When Life Imitates Satire: Israeli Newspaper Spooked by The Onion’s Prescient Report

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Filed under: Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

‘Netanyahu cheered up by US missile offer’: how the Onion scooped Haaretz
by Jessica Elgot
The Guardian
July 21, 2015

Satirical site’s joke about the US offering missiles to the Israeli prime minister to appease him over the Iran nuclear deal turned out to be uncannily accurate

Binyamin Netanyahu‘US Soothes Upset Netanyahu With Shipment of Ballistic Missiles’ sounds like a headline from the Onion. And it is – except that this time it’s true. International media organisations have regularly been caught out by the satirical news site, fooled into thinking that Kim Jong-un really was voted the world’s sexiest man, or that Americans would prefer a beer with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than Barack Obama.

But this time editors of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz were spooked by a story in the Onion from the previous day that matched what they had heard as fact.

Last week, the paper reported a senior US official as saying that Obama had spoken to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, offering to “begin immediate talks about upgrading the Israel Defence Forces’ offensive and defensive capabilities” after US negotiators reached a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, which was condemned by Israel. But the day before, the Onion had published a tongue-in-cheek piece announcing that the Israeli government would receive “a nice, big shipment of ballistic missiles” to help them come to terms with the Iran deal.

The piece included jokey quotes from a “State Department spokesperson”, which said: “Bibi always gets a little cranky when he sees us talking to Iran, but a few dozen short-range surface-to-surface missiles usually cheer him right up … At least we’ll have a couple months of peace and quiet around here.”

Life does not entirely imitate satire: Haaretz reported that the Israeli leader has said he would not accept the offer, because to do so would imply that the Iran deal had been tacitly accepted, though Israeli army radio on Monday quoted unnamed defence ministry officials as saying they would discuss compensation from the US.

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