Agence France Presse, the French wire service, has trouble passing up on a juicy story, however unsubstantiated and flimsy, accusing Israel of wrongdoing. Three years ago, the influential news agency refused to clarify the unsubstantiated allegation that an Israeli soldier ran over a Palestinian worker with a construction vehicle.
Later that year, AFP editors failed to correct the false claim that an Israeli airstrike had killed 11-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah, though multiple other media outlets responsibly clarified that it was Hamas weaponry that killed the boy.
Two months ago, the French news outlet declined to clarify an article claiming that an Israeli arsonist was responsible for a fire in a West Bank mosque, though the Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Haaretz all commendably followed up with reports and/or corrections noting that an Israeli investigation determined that it was an electrical fire.
Most recently, this week AFP posted a brief video ("Gaza village floods after Israel opens dam gates") claiming that Israel has deliberately flooded Gaza by opening dams. In fact, Israel has no dams that can be opened in southern Israel.
In the video, Ead Zino, a resident of Al-Maghraqa, accuses Israel: "Every four years there is a war but here in Maghraqa every year there is a flood. This water comes from Israel. This is political. All Israel wants is to destroy us."
In addition, AFP's caption at the beginning of the video is "Gaza village flooded as Israel opens dam gates."
AFP did not include any Israeli voice to refute the false charge.
Regarding the claim that Israel opened dams, thereby flooding Gaza, a spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told CAMERA:
The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams. Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.Prior to the storm, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.
In addition, Nechemia Shahaf, the head of the Drainage Authority for the Shakma-Besor Region, confirmed to CAMERA that there are no dams which can be opened and closed in southern Israel. Shahaf said, "There is a diverting dam one meter high which directs water to reservoirs. This is a low dam which cannot be opened or closed." He also noted that the singular dam, which cannot be opened, is next to Kibbutz Gvulot, and approximately 20 kilometers away from Gaza.
CAMERA has contacted AFP editors, requesting clarification.
With research by Gidon Shaviv.
2/23 Update: Following correspondence from CAMERA, AFP has apparently decided to pull its video claiming Israel flooded Gaza by opening dams. As of this afternoon, pages hosting the video on the AFP website, YouTube, and Yahoo News are now out of commission. CAMERA continues to call on AFP to publish a correction informing news consumers of the error.
3/1 Update: AFP Sets Record Straight on Gaza Flooding