ADL: News Media Needs To Do More To Correct Myth That "Israeli Jew" Was Behind Anti-Islam Film

New York, NY, September 13, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern that the news media, despite their efforts to uncover and report on the true identity of the filmmaker responsible for an anti-Islam film that fanned violent protests across the Middle East, have not done enough to put to rest the myth that an "Israeli Jew" and 100 Jewish investors were behind the film.

"We are greatly concerned that this false notion that an Israeli Jew and 100 Jewish backers were behind the film now has legs and is gathering speed around the world," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "In an age where conspiracy theories, especially ones of an anti-Semitic nature, explode on the Internet in a matter of minutes, it is crucial for those news organizations who initially reported on his identity to correct the record. It is not a question of freedom of speech; it is a question of responsibility. News organizations need to clearly correct the record so that this myth does not morph into another Big Lie blaming and scapegoating Israelis and Jews."

Various media outlets initially reported that the hateful anti-Islam movie, "Innocence of Muslims," was written and directed by a Jewish Israeli filmmaker based in California who identified himself as Sam Bacile. The filmmaker initially claimed in interviews that the film had 100 Jewish backers who had invested $5 million to produce it.

"Even after reports later surfaced that the filmmaker was not Israeli or Jewish, news organizations across the Arab world and anti-Semites and anti-Israel activists have continued to describe him as such," said Mr. Foxman. An Egyptian Coptic news Web site, for example, titled a report about the filmmaker's decision to go into hiding with: "As the Jews always do: Israeli anti-Islam filmmaker hides in fear."

In a letter to The Associated Press, the news organization that was among the first to break the story with an exclusive interview with "Sam Bacile," ADL called on the editors to make every attempt to correct the record, including appending a correction to original versions of the story so that "anyone reading it now or in the future will be aware that the reports about Jewish involvement in the film were untrue."

The false assertions by the filmmaker were cited by dozens of international and U.S. media outlets, leading to an anti-Semitic outpouring on the Internet and around the world. The man was later identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian with a criminal record who has used similar aliases in the past.

Naguib Gibrael, a prominent Coptic leader and the president of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, was quoted as saying that a "Jewish producer" and "international Zionism" were responsible for producing the film. Various comments on anti-Semitic forums have decried the "wealthy Jews" who financed the film in an effort to "stir up hatred between Muslims and Americans."

A Facebook comment by the media coordinator for American Muslims for Palestine, a virulently anti-Israel group based in Chicago, read, "The film was financed by 100 Jews, according to the Israeli. Let this be a lesson to our Muslim organizations that still insist it is in our best interest to work with Zionist organizations."

The film, along with a trailer translated into Arabic and posted on YouTube, sparked mass protests against U.S. embassies across the Arab world.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.