A group of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) reservists and officers have asked Israel’s attorney general, Meni Mazuz, to file a lawsuit against the daily newspaper Ha’aretz on the grounds a story it broke alleging Israeli soldiers committed war crimes in Gaza last January constituted libel.

The Ha’aretz piece ran almost verbatim in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. According to Google, 2,245 news outlets around the world picked up on the Ha’aretz piece, assuming it was a credible Israeli source.

The newspaper published testimonies from two soldiers at the Yitzhak Rabin Pre-military Academy who claimed that certain actions had taken place in Gaza that violated IDF rules and the Geneva Convention.

The publication of the alleged events triggered an Israel Military Police investigation that determined the allegations were unfounded and that the soldiers’ testimonies were based on hearsay rather than on concrete facts.

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Nonetheless, the Ha’aretz article gained prominence in the international media and was presented as proof Israel had committed war crimes during the Gaza operation.

The soldiers told Mr. Mazuz in a letter Ha’aretz had failed to “carry out minimal checks before publishing false information,” and the information it published had been proven to be “hearsay” and an “exaggeration” by Israel’s Judge Advocate General’s Office.

“Ha’aretz did not settle for informing the public about things that were said by individual combatants. It chose to portray the entire activity of the IDF soldiers as the lowest of acts, cold-blooded murder,” the soldiers wrote. “With one stroke of the pen, we turned from messengers of the state, risking their lives in its defense, to emissaries of the Devil, firing indiscriminately and mercilessly at women, children and elderly people.”

Consequently, the soldiers contend the false report painted the entire IDF in a poor light and fell outside the pale of “legitimate news reporting” and “proper public discourse.”

“They were also not presented as the position of one person or another, but rather as an accomplished fact,” they wrote.

These facts, in their opinion, make the story subject to Israel’s libel laws.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com.

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.