Hamas-linked Journalists Fool Journalists on Google Maps and Palestine

The outrage that followed Google’s removal of the label Palestine from its mapping service website quickly fizzled after it became clear that Google didn’t remove the label Palestine from its mapping service.

In fact, a Google spokesperson explained, the term has never been used as a label on Google Maps. (Many countries don’t recognize a state of Palestine. The Palestine Liberation Organization, moreover, is party to an international agreement stating that borders must be negotiated with Israel.)

Nonetheless, some journalists credulously echoed the claim that Google “erased” Palestine from the map. Russian propaganda outfits Sputnik News Agency and RT perhaps unsurprisingly spread the misinformation. So did their Qatari counterpart, AJ+:

Some people are slamming Google for removing Palestine from its maps.https://t.co/rki03ajW6y

— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 9, 2016

Even a Reuters reporter unquestioningly accepted the false allegation:

Outrage as @Google erases #Palestine on the maps service and replaces its name with #Israel . @googlemaps https://t.co/2T2bNXVDdX

— Mehreen Zahra-Malik (@mehreenzahra) August 9, 2016

They all should have known better — not only because skepticism is a core journalistic value, but also because the source of the allegation was a group linked to the radical, anti-Semitic Hamas organization.

The Washington Post reported that “when a Gaza City-based journalism group claimed that the nation of Palestine had literally been wiped from Google’s maps, readers were, well — indignant.” That journalism group, the Post explained, is the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum. Reports in the Huffington Post, Mashable, Al Arabiya and others likewise cited the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum statement as the instigator of the online outrage.

The statement in question doesn’t exactly project credibility. Those accepting its claims at face value should have seen red flags in its description of Israel as a “cancerous” entity — and its insistence that Google emphasize the country’s cancerousness. The statement also blames the purported deletion of the word Palestine on a conspiracy by the Zionist lobby. Google “is part of the Israeli scheme to establish its name as a legitimate state for generations to come and abolish Palestine once and for all,” Al Arabiya translates the PJF statement as saying.

That language might not seem especially journalistic. But it is typical of Hamas rhetoric — which is not surprising when considering that the director of the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum, Imad al-Efranji, is also the head of the Gaza branch Quds television station, a Hamas station that traffics in naked anti-Semitism — assertions that Jews make Passover matza out of Christian blood and global Judaism is a “plague” that controls the world’s financial system, for example — and broadcasts explicit calls to anti-Jewish violence.
It was almost quaint by comparison when a Quds TV host rebuked a (rabidly anti-Jewish) guest because he said the word “Israel” on the air: “Please note that we do not say ‘Israel’ on this show, in order to avoid normalization. We call it ‘the Israeli entity,’ for example.”
This is the station for which the director of the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum is a senior official. Should Reuters reporters take anything the PJF says seriously — so seriously, in fact, that fact-checking isn’t required? Would they be so credulous when citing an organization headed by the editor of a neo-Nazi website? Presumably not.
The Reuters reporter has thus far declined to update her 155 thousand Twitter followers with a correction to her inaccurate tweet.

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