Rafi Eitan: BBC WS radio promotes an unproven allegation

The afternoon edition of the March 24th BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a long item (from 14:04 here) relating to the death of Rafi Eitan the previous day.

Presenter James Menendez introduced the item as follows: [emphasis added]

Menendez: “Now you may not know the name Rafi Eitan but you’ll almost certainly remember his most famous achievement: the daring operation he led in 1960 to snatch the fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann from Argentina and smuggle him back to Israel for trial and then hanging. Eitan, who’s died in Tel Aviv at the age of 92, became one of Israel’s most renowned agents. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as one of the heroes of Israel’s intelligence services. Indeed he had a hand in many high-profile operations including the apparent theft of uranium from a US laboratory, the attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor and he was also the handler for Jonathan Pollard, the US Navy analyst who was caught spying for Israel.”

Later on in the item (from 18:44) while speaking with Israeli film-maker Duki Dror, Menendez said:

Menendez: “What’s also extraordinary is that he seems to have had roles in – and I guess it’s just a suggestion – that he was involved or perhaps even did it…took this pile of uranium from an American laboratory.”

Dror: “Yeah, there’s so many stories that are connected to his name and his role in the Mossad and sometimes you don’t know how to separate the reality from the myth.”

Although the vast majority of BBC World Service listeners would not know it, there is a good reason for Menendez’s use of the words “apparent” and “suggestion”.

Like ‘Newshour’, the New York Times also promoted those unproven allegations concerning the theft of uranium  – as our CAMERA colleague Tamar Sternthal documented:

“The New York Times’ obituary for Rafi Eitan states as fact that the just deceased Israeli spymaster played a key role in the theft of highly enriched uranium from an American company, though the allegation has never been proven and the disappearance remains an unsolved mystery.”

As Tamar Sternthal notes in her article, the alleged disappearance of more than 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear processing plant in Pennsylvania in the late 1960s has been investigated over the years by a range of US bodies and organisations without result. Moreover, it is not even clear that the material was actually stolen. 

Following communication from CAMERA, the New York Times has since corrected its report. Obviously BBC World Service radio needs to do the same in order to avoid misleading audiences by amplifying what it apparently knows – judging by Menendez’s use of qualifying language – is an entirely unproven allegation.   

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