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Middle East Issues





AFP Sets Record Straight on Gaza Flooding


Following extensive communication from CAMERA with Agence France Presse, the French wire service has retracted its video claiming that a "Gaza village flooded as Israel opens dam gates," and has published a comprehensive article confirming that "no such dam exists in Israel that could control the flow of water into Gaza, according to a team of AFP reporters on the ground as well as interviews with Israeli and international experts," ("Gaza floods: dispelling the myth about Israel 'dams'," Feb. 27).
 
AFP's commendable move to set the record set the record straight followed the agency's decision to pull the video from many Web sites last week. It also came after a full retraction from Al Jazeera, another media outlet which CAMERA had contacted seeking correction of the bogus charge blaming the alleged opening of Israeli dams for flooding in Gaza.
 
AFP's Feb. 27 article, about the "shattering [of] a long-held Palestinian myth," explains:
Following the latest flood at the weekend, the local authorities in Gaza on Sunday published an "urgent" statement which reiterated the claim that Israel was to blame.
 
AFP reported these allegations on Sunday February 22, in the form of a video and photos showing the flooding in the village of Al-Mughraqa in central Gaza.
 
The script of the video and the photo captions said Israel had opened the sluice gates of a dam. And the video included interviews with residents openly accusing the Jewish state.
 
But no such dam exists in Israel that could control the flow of water into Gaza, according to a team of AFP reporters on the ground as well as interviews with Israeli and international experts.
 
The AFP images, in particular the video, unleashed a scathing reponse on social networks.
 
The Israeli authorities denied the information and said they had allowed four high-power water pumps into Gaza ahead of the storm in order to cope with any potential flooding.
 
The criticism was even more acute because Israel itself had suffered from flooding in the south. . . .
 
Julie Trottier, a Belgian hydrology expert, also said there were no dams over the border.
 
"To my knowledge there is no dam on the Israeli side and terrain is not suited to the constructions of a dam," she told AFP.
 
Trottier believes that due to the heavy rains, "the water gathered naturally and it flooded."
 
She said there were "a lot of myths about the question of water in the Palestinian territories and Israel." . . .
 
What does exist here [in Nahal Besor, 19 miles from the flooded Wadi Gaza] is a low stone structure, barely a metre high, next to a shallow concrete channel, which is sometimes referred to as a "diversion dam" -- whose purpose is to slow the flow of water so some of it can be diverted into a nearby reservoir for irrigation purposes, [Boaz] Kretschmer [head of strategy at Eshkol Regional Council] explained.
 
It has no gates, nor openings, and when the flood waters hit, they simply glide over it as if it did not exist.
 
"If it does anything, it actually reduces the quantity of water flowing towards Gaza, and not the opposite," [Nehemia] Shahaf [head of the Drainage and River Authority in the Negev] said.
Images that accompanied the article made clear that international and Israeli experts rejected the Palestinian accusations. The captions notes: "According to a team of AFP reporters on the ground as well as interviews with Israeli and international experts, there are no dams in the area that could control the flow of water into Gaza, contrary to allegations by local authorities and residents in Gaza reported by AFP on February 22 blaming flooding in the Palestinian village of al-Mughraqa on Israel deliberately opening 'a dam.'"
 
 
In addition, AFP changed the captions in its photo archive which had originally blamed Israel for the flooding. The amended captions now state that the Palestinian claim is just that, and that Israeli authorities said the allegations "were completely false.".
 
 
CAMERA commends AFP for setting the record straight.

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