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Viral photo does not show late Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver with Yasser Arafat

Image is from 1982 when Sarit Yishai-Levi, Uri Avneri, and Anat Saragusti met Arafat

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Claim: A picture shows Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver with Yasser Arafat.

Fact: The picture does not show Silver. The image, taken by Anat Saragusti, is actually of Israeli journalist Sarit Yishai-Levi.

On 14 November 2023, Dr Edy Cohen — who describes himself as a “researcher” and a “right-wing Likudnik Zionist” on X, formerly Twitter — posted (archive) two pictures side-by-side and wrote the following caption:

“זוהתה גופתה של וויויאן סילבר ז”ל, פעילת שלום מארגון בצלם, שנרצחה באכזריות ע”י החמאס. ההיסטוריה הפרו-פלשתינית שלה לא עזרה לה מול הערבים…. בשנות ה -80, נפגשה ויויאן עם יאסר ערפאת (בתקופה זו אסור היה לפגוש אותו על לי החוק). הטרור לא מבחין בין ימין ושמאל
[The body of the late Vivian Silver, a peace activist from the B’Tselem organisation, who was brutally murdered by Hamas, has been identified. Her pro-Palestinian history did not help her with the Arabs…. In the 80s, Vivian met with Yasser Arafat (at that time, it was forbidden to meet him under the law). Terrorism does not distinguish between right and left]”

Vivian Silver — shown in the picture on the right — was an Israeli peace activist who was confirmed to have been killed on 14 November 2023, according to the BBC (archive), which also said she was earlier “feared to have been taken hostage in Gaza” by Hamas.

According to Dr Cohen’s LinkedIn profile, he is also an “Arabic media analyst” and his areas of research expertise include “Anti-Semitism in the Arab world”, “Islamic terror”, and other topics. Through his post, he has alleged that the photo on the left — which shows two men, including Palestine’s first president, Yasser Arafat, and a young woman — is actually from a meeting between the Palestinian leader and Vivian Silver.

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.

According to a 22 November 2023 update by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 14,500 Palestinians have been killed and over 35,000 injured since the 7 October attack. Similarly, at least 1,200 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?

A reverse-image search led us to this article (archive) by Israeli journalist Lisa Perez published in Haaretz on 25 March 2016. It carries the following caption along with the same picture:

“Sarit Yishai-Levi, Yasser Arafat and Uri Avneri at their meeting in Beirut, 1982. Photo: Anat Saragusti / Ha’olem Haza”

Soch Fact Check also found this 2 September 2022 tweet (archive) carrying the same picture by X user @amitd441 in response to a post by Anat Saragusti — also an Israeli journalist — in which the former accused the latter of painting Arafat in a positive light. Saragusti replied with a warning against posting the image and threatened to sue for “copyright violation”.

Even in the case of the viral tweet by Dr Cohen that we are investigating, Saragusti replied with the same warning (archive).

In a similar instance — this time in May 2022 — X user @tamnuniter responded to yet another one of Saragusti’s warnings with a coloured photo (archive), which appears to be a screenshot from a video, and claimed they had “received written permission” from Kan News to use it; this image, however, is slightly different in that it also features a young girl.

When we searched for relevant information on Kan News, we came across this video (archive), which appears not to be working anymore but its preview reveals a title and description, which confirms that it shows a meeting between Saragusti, Avneri, and Yishai-Levi met Arafat “in a secret apartment” at a time when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had carried out a “siege of Beirut”.

Moreover, we also found this tweet (archive) by X user @selectivit that contains an article by Palestinian Wattan News Agency on the meeting between Arafat and Saragusti. The report — titled “‘Arafat is an exciting and cheerful personality; he faced pressure and injustice’: the first Israeli journalist to meet the martyr Arafat 35 years ago” and archived here — includes the following text, translated from Arabic to English using Google Translate:

“Until 1982, no Israeli journalist conducted an interview with Yasser Arafat, who was considered at the time one of Israel’s greatest enemies. The PLO was considered a ‘terrorist organisation’ and Israeli law prohibited meetings with hostile parties. But the First Lebanon War provided a golden opportunity for Israeli journalists to reach the closest possible point to the Palestinian leadership in that period. Anat Saragusti, who was then a young photojournalist and is now one of Israel’s leading journalists, succeeded in meeting directly with leader Yasser Arafat.

Interestingly, @amitd441 also posted (archive) a news clipping carrying a picture, which appears to be from the same meeting and shows a child, apart from Sarit Yishai-Levi, Yasser Arafat, Uri Avneri, the young girl, as well as Saragusti herself.

Furthermore, Soch Fact Check found a photo of Uri Avnery — an author, journalist, and former Israeli lawmaker who accompanied Saragusti during the Arafat meeting in the 1980s — from another angle in these February 2011 (archive) and August 2018 (archive) articles reporting his death.

Another report (archive) by Israeli news outlet Ynet, published on his death on 20 August 2018, notes that the meeting took place on 3 July 1982 when Arafat was residing in West Beirut. It includes a photo of the meeting from a different angle and a news clipping about their meeting.

Avnery had called his encounter with Arafat a “historic meeting” in the Haaretz newspaper, according to Reuters (archive), which also reported that the journalist was “questioned by police but ultimately faced no charges”.

As for Sarit Yishai-Levi, she, too, is a journalist and author who became “the first woman to interview [Arafat]”, according to The Jerusalem Chronicle (archive).

Soch Fact Check, therefore, concludes that the image shows Sarit Yishai-Leviwith Yasser Arafat in 1982, not Vivian Silver.

Virality

Soch Fact Check found the image posted here, here, here, here, and here on Facebook.

As of writing time, Dr Cohen’s post has been viewed on X over 351,000 times.

Conclusion: The picture does not show Vivian Silver. In fact, it shows Sarit Yishai-Levi, an Israeli journalist, and was taken by Anat Saragusti.


Background image in cover photo: Benjamin R.


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

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