Sinking the Palestinian Swimmer Story

Raad Awassat

Earlier this month a highly moving story broke that was reprinted in news outlets everywhere: A Palestinian swimmer who aspired to the Olympics was overcoming
tremendous difficulty, including a supposed Israeli refusal to allow him to practice in a heated pool, and hoped to make it to Athens against all odds.

Phillip Whitten of SwimInfo was disturbed by some of the innaccuracies in the story and decided to follow up. Whitten discovered that the whole story was a sham:

It’s a great story, with all the classic drama of David versus Goliath. You can’t help but root for the kid, the underdog struggling against overwhelming might and bureaucratic red-tape. And, indeed, the story proved irresistible to news media around the world. It was picked up and either reprinted or elaborated upon in the Washington Post, London Times, New York Times, Guardian, Minnesota Star Tribune, Newsday and the Chicago Tribune, among many others. MSNBC picked it up, as did CNN. It was reported in at least 60 countries in newspapers, radio, T.V. and on the Internet. At least half a dozen friends e-mailed the story to me from various points around the globe…

The only trouble is: it’s dead wrong. None of the reporters or news media bothered to check out the allegations or interview a single official from the YMCA or Israeli Swimming Federation. If they had, they would have learned that almost every aspect of the story is either false or a misrepresentation of the facts…

There was, indeed, a sad story to emerge from the waters of Jerusalem’s swimming pools, but it was not the story that made the newspapers and other media around the world. Rather, it was the story of how ideology and sloppy reporting can totally distort reality and muddy what should be the crystal-clear waters of international sport.

Read the whole thing – it’s a classic case of anti-Israel bias, and a fine example of alert media monitoring.