When President Barack Obama was heckled during a speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem on Thursday, the U.S. media reported that the heckler was a student calling for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer even devoted an entire segment to the issue. However, Israeli media reported that the hecker was apparently an Israeli Arab student, shouting at Obama about the Palestinians rather than about Pollard.
Israeli website Ynetnews.com reported that the heckler was Rabea Id, who had shouted: “Have you really come to promote the peace process or to provide Israel with more weapons to kill the Palestinian people?” On your way here did you see the (West Bank security) fence, or the killer of Rachel Corrie?”
Sharona Schwartz of The Blaze notes that Id even gave an interview to a radical U.S.-based anti-Israel website, proudly claiming responsibility.
Unless there was a second heckler–which has not been reported anywhere–the U.S. media got the story wrong.
How did that happen? The answer is that the media relied on an unconfirmed White House pool report. The Huffington Post noted at the time: “‘A reliable Hebrew speaker seated near pool says the shouting was about [Jonathan Jay] Pollard,’ the pool report said. ‘We presume calling for his release.'”
Whoever the “reliable Hebrew speaker” was, they were translating the wrong language: Id was apparently heckling Obama in Arabic.
But the narrative about a disgruntled, hard-line Israeli Jew, mocking the U.S. President and trying to shut down debate, was too tempting for U.S. reporters to question.
In fact, they played up the incident, as did President Obama, who ad-libbed another shot at his domestic opposition: “It made me feel at home,” he said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler.” Or at least one media-manufactured shot at conservatives.