The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, March 19, 2004
Today's USA Today essentially concedes that Jack Kelley's 2001 report about settlers in Hebron shooting at Palestinians was a fabrication. The article claimed that Avi Shapiro was the leader of the Jewish terrorists, and quoted Shapiro calling for "Muslim filth" to be killed:
[USA TODAY] traveled to Israel to try to find Shapiro. But in failing to find him, reporters learned that no detail of Shapiro's life - contained in the story or offered by Kelley in interviews - could be verified.
Israeli authorities say they have no record of an Avi Shapiro who fits the description Kelley offered. Hebron, where the settler community is close-knit, has no record either. Shin Bet looked into the alleged incident after Kelley's story and found it had no merit, says Daniel Seaman, a government spokesman.
Israel's National Police, questioned by another news outlet about the incident just after Kelley's story, could find no record of a complaint either, even though Palestinians in the Hebron area logged about 250 other complaints in the preceding nine months.
The Palestinian State Information Service also found no record of the incident. Shortly before Kelley's story, however, The Jerusalem Post reported Jewish terrorists were suspected of four shootings against Palestinians on area roads since mid-June.
USA Today also concludes that a number of other prominent Kelley pieces were frauds, including Kelley's article claiming that he witnessed the bombing of Sbarro in Jerusalem, also in 2001. Initially, USA Today believed the Sbarro piece to be accurate, though common sense suggested otherwise. Now, the paper concedes that "what really happened that day, based on police records and interviews with rescue workers and others at the scene, differs substantially from Kelley's Aug. 10 account."
I posted in detail on the matter in January, while Jason Maoz wrote a Jewish Press column that quoted me extensively:
"Kelley was considered fair in his reporting from Jerusalem," says attorney Joseph Schick, who revisited the issue on his blog, The Zionist Conspiracy. "When the Hebron community charged that his piece about Hebron residents attacking Arabs was totally false, many doubted that he had made it all up. A few days later 9/11 occurred, ending discussion of the topic until Kelley's recent resignation."
Schick, an op-ed contributor to The Jewish Press, says it's clear the story is fake. "Kelley wrote that 13 'extremists' attacked Arabs, while their wives actively aided and abetted the crimes, and their children stood by. The ringleader of the settlers is identified as Avi Shapiro, originally from Brooklyn. The attacks were reported to have occurred on Highway 60 - the main road in Judea and Samaria, going from the Ramallah area in the north to the Hebron area in the south. Many Palestinians drive through, and there are a number of IDF checkpoints on the highway. Yet USA Today's investigation could not come up with a single witness to any aspect of the alleged incident. Nor could it confirm that Avi Shapiro exists."
Schick says he also has doubts about Kelley's Sbarro story. "Kelley's claim in that article to have practically bumped into the bomber just prior to entering Sbarro seems unlikely. He also claimed to be with 'an Israeli official' whom he was interviewing at lunch. When USA Today asked him for verification, he told them it was an 'Israeli undercover agent,' and the paper was satisfied when he provided an Israeli phone number at which someone picked up and confirmed Kelley's account. They also said that since he called his superior shortly after the bombing, he was probably telling the truth. Come on. How long does it take to find out about an attack and get over to King George and Jaffa?"
Curiously, the Kelley scandal has received much less attention than the ones involving Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass. After all, Kelley was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2002 and a five time nominee, and therefore a much more prominent reporter than either Blair or Glass. Even after Kelley was forced to resign in January, only the Washington Post offered significant coverage. Most likely - in contrast to Blair and Glass who were in their 20's - Kelley was well known and well liked in the journalistic world and therefore immune from serious examination and criticism by his peers.
UPDATE: Saturday's Washington Post reports that Kelley tried to cover up his fraud by pretending that "David," an ex-Shin Bet officer, could vouch for the accuracy of his Shapiro and Sbarro stories. Yet "David" is in fact a businessman in Israel. USA Today found an e-mail from Kelley to the businessman, saying:
"Hey, bro! How are you? Thanks for helping me out with this story. I appreciate it. I need you to be 'David,' one more time. This will be it. I promise. No more." Kelley suggested David gives certain answers to a reporter looking into the stories' accuracy, including that in response to the question: "'Where is Shapiro?' Please tell him that all you can say is that he is not in Israel anymore."