Debunking false information about pro-Palestinian protests-

Daoud Kuttab
5 min readMay 2, 2024

A personal testimonial

By Daoud Kuttab

It is hard to imagine that seven months into the Israeli revenge war on Gaza, pro-Israeli propagandists continue to create and disseminate false information that media, politicians including the White House, and even officials at America’s top universities continue to accept as fact. Successful efforts at debunking these lies have failed to produce any serious backlash or the shaming of those perpetuating these untruths.

When the war in Gaza began, the US president was dupped to believe that Israeli children were beheaded, then the media repeated unproven lies that systematic rape occurred and now the pro-Israeli hasbara (propaganda in Hebrew) has been pushed on university campuses and often accepted without much scrutiny as being fact. It began when US congresswoman Elis Stefanik tried to trick Ivy League presidents into condemning their own students by claiming that the term intifada means genocide of Jews.

When the current round of student protests began at Columbia, another fabrication was manifested namely that peaceful protests of fellow students were not only intimidating some of the Jewish students but actually physically endangering their lives. The fact that many Jewish students were among the peaceful demonstrators and that statement by the students to the contrary failed to lower the rhetoric of those who succeeded in getting the university president to bring the worst of the NYPD units in an attempt to remove and intimidate her own students physically. Calling the protestors antisemitic pro-Hamas and Jihadist has become common on social media which censures out many Palestinian terms but allows such untruthful rhetoric to resonate, according to Human Rights Watch.

As a Palestinian American who worked in Jerusalem for years, I was not surprised by the level of lies and distortions. We have lived through years of Israeli propagandists turning everything about Palestinian aspiration for freedom and equality into claims that Palestinians want to annihilate the Jewish state. The most recent attempts to tag the term terrorists to six well-respected Palestinian human rights organizations, to stop philanthropic aid to them have failed.

Similarly, the unsubstantiated and coordinated efforts to delegitimize the UN’s leading refugee aid organization to Palestinian UNRWA. A Palestinian aid worker, Mohammad El Halabi who ran the Word Vision humanitarian project in Gaza was arrested and charged with transferring fifty million US dollars in aid to Hamas. Not only was that much more than the entire budget of the Christian US-based charity but in court Israel has failed to produce a single document to prove this preposterous claim.

While exaggerated and unfounded claims of antisemitic and fear for the lives of some of the students were not enough, at one university the incitement against protesting students went a step too far. According to media reports students at Northeastern University were chanting Kill the Jews but it turned out that the only one using this vile statement was none other than a pro-Israeli protestor who clearly was attempting to goad the university to crush the peaceful pro-Palestinian protests.

The false claim of “killing the Jews” reminded me of an incident that with the help of CBS’s Mike Wallace, it was possible to debunk. Back in October 1990 when Israeli soldiers killed 17 Palestinians on the compound of Al-Haram al-Sharif, 60 Minutes was able to disprove the way Israeli and pro-Israeli propagandists and how many in the western media fall for these lies unknowingly.

I remember that incident because it took place one day after the birth of my second daughter Tania. It was also one of the few times that Israeli attempts to manipulate the media were clearly exposed.

I was asked by Barry Lando, the producer of 60 Minutes to help. The team began their investigation by looking at the news tapes covering that incident including those of CBS News. In the news footage, viewers were told that the stones were raining down on Jewish worshippers at Judaism’s holiest pavilion site which forced the Israeli army to respond. The pictures showed stones coming down as the camera panned down the Western Wall. The next scene viewers saw was of Jewish worshippers fleeing.

To add to these pictures, most television stations ran sound clips from a press conference with Benyamin Netanyahu (who was then a senior official in the government of Yitzhak Shamir) showing to the cameras huge rocks which he claimed were falling down on the worshippers causing scores of injuries. The rabbi of the Wailing Wall was quoted in news clippings as saying that he heard the speakers of Al Aqsa Mosque Islamic clerics urging Palestinian demonstrators to “iddah al yahoud” kill the Jews.

Barry Lando would later recall the incident saying “What we found was that the official Israeli version put out by Netanyahu was, as the Palestinians had charged, a total fabrication. There was no other way to describe it.”

A tourist at the time at the Mount of Olives had captured on an amateur video the events that took place that tragic day. When translated, the audio track of that tape showed the opposite of the rabbi’s claims. The mosque leaders who had access to microphones in the mosque were documented as attempting to calm down the demonstrators asking them to stop throwing stones pleading with them that their lives are more important than throwing stones. The tourist’s video was later screened at the UN to debunk the claims that anyone had said to kill the Jews.

Even when all the facts became clear to the 60 Minutes team Israeli propagandists in the US continued to refuse to accept responsibility for the senseless killings.

One of the funniest interviews in the CBS 60 Minutes program was the exchange between Mike Wallace and the rabbi of the Western Wall.

Wallace: What happened?

Rabbi: Palestinians were throwing stones at innocent Jewish worshippers.

Wallace: And how many people were in the pavilion of the Wailing Wall?

Rabbi: Thousands upon thousands of Jewish worshipers.

Wallace: And how many Jews were injured as a result of the stones falling on them?

Rabbi: None.

Wallace: How do you explain that, rabbi?

Rabbi: It was a miracle.

When CBS ran the 60 Minutes report, a few months after the incident, they were bombarded by criticism including by those who called Wallace a self-hating Jew. One year later Abe Foxman, president of the anti-Defamation League, who had originally fired off a lengthy memo attacking the broadcast, sent a new memo to CBS chief Don Hewitt: “[Israeli]Judge Kama rejects some of the claims the officials made and came closer to some of the conclusions raised by 60 Minutes. On that basis, while I still have some problems with the methodology 60 Minutes used, I want to publicly apologize to you, Mike, and the staff of 60 Minutes” The memo was never made public by CBS, according to Lando in an article published in the Huffington Post recalling Netanyahu’s many other lies as well.

It is often said that the truth is the first victim in war. But manufacturing racist and never-spoken terms by the demonstrators for the sole purpose of delegitimizing them goes beyond political games and becomes a dangerous blood libel that can cause harm to peaceful students.


Daoud Kuttab an award-winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton is a columnist with Al Monitor and Arab News. Follow him on X @daoudkuttab and threads @daoud.kuttab



Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian journalist, former Ferris Professor at Princeton U., established @AmmanNet. Contributor to