In May 2021, Israel and Palestinian militants exchanged missile fire in a lethal altercation that left more than 50 people dead. As fears of an escalating war spread, so did social media posts about a "speech" supposedly delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he gave Hamas a 24-hour ultimatum.
Here's an excerpt from the lengthy text:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just made the following speech in front of the Knesset:
To Ismail Haniya, and the leaders and operatives of Hamas:
We, the people of Israel, owe you a huge debt of gratitude. You have succeeded where we have failed. Because never before, in the history of the modern State of Israel, has the Jewish people been so united, like one person with one heart. Everyone in Israel, from Left to Right, secular and religious, in united in the knowledge that there is no accommodating an enemy that is sworn to the genocide of our people.
And now, as you continue to launch deadly missiles indiscriminately, intended to maim and murder as many civilians as possible, while you take cowardly refuge behind your own civilians - you continue to inspire us to hold strongly onto our unity. Whatever disputes we Jews may have with each other, we now know that we have one common goal: we will defeat you.
But we are offering you now one last chance. Within 24 hours, all rocket fire - and I mean all rocket fire - will cease. Completely. Forever.
This speech was not delivered by Netanyahu in May 2021. In fact, it doesn't appear that these words were ever uttered by Netanyahu.
The above-displayed text first started circulating on social media in 2014. At the time, three teenagers had gone missing and Netanyahu suspected that Hamas was behind the kidnappings. CNN reported at the time:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Monday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and told him to “assist in returning the abducted youths and in apprehending the kidnappers,” according to Netanyahu’s office.
“This morning I can say what I was unable to say yesterday before the extensive wave of arrests of Hamas members in Judea and Samaria,” he said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
“Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas – the same Hamas that Abu Mazen made a unity government with,” he said Sunday.
In July of that year, as Israel continued their search for the three missing teenagers and their kidnappers, the above-displayed piece of text started to circulate on social media. We have not been able to find an authoritative source for this speech, nor have we been able to find any video of Netanyahu making these remarks.
In some early postings, this speech was shared as if Netanyahu had published these words as an "open letter" to Hamas. In other postings, this text was shared as if it were a speech that Netanyahu had delivered in front of the Knesset, Israel's legislative body.
The Spanish-language Jewish news website EnlaceJudio.com noted that this message originally concluded with a pseudo-disclaimer stating that Netanyahu may not be the original author of this text. When this text circulated via email and WhatsApp in 2014, it ended with a message stating (translated via Google): "I don't know reliable this is. But if he said it great. If he didn’t say it I wish he had."
This speech was originally posted on the "sgb free thought" Blogspot blog on July 8, 2014. The original version carried a similar, but more explicit disclaimer indicating that the text was a work of fiction. The author, Shaul B., ended the original post by stating "and then I awoke, and it was all a dream."
A week later, after this post started circulating as if it were a genuine speech delivered by Netanyahu, Shaul B. posted a confession admitting that he penned this text:
I have a confession to make: for years, it's been one of my private ambitions to start a viral Internet hoax. I am fascinated by what makes people forward/like/share information that is obviously fake. I haven't really been trying that hard, but I have made some lame attempts at an over-the-top virus warning, and created a phony Facebook competition to win a million dollars that attracted absolutely zero interest.
And then, a few days ago, in a moment of frustration at Israel's lame leadership, I penned the speech I wish we could hear from our Prime Minister ending it with the line, "... and then I awoke, and it was all a dream", and shared it on Facebook.
Nothing much came of that, or so I thought. A few people commented on the article, and there were one or two shares. And that was it.
Until a few days later, when someone forwarded to me the entire text of my speech, minus the last line. In other words, they believed this was a real speech, and had sent it to me because they thought I would take heart from it.
These were not remarks or a speech delivered by Netanyahu in May 2021. This is a piece of copypasta that has been falsely attributed to the Israeli prime minister since 2014.