The Murky World of Sunday Journalism

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Israeli immigration officials at Tel Aviv airport secretly copied the British passports which were then used by the hit squad which assassinated a leading Hamas official, the Sunday Telegraph reports today. This is intrinsically implausible.

We were told as long ago as last Wednesday that the passports “belonged” to innocent Israelis – British citizens who had subsequently been granted Israeli nationality.

As dual nationals, these people have British and Israeli passports. They can use either passport when travelling round the world – though they will obviously find it easier to use British passports when they enter Britain. But Israeli law requires them to use their Israeli passports when they enter or leave Israel.

It therefore follows that their British passports could not have been taken away from them and copied during routine checks at Tel Aviv airport, as the Sunday Telegraph reported. They would not have presented their British passports on arrival in Israel.

This does not let Israel off the hook. Would-be immigrants are required to leave their foreign passports with the Israeli authorities for a few days while their Israeli identity documents are prepared. There would have been ample time for the Mossad to search for and copy passports belonging to individuals of roughly the right age who did not have particularly Jewish-sounding names.

But it just goes to show you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers, even if it is attributed to “diplomatic” sources.