Harold Ohayon
A Wandering New Yorker

“500” Then, “500” Now

Cultures around the world grasp onto certain numbers and imbue them with special power. For the ancients, numbers held great symbolic value. In the mundane world, certain numbers can be viewed as bringers of luck or misfortune. And for the Palestinians, the number 500 seems to hold great significance in their smear campaign against Israel.
During Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, when the IDF entered Jenin to quash the terrorists havens that flourished there, the Palestinians were quick to run to the international media and claim that the Israelis were massacring the innocent. Saeb Erekat, the late propagandist for Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed that 500 Palestinians were massacred during the anti terrorism operation. How did he teach such a number? Who knows, but the international media were quick to run with it. Without any confirmation or proof, media outlets spread this libelous slander around the world. When international observers were finally able to enter Jenin to assess the damage, they painted a more realistic picture of what happened: around 50 Palestinians killed, with more than half coming from terrorist groups. In addition, 23 Israeli soldiers were also killed. Hardly a massacre, but the damage was done and Israel’s reputation suffered greatly from the fabricated stories emanating from the Palestinian leadership.
History repeated itself this week, with Hamas officials claiming that a supposed Israeli strike on the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza left 500 Palestinians killed. How did they come to such a high death toll so quickly? Clearly they took a page from the Jenin playbook in the hopes of maximizing public outcry and sympathy for Gaza. And it seems to be working. Thousands took to the streets around the world to condemn and vilify Israel, while others tried to storm Israeli and American embassies across the Middle East.
What happened at Al Ahli?  Like Operation Defensive Shield, the truth was not at all what the Palestinians claimed. The hospital was not directly hit, nor did it suffer damage. The parking lot beside it was hit by a projectile, and international sources now claim perhaps 10-50 people died. Vastly different from the initial claim of 500 dead. And the most galling fact of all is that it was a faulty Islamic Jihad missile that caused the damage, not an Israeli air strike. But the international media once again lapped up unproven Palestinian claims and spread it around the world. In turn, regional leaders shunned President Biden and riots spread like wild fire.
The international media needs to seriously reassess their values and reevaluate how they cover this conflict. Accepting the claims of a known terrorist group that just butchered over a thousand people in Israel without any clarification or investigation is simply ridiculous. Their disregard for journalistic standards will only deepen the conflict now raging in the Middle East, and their unsubstantiated reporting will put Jewish lives in danger.
One can hope that the next time the Palestinians use the number 500 in any given event that the media will take pause and actual do their due diligence in factchecking such claims.
About the Author
Expat New Yorker living in the Land of the Rising Sun: Trekking to random parts of the globe, debating countless things under the sun, and attempting to learn to cook Korean food.
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