A widely shared photo on Facebook, purportedly showing Arabs in northern Israel celebrating Friday’s shooting attack in Tel Aviv, was found to be a two-year-old image from Lebanon.
The post, originally published by a Netanya resident, shows an image of an Arab man handing out candy to smiling passersby. Its caption reads: “Wadi Ara — pictures from the town of Arara. This is what they don’t show in the news….”
However, a number of people pointed out Sunday that the picture had not been taken in Arara at the weekend, but rather was an image from January 2014 — during celebrations in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila over the death of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Prior to being discredited, the post and picture were spread by a large number of groups and individuals.
Far-right activist and founder of the Lehava anti-assimilation group Bentzi Gopstein shared the post, commenting, “He’s right.” The Hebrew-language “Scoop Israel” Facebook group posted the picture under a different caption, attributing it to celebrations in the Palestinian Authority.
The picture was also posted on Facebook by some English- and Russian-language pro-Israel groups.
Comments on the posts ranged from expressions of frustration, to anti-Arab curses and hateful statements. Once people began realizing the photograph’s origin, statements against the post also went viral, with some Israeli Facebook users condemning the false report and urging others to stay honest and avoid incitement against Arab citizens.
“I don’t believe in ‘incitement’ (definitely not in a criminal sense), but this is a defamatory and ugly post,” wrote one critic. Another wrote: “The Jewish Sages once said, or wanted to say, that hatred brings ignorance and ignorance brings sin.”
Sabra and Shatila were the sites of a 1982 massacre of Palestinians by Israeli-allied Lebanese Christian Phalangist militias during Israel’s First Lebanon War. Israel’s Kahan Commission later found then-defense minister Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacre through negligence, forcing him to resign.
In Friday’s attack, the suspected Arab Israeli gunman, 29-year-old Nashat Milhem from Arara in northern Israel, opened fire on a crowded bar on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, killing 26-year-old Alon Bakal and 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi. Seven other people were wounded in the attack.
Police are still searching for Milhem, who managed to flee the scene. His father, Muhammad Milhem, a police volunteer, recognized his son in video footage of the attack and called the police.
Muhammad Milhem urged security forces on Saturday to detain his son as soon as possible, fearing he would strike again.
“What is important to me now is that they reach my son and arrest him, because he is still armed,” he was quoted as saying by the Ynet news website. “And just as he murdered two people, he can murder more.”