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Reports of suicide of Israeli PM Netanyahu’s psychiatrist are actually satire

Viral posts surface after Pakistani outlet published a 2010 satirical report as real news

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Claim: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s psychiatrist, Dr Moshe Yatom, has died by suicide.

Fact: Netanyahu’s psychiatrist did not die by suicide; recent news reports claiming so are based on a satirical article published back in 2010.

On 6 November 2023, Pakistani media outlet Global Village Space published an article (archive) titled, “Israeli Prime Minister’s psychiatrist commits suicide,” with an excerpt that reads:

“Dr Moshe Yatom was discovered dead in his Tel Aviv home by a gunshot wound and a letter that holds Netanyahu responsible.”

What’s going on in Gaza?

On 7 October 2023, the Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades — the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza — launched (archive) a “surprise attack” on Israel via sea, land, and air. In response, the Israeli government formally declared (archive) war on Hamas on 8 October 2023.

Netanyahu warned (archive) residents of the enclave to evacuate as his country’s forces would “turn all Hamas hideouts into rubble”. On 7 November 2023, a month after the Hamas attack, the Israeli PM spoke (archive) to ABC News anchor David Muir, maintaining that there would be “no cease-fire, general cease-fire, in Gaza without the release of our hostages” and that “Israel will, for an indefinite period, have the overall security responsibility” of the region.

Read more: Israel’s claim 40 babies were ‘beheaded’ has no evidence

According to a 23 November 2023 update by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed and over 21,500 injured since the 7 October attack. Similarly, at least 1,400 Israelis have been killed and upwards of 5,400 injured.

Ever since the 7 October attack, a flood of misleading, old, and out-of-context pictures, videos, and claims have surfaced in the media.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check searched for any relevant information about the claim using the terms “Israeli Prime Minister,” “Benjamin Netanyahu,” “psychiatrist,” “Moshe Yatom,” and “suicide.”

We found multiple links to posts and news reports regurgitating the claim, but there were no reports by reputable media outlets on such a development.

Further investigation led us to the website of an institution called, “المبادرة الفلسطينية لتعميق الحـــوار العالمي والديمقراطية,” or “The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy,” which was formed in 1998 and carried the same story. The report is titled “Psychiatrist of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Commits Suicide,” dated 23 June 2010, and appears to be authored by “Michael K. Smith.”

Searching for “Moshe Yatom” and “Michael K. Smith” together led us to a blog called legalienate (archive), which says it posts “News, Commentary and Satire.” The article was published on 8 June 2010 and its excerpt reads, “Anguished Suicide Note Cites ‘Deluge of Doublethink’ In Driving Kind-Hearted Shrink to Despair.”

Also read: Viral video does not show Israeli children held in cages by Hamas

The report’s byline mentions “Michael K. Smith, Legalienation News Bureau.” At the end, Smith is described as “the author of ‘Portraits of Empire’ and ‘The Madness of King George,’ from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at proheresy@yahoo.com”.

Soch Fact Check has reached out to Michael Smith, the individual running the blog, for further confirmation and will update this article once, or if, they respond. It should also be noted that the email provided — proheresy@yahoo.com — could also be a tongue-in-cheek.

We also came across the X (formerly Twitter) account of Marieke Kuypers, a fact-checker at Nieuwscheckers, which is a fact-checking outlet in the Netherlands accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), of which Soch Fact Check is also a signatory.

Kuypers reposted a tweet by Twitter user @Avi_Bueno, who wrote (archive), “This is satire. Come on, people,” and also shared a link to AxisofLogic (archive), a website focused on “Activism News and Comments.” Nieuwscheckers has not published an article about this.

The AxisofLogic article is categorized as “Political Satire”. It also mentions “Michael K. Smith” and “Legalienate News Bureau” but its headline states, “Psychiatrist of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Commits Suicide. Update: Suicide of Second Israeli Psychiatrist linked to Government.”

The part about “Second Israeli Psychiatrist” starts with the word “Sequel” — implying that it is a continuation of the series of satirical articles on Netanyahu’s psychiatrist’s suicide — and states:

“Second Psychiatrist Suicide Rocks Israel
Defense Minister’s Analyst Overdoses on Valium – Wave of “Shrinkicides” Feared”

The second psychiatrist is identified as a 61-year-old Yigal Peleg.

Related: Disputed visuals show body of a real Palestinian child, not a doll

The article claims Yatom and Peleg were “highly successful analysts”, with the former being described as “a prominent Israeli psychiatrist who successfully cured the most extreme forms of mental illness throughout a distinguished career”. If this was the case, there would have been reports by credible media outlets but we did not find any.

Observing the use of sarcastic language and irony in the article further strengthens the argument that it is satire; a few examples of it are listed below:

  • A mental illness known as Security Addiction Disorder (SAD), “characterized by blizzards of doublethink, is also now believed to be well nigh incurable”.
  • A mental illness known as Massive Attack Disorder (MAD), which shows a “lack [of] maturity [in patients] to understand their own needs, let alone those of others, and destroy everything in their vicinity like a cranky toddler smashing his toys”.
  • “Zionist Infantile Outburst Neurosis (ZION), the most serious of which is a chronic impulse to rob, swindle, torture and murder all those who, in the victim’s judgment, which is by definition infallible, impede the onward march to the Zionist paradise.”
  • “Shrinkicides,” an apparent reference to the alleged suicides of psychiatrists.
  • An unfinished manuscript by Moshe Yatom titled “Psychotic On Steroids”
  • A book named “Zionist Lunacy On The Couch: The Perilous Quest For a Cure” (Sanity Books, 2010) written by Dr Rafael Eilam.
  • “Psychiatrists world-wide are rallying to support their embattled Israeli colleagues by forming a Free Israel movement.”

We searched the databases of the American Psychological Association (APA), World Health Organization (WHO), National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Health Service (NHS), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but did not find any illnesses named Security Addiction Disorder (SAD), Massive Attack Disorder (MAD) or Zionist Infantile Outburst Neurosis (ZION).

Therefore, we conclude that this terminology has been constructed by the authors for the genre of political satire, in keeping with the category of news published by AxisofLogic.

Read more: Was Israeli army chief captured, subjected to violence?

There are no credible news reports about “Shrinkicides,” “Psychotic On Steroids,” “Zionist Lunacy On The Couch: The Perilous Quest For a Cure” or a “Free Israel movement” by psychiatrists either.

There is no publishing company named “Sanity Books” either but we did find a website called “Sanity Press,” which appears to be defunct now.  Any author by the name of “Dr Rafael Eilam” does not exist either.

As for Michael K. Smith — the individual who appears to have written the satirical article — and his books, we found a Goodreads profile of him here.

Virality

Soch Fact Check found that the claim has proliferated quickly on social media, with most posts containing either a link to or a screenshot of the story published by Global Village Space, the Pakistani media outlet.

Multiple news websites published the claim here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. In 2014, the Pakistan Defence and Siasat.pk forums also published the same.

The claim was also significantly viral on X, with posts by users @RyLiberty and @ScreenMix gaining over 3.9 million and 1.8 million views, respectively. Posts by users @CelebsArabic and @Greschinov were viewed more than 728,000 and 113,500 times. Indian lawmaker Jawhar Sircar and Salman Ahmad — a former member of the band Junoon and close aide of Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan — also shared the claim here and here, respectively.

Also read: Old clip showing execution, mass grave wrongly linked to Israeli forces

Op-eds have also been published based on the claim here and here.

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the period from 1 October 2023 to 14 November using the following search terms:

  • “Netanyahu psychiatrist suicide”
  • “Moshe Yatom”

The first search term led to 35 Facebook posts that gained over 106 interactions. The second term, on the other hand, yielded 36 Instagram posts, which garnered over 188,000 interactions.

The claim was shared in Indonesian, German, Spanish, Turkish, Croatian, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Lebanese languages here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, respectively.

Verified Facebook accounts posted the claim here, here, here, and here.

Related: Video of cleric sexually abusing student is from Pakistan, not Palestine

On Instagram, posts by @zein_rahma, @insertlive, @free.palestine.1948, @free.palestine.1948, @newsglobeofficial, and @liputan6 received over 50,500, 37,400, 24,500, 25,000, 16,000, and 11,500 likes. The claim also appeared in Arabic and Norwegian here and here.

The claim was shared here, here, here, here, and here on TikTok, here and here on YouTube, and here on Reddit.

Conclusion: Netanyahu’s psychiatrist did not die by suicide. In fact, the current news reports are based on a satirical article published back in 2010.


Background image in cover photo: @Netanyahu


To appeal against our fact-check, please send an email to appeals@sochfactcheck.com

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