Reuters hired writer who mocked Israel with ‘no due diligence’

Reporter Henriette Chacar went on to write a sympathetic article about a terrorist after being employed by news agency


Reuters failed to carry out due diligence on a journalist who mocked Israel and defended the Palestinian “pay for slay” policy before she was hired and then went on to write a sympathetic story about a terrorist for the news agency.

Reporter Henriette Chacar triggered a social media backlash earlier this month when she wrote that Mahmoud Aleiwat, 13, who shot and wounded two Israelis in East Jerusalem, “dreamt of being a chef”.

Ms Chacar had previously been labelled “outrageous” by her editor at Reuters, the JC revealed, after she questioned the difference between Israeli civilians and combatants — but was allowed to keep her job in a company that prides itself on its reputation for unbiased reporting.

Now two Reuters insiders have separately told the JC that a full investigation into the previous political positions of the Jaffa-born journalist was never conducted.

Speaking anonymously, one whistleblower said: “It was shocking. Action should have been taken. Were these doubts raised? Why were they not dealt with at the time? Why was she hired? The recruitment approach at that time caused huge ructions in the Jerusalem bureau. Aggravation and concern.”

Before being hired by the newswire in January 2022, there were “obvious red flags” about Ms Chacar, one of the whistleblowers added.

In August 2020, she had tweeted: “Accidentally named Israel’s security agency ‘shit bet’ instead of ‘shin bet’ in a draft.” And in 2018, she had shared a post by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer in which he praised Israel’s controversial Nation State Law. Mocking the Jewish state, Ms Chacar had added: “A [racist] light unto the nations.”

She also wrote an article for American news website The Intercept in 2018 saying that the Palestinian Authority’s “pay for slay” programme — which hands out cash to families of terrorists — was “rooted in a cultural attachment to the Palestinian national struggle”.

After Taylor Force, a 28-year-old American, was stabbed in Jaffa in 2016, the US reduced funding to the PA. Ms Chacar wrote: “Some observers of the Middle Eastern conflict, however, see the new law as another step taken by Israel and its backers to make sure that the Palestinian self-rule government cannot give support to those Palestinians who, in any way, resist occupation and end up in prison for it.”

The Taylor Force Act, which enforced the cuts, “punishes any and all resistance to Israeli occupation”, the headline claimed.

Internal emails previously seen by the JC reveal that just five months after starting at Reuters, Ms Chacar asked Jerusalem bureau Editor-In-Charge Jeffrey Heller: “Can we conclusively say that Palestinians have mostly targeted civilians?”

She added: “Many Israelis are either in active or reserve duty, and with the prime minister encouraging citizens to carry their guns, the line between civilians and combatants is quite blurred, so I do think it’s a tricky thing to highlight.”

Mr Heller, now retired, replied: “Hi, This line of thinking is outrageous and I will be raising it with our superiors.”

Senior management decided not to act, Reuters sources told the JC.

“It’s shocking,” one whistleblower said. “Jeffrey Heller is one of the most experienced and balanced journalists around. He raised concerns and they were ignored. That is outrageous.”

A Reuters spokesperson said: “Reuters is committed to covering the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Territories in an independent and impartial way, in keeping with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.”

Ms Chacar was contacted for comment.

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