On Vaccines for Palestinian Prisoners, AFP Attributes Bogus Quote to Minister Ohana

Photo by Yonatano~hewiki (Wikimedia)

In three separate English-language articles over the past two days, Agence France Presse has falsely alleged that Israel’s Public Security Minister Amir Ohana “said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated” with the coronavirus vaccine. For example, the Jan. 17 article entitled “Israel Prison Service to vaccinate Palestinian inmates” states:

But the Jewish state faced harsh criticism when Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated.

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit wrote to Ohana condemning the comment as “tainted with illegality”, Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper reported.

Similarly, the article headlined “Global vaccine headline gains pace as Brazil approves jabs” errs:

In Israel, the prison service said it would begin vaccinating all inmates, following an outcry over an announcement from Public Security Minister Amir Ohana that Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated.

But Ohana never said that Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated. In late December, he said that prison staff would receive the vaccine but at that stage prisoners would not receive the vaccine. His Dec. 28 statement reads (CAMERA’s translation):

The Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana directed the Israel Prison Services on Dec. 24, 2020 that only staff will receive the coronavirus vaccine; vaccination of prisoners will not take place without permission and only in accordance with guidelines for advancing vaccination which apply to the general population.

His directive didn’t specify Palestinian prisoners. He referred to all prisoners. And he never said “last”; he said that they would not receive the vaccine at that point.

The French versions of the very same articles do not contain the false claim that Ohana said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to be vaccinated. It states (translation by InfoEquitable):

But recent remarks by Israel’s Public Security Minister Amir Ohana suggesting that prisoners would not be vaccinated against the coronavirus have been denounced as an “illegal” measure by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, according to local news reports. 

Moreover, the Maariv article to which AFP’s English article refers does not support the false claim that “Ohana said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated.” Maariv reports that Mandelblit wrote a letter to Ohana saying he “acted without authority when he decided to prevent the vaccination of prisoners at this stage.” 

Like the English-language article, AFP’s Arabic version of the article is incorrect, reporting (translation by CAMERA Arabic):

Israel faced criticism after the Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana [mispelled in the Arabic] recently implied that the Palestinian detainees shall not be vaccinated.

 Though CAMERA contacted AFP yesterday concerning the false quote, pointing out the discrepancy between the English and Arabic versus the French version of the same article, editors have yet to clarify that the claim that Ohana “said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated” is unfounded, and that he directed the Prison Services to vaccinate staff while holding off on vaccinating prisoners for the the time being.