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Kan retracts claim millionth vaccinee was murderer; ToI apologizes for citing it

State radio Sunday falsely reported Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin was convicted of murder 40 years ago; he served 14 years for robbery and arms charges

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) with Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, the millionth Israeli to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and medical staff in Umm al-Fahm, January 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) with Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, the millionth Israeli to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and medical staff in Umm al-Fahm, January 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The Kan public broadcaster on Monday retracted its claim and apologized for reporting on Sunday that the man highlighted as the millionth Israeli to receive the coronavirus vaccine, who was given his inoculation last week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing alongside him, served time for murder.

The Times of Israel apologizes for citing the erroneous reports in earlier versions of its article on the incident.

Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, 66, who got his shot on Friday, as Netanyahu was visiting a vaccination center in the Arab Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm, served 14 years for robbery and weapons charges, and was released in 1992.

Kan initially reported Sunday that Jabarin had been jailed for murder, and later said he had served time for manslaughter. The claim, carried prominently in Kan’s hourly news bulletins, was widely reported in Israeli media outlets, including ToI. On Monday, Kan retracted (Hebrew link) its reports, saying they were erroneous. It said two of its reporters had separately checked the information with multiple sources, some of whom it has worked with for years, who had verified it, but in fact were mistaken.

Jabarin later Sunday acknowledged the lengthy jail term, while denying the reports of more serious crimes. “It’s a lie that I did time for murder. I was jailed for robbery, and for [charges related to] weapons,” he told Kan.

Local officials in Umm al-Fahm told Kan they were shocked to see Jabarin appearing alongside the prime minister, and assumed that his media team had no idea of Jabarin’s past.

Responding to the initial reports, the Prime Minister’s Office told The Times of Israel that it “had no further details” on the identity of the millionth vaccine recipient, who was apparently picked at random on the scene.

Speaking to Radio 103 FM following the Kan publication, Jabarin confirmed aspects of his criminal past and said he only found out about the honor of being the millionth Israeli to receive the vaccine when arriving to receive it.

“The director of the health clinic told me that ‘you going to be the millionth vaccinated person.’ I thought he was telling me that I had won a million! And then he told me that Netanyahu would come now. Suddenly, the prime minister greets me, it was exciting,” Jabarin said.

He nonetheless said he was “offended” at the publication of his past conviction.

“The truth is that I was offended. Why hurt me because of Netanyahu?
I’m an honest person. That was over 30 years ago,” he said. ” I didn’t set up the meeting!”

He told Kan on Sunday: “I paid my debt to society, and put all that behind me. I have children and grandchildren… I was asked to come and get vaccinated, and I came to get vaccinated. I am an older man, and unwell. If people want to take on Netanyahu, they shouldn’t do it via me.”

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