Palestinian ‘Sophie’s Choice’ story looks to be legend based on family massacre

Barbara Lubin of the Middle East Children's Alliance has sent out an email that in essence retracts the Sophie's Choice story that she, and I, passed along from Gaza 2 weeks ago:

While I was away I told a story that was told to me by several people about a family in Gaza. This story received much attention and many people wanted more information so I contacted my friend Talal and asked him to research the story.  Here is his response:

Dear Barbara,

It's the first time I have had internet.  I hope you are O.K…you and all of our friends. I heard from Dr. Mona [El-Farra] that you are under great pressure because of the story you have published about the crime of that woman.  Be sure  that it was a fact and we are ready to receive any investigation committee to check out  the facts. But  as you know during the wars and when death is very close, the popular memory interferes and colors the action with it's special details.
We all heard the story on the local radio as I narrated it to you.  But when you wrote the story and you faced so much pressure I  decided to investigate and caught the real story.
It's not so far from from what you reported because the victims are the same…the story happened in Bourij Camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip.  The Israelis called the woman, Manal Albatran, and told her that they wouldn't kill her or her husband Hussein Albatran, instead they would make them die of sadness because they would kill her children.  The next day they shot her house with a rocket killing her and 5 of her children.
The dead:
Manal Albatran  30 years old
Walaa Albatran 12 years old
Islam Albatran 11 years old
Belal Albatran 10 years old
Ezz Albatran 8 years old
Ehsan Albatran 7 years old
The father who is an employee at an UNRWA school and the youngest child were saved. This is the real story and I hope the amount of victims will convince
others to believe the crimes we face.  Thanks a lot for your appreciated visit and I hope to see you again soon.
Regards,
Talal Abushawish

Phil Weiss comment: Abushawish's story is obviously very different from a Palestinian Sophie's Choice. That story is baseless. What's not rumor is the murders of over 400 children and the destruction of countless families by the Israeli army.
And yes, too, the fog of war. From Lubin's email:

To all who care about the children in  Gaza:
I have just returned from 3 and a half weeks in Egypt and Gaza with Dr. Mona El-Farra
delivering  an ambulance, 4 tons of much needed pediatric medicine,  2 tons of milk, 
29 wheelchairs, and a truckload of crayons, magic markers, paper and coloring books
for children in Gaza.  It was a very trying visit.  I have been to Palestine many times over the past 21 years but never have I seen anything like what I saw this time.  I will never forget The sadness, the smell, the destroyed homes, schools, mosques and cemeteries .  I want to make clear this is not an apology, but an explanation of what happened.

I think we must acknowledge that the Sophie's Choice narrative was a folk legend, seeking to heighten the savagery of the massacre. The narrative is inaccurate. But the slaughter occurred. Kudos to Lubin for her work, and for correcting her earlier account.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Beyondoweiss

{ 19 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Sin Nombre says:

    Phil wrote:

    "I think we must acknowledge that the Sophie's Choice narrative was a folk legend…."

    I think we must acknowledge that the Sophie's Choice narrative was an attempted blood libel that ought not be defended in any way, shape or form, regardless of whatever else happened. (Not least because who now knows whatever else happened?) And that this is especially true of those who believe the world should be outraged by what Israel did do in Gaza, all of which is now subject to more credibly being called bogus too.

    I also think we ought to recognize that there are indeed blood libelers out there who love to traffic in Nazi analogies, which ought to make any other users of Nazi analogies be very careful before using same again.

  2. syvanen says:

    Phil can be naive. My first reaction on seeing that story was unsubstantiated rumor and likely 99% wrong. Let us get back to discussing the real atrocities committed by Israel. For those interested the IDF has employed a moral philosopher to justify the murder of civilians. Haaretz describes the man and his work here:

    link to haaretz.com

  3. Thom says:

    I would like to point out to all those defending Barbara Lubin and saying that she wouldn't lie that she just admitted to lying. No, not being mistaken, not misinterpreting, but outright, 100% lying.

    She did not say "I heard this story from some people who heard it on the radio". She said that she heard it directly from the mother. That was 100% false.

    More to the point, the people who were talking about how "reliable" Barbara Lubin is used her "credibility" and the fact that she supposedly heard this directly from the mother as evidence that this blatant lie was true.

    Anna Beltzer even said "True, we can never know with certainty that the mother was telling the truth, yet one has to wonder why a mourning woman would make up such a story?"

    Well, if Barbra "blood libel" Lubin (funny that the initials match) hadn't lied about hearing it from the mother directly, then Anna Beltzer wouldn't have been able to say "why would a mourning mother lie".

    Of course, the idiocy of Anna's question is that even if Barbara Lubin hadn't been lying, there would have been no guarantee that the woman who told it to her was actually in mourning or even actually a mother, but I digress.

    As to the new version of the story. I found early reports about the woman's death, and the death of five of her children. No mention of any Israeli soldiers talking to her. Now that we traced this game of telephone back a generation, what probably happened was that the contact with the Israelis was either entirely made up after the fact, or the Israelis told her, like tens of thousands of other Palestinian civilians, that she should get her family out because the area was going to be attacked.

    Then the same kind of Palestinian propaganda embellisher that Barbara Lubin is decided "get out so you don't die" sounded much less evil than "we will kill your children". So he changed it.

    The house was hit by a missile from a helicopter gunship. No indication that I can find that it wasn't returning fire or attacking a known Hamas target.

    For all we know this could be like Nizar Rayyan. Israel told him he was a target and he chose to keep his family in harms way.

    After Barbara's little propaganda piece, why should anyone who isn't already an anti-Semite take any of the Palestinian atrocity stories at face value? If they are willing to lie about something that awful, why wouldn't they lie about lesser cases. If they lie about cold blooded murder, why wouldn't they embellish and add white flags or delete Hamas fighting shooting at the Israelis to other stories where civilians got killed.

  4. Thom says:

    BTW. As far as we know, there has not been a single child murdered in Gaza by the Israeli forces. Not 400, not 40, not 4, not even one.

    A child who is killed when a soldier returns fire has not been murdered by the soldier. Murdered by the Hamas terrorist, sure, but not by the Israeli.

    Hint, if a cop accidentally hits a hostage while shooting back at a bank robber, the bank robber is guilty of murder, not the cop.

    Similarly, when a child is placed on a building known the house rockets and other weapons by Hamas and Israel blows up the house as a legitimate military target, the Hamas terrorist is the murderer, not the Israeli.

    The number of stories that would be murder even if they are true in every detail is extremely small. Why do you think the anti-Israel propagandists keep repeating the same stories with the same victims over and over?

    Of course even in those few cases, they could be cases where "the popular memory interferes and colors the action with it's special details". Details like whether the Israeli soldiers were being fired upon, whether they could clearly see who they were shooting at, etc.

  5. spud says:

    Is it ethical to keep emphasizing the disproved Sophie's Choice angle about this tragedy? Isn't the massacre of children enough or do we always need a Hollywood cachet to make a story?

  6. spuxxx says:

    "A child who is killed when a soldier returns fire has not been murdered by the soldier. Murdered by the Hamas terrorist, sure, but not by the Israeli."
    This has to be one of the most absurd arguments I have ever had the displeasure to hear. If your cause is truly just, then should have the morale courage to accept the casualties that come with it. By shaking off culpability you are planting two feet firmly in the same tent as Bin Laden and Co. Futhermore, if this morale bankrupucy is a feature of the IDF it is a sure way to rack up civilians deaths.

    As for the Police analogy, it's simply not true. A policeman that acts in such a wreckless manner could be tried for manslaughter. I wonder whether you would be encouraging the police to shoot so wrecklessly if the child held hostage was Israeli rather than Arab?

  7. Seven says:

    "BTW. As far as we know, there has not been a single child murdered in Gaza by the Israeli forces. Not 400, not 40, not 4, not even one."

    Bwahahahaha. Is this guy a spoof?

  8. Thom says:

    A just cause does not justify murder. The question is not whether the cause is just or unjust, but whether the soldier obeys the rules of war. A soldier who is defending himself from enemy fire is not responsible for civilians caught in the crossfire.

    What reckless manner is that? Shooting back when human shields are being used by the enemy? I would encourage an Israeli soldier to be no more and no less careful of an Israeli hostage than a Palestinian hostage.

    When cowards like Hamas members shoot from among civilians, whether Israeli or Palestinian, the options are let them kill as many people as they want to, or risk killing the civilians.

    Neither is a good option, but allowing hostage taking to work just means that anyone willing to take hostages will be able to freely murder anyone who isn't willing to risk hostages.

  9. Thom says:

    @seven IQ

    A number of children were killed. I don't know whether 400 is the number or not since we only have the word of Hamas on that, and they have been known to inflate casualty numbers in the past. I also don't know how many 14-17 year old armed Hamas soldiers are included in the number.

    However, killed is not the same as murdered. There have been no proven murders and very few accusations that (even if true) would be murder.

    The "shooting at white flag carrying kids who they knew were harmless kids and with no shooting going on" story would be murder, if all the facts are as the Palestinians say they are. However, there is no proof that the facts are that way.

    As this very blog entry demonstrates, the Palestinians and their allies have no scruples when it comes to lying about atrocity stories.

  10. Sin Nombre says:

    Thom wrote:

    "As this very blog entry demonstrates, the Palestinians and their allies have no scruples when it comes to lying about atrocity stories."

    Well what do you say about Israel's initial denial it was using white-phosphorus in Gaza then? Or it's initial denials about attacking certain facilities there (U.N./Red Cross or etc.)? Or its initial denials in the recent war about carpeting S. Lebanon with a million anti-personnel bomblets?

    That same was okay because it wasn't lying about stories *you* don't think constituted atrocities? (Which wouldn't seem tenable either given that otherwise there wouldn't be any reason to lie about them.)

    Neither side has a monopoly on how virtuously they've waged this conflict or told the truth about it. And if you look past all these mere means of war which most people ultimately do because all wars have their obscenities, you do get to the plain fact that it started with and still features Israelis or proto-Israelis colonizing Palestinian land, period.

  11. Andre Baz says:

    Phil, you're a complete liar
    Thank god you're not a journalist anymore.

  12. anon says:

    There are no doubt some atrocities committted in this event by Israeli soldiers, when in such operations have there not be. These two groups really don't like each other to boot.
    As with Jenin there are lies, exaggerations, and distortions made by Palestinians and their supporters. In their minds it is OK because it is for the cause. Just the sort of rationalizing the soldiers who commit atrocities make.

    A pox on both their houses.

  13. Thom says:

    No, anon, there is not "no doubt some atrocities committed". It is possible that some Israeli soldiers committed atrocities, but we have reason to doubt every report of them.

  14. Citizen says:

    As a trial lawyer for years I learned that the police lie on the stand all the time. And these are higher stakes. Thanks to video cameras
    that's getting harder. On the other hand, Israel did not let in any reporters while their police action was taking place. They learned that lesson in Lebanon. Similarly, the USA embedded all reporters
    when it attacked Iraq. Goebbels would admire how they skin the cat these days.

  15. Boris says:

    Citizen,

    Cameras recordings showed Palestinians staging "massacres" in Jenin and shooting missiles from UN compounds.

    Before the discussion gets diluted by too many different arguments, it is important to answer one simple question – why? Why such stories are being planted?

    And the only answer I see is to insure that no peace can be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Jews.

    These stories are inflamatory, people will believe them even after they are prooved to be lies, and, unfortunately, people will die because of them.

    I can also see that Lubin still has the same original story on her blog. Same with Baltzer. This shows, once again, their true intentions.

  16. A buggerer from Lebanon says:

    I ran phil's headline through my "hypocrite-English" translator, and it came back as "new Palestinian lie based on old Palestinian lie"

  17. Joshua Howard says:

    All this bickering is just a distraction from Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza. If Mexico bombed our airports, blockaded our sealanes and controlled everything that came into or went out of our country it would take about one second for the U.S. to declare war. It's the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza which are the real crimes. It's hard to see how any fair-minded person can condone Israel's horrible record of permanent occupation and domination of her neighbors.

  18. Thom says:

    ROFL. OK Joshua. If Mexico elected al-Qaeda and fired hundreds of thousands of rockets threatening 40 million Americans (numbers scaled up for population), how many seconds do you think we would wait before going in and wiping the terrorists out regardless of how many Mexican civilians we killed in the process?

    The blockade gives the Palestinians the right to attack Israeli military targets, not the right to target civilians with suicide bombers and rockets. Of course, if a state of war exists, then Israel also has the right to attack any Palestinian military targets at any time.

    The blockade exists because of the terrorism from the Palestinians. Stop fighting Israel and drop the terrorism and the blockade goes away.

    The Palestinians are caught in the equivalent of one of those Chinese finger cuffs. The more they struggle, the worse it gets for them. Contrariwise, if they stopped fighting, they would get free.

  19. Larry in Austin says:

    Something like the Jessica Lynch or Pat Tillman stories created by our lovely government.