to a Jewish-owned house, and officials including police and firemen were present throughout the celebration, Bellerose told Arutz Sheva

What's more, not only was there no altercation between any journalist or members of the Jewish group, but "the journalists stayed behind a fence on a hill" some distance from the event.

"Not one olive tree was burned, not one photographer was 'accosted'... There were several Europeans filming the entire proceedings so if something actually happened I'm sure they would have posted it already," he said.

Bellerose added that he did see Arab activists and European "observers" attempt to goad Jewish residents, but said that they were simply ignored.

"I didn't see one Jewish person engage with the people taunting them from behind the fence."

He said that he was "astonished" that an Israeli media outlet would publish a story that was "complete fiction", in an attempt to "smear the Jewish residents of this ancient city."

"I think that's a huge part of the problem in the Middle East, because some uninformed person will read that story and they will believe it because it's in 'the news', but frankly the entire story is fabricated and untruthful. 

"I am just glad I was there to see firsthand the demonization of these people by a media outlet with an agenda."

This is not the first time Haaretz has been caught fabricating stories about Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria. 

In February, the foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, which represents the Jews of Judea-Samaria, called out the leftist daily after it claimed he had fronted an "extremist" billboard campaign. A bemused Danny Dayan pointed out that the ad campaign in question never existed in the first place.

It is also not the first time the paper has found itself accused of publishing incitement against Israelis. Last year, one of the article's authors, Amira Hass, was accused of incitement after she penned an article glorifying rock-throwing attacks against Jews. Her article was published shortly after Israeli toddler Adele Bitton was critically injured in just such an attack, provoking widespread revulsion in Israel.