Egyptian Shark Attack: Jews Not Jaws?

The Scotsman deliberately gives credibility to a ridiculous conspiracy theory charging Mossad with causing Sinai shark attacks.

Some conspiracy theories are so laughable that it is obvious to the intelligent reader why they should be immediately dismissed. Unfortunately, when it comes to those involving Israel, such conspiracy theories seem to take on a life of their own, driven by anti-Semitism and hatred.

Conspiracy theories about Israel and the Jews are common fare in the Middle East and disseminated widely in the Arab media. From accusations that the Jews were responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks to classic anti-Semitic blood libels, the Western mainstream media have failed to report on this as an issue of Arab incitement.

The latest outlandish charge to be hurled at Israel is Mossad involvement in a spate of shark attacks in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh. Israeli officials have said that the claims are too ludicrous to respond to.

The Independent at least described it as a “more bizarre theory”, while Sky News’ Dominic Waghorn certainly got it, saying that “Egyptian officials have plumbed new depths of pottiness with their latest Zionist conspiracy theory.”

Even the BBC made sure to note that “Conspiracy theories are always popular in the Middle East, with unlikely suggestions often made that troubles in Arab countries could be caused by Mossad agents.”

The Scotsman, however, threw all journalistic credibility and professionalism out of the window with a sensationalist headline and story.

Without even suggesting that the accusation is yet another product of a febrile imagination and a society raised on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, the story states:
Some said sharks had been drawn to shallow waters after cattle being shipped in for last month’s Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha had died and were thrown overboard. Others suggested it could have been part of a secret plot by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. 

“What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark (in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm,” South Sinai governor Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha said.

But it gets worse from a journalistic perspective. For The Scotsman had butchered an original piece from Reuters, deliberately changing the headline and cherry-picking the contents to turn it into a story about the Mossad rather than the shark attack itself.

The Reuters piece, which is not centred around the Mossad charge, and headlined “Egypt puzzled after string of Red Sea shark attacks,” mentions more realistic theories to do with the shark’s behaviour and includes the paragraph:

Egyptians often blame neighbouring Israel for a variety of problems such as drug and weapon smuggling, or say it supports media that seek to portray Egypt in a bad light.

While it is possible to criticise Reuters for not making it more abundantly clear as to the ridiculous nature of the Mossad charge, The Scotsman’s editors have revealed something far more sinister behind the direction of their version of this story.

Based on previous experience, The Scotsman is likely to claim that space issues prevented republishing the full Reuters piece. The reality is, however, that the shark attacks are a major international news story that has been widely covered in the mainstream media.

What The Scotsman has done is inexcusable – turning a story about a spate of shark attacks into a sensationalised story of a ludicrous Israeli plot and then giving the conspiracy theory unwarranted credibility.

Send your considered comments through The Scotsman’s online contact form and demand an explanation for the paper’s shoddy behaviour.

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