Steven Sotloff: The race to conceal his Jewish identity from IS

Micahel Bassin
Michael Bassin monitored Arabic media and IS Twitter posts

When the Islamist militia IS posted a video last month threatening to kill captive American journalist Steven Sotloff, the situation was dire enough. But there was one secret that could potentially have made things even worse: Sotloff was Jewish and a dual citizen of Israel and the US.

To try to hide that fact from his IS captors, a group of Sotloff’s friends and volunteers worked around the clock to keep the captors from discovering his secret.

Sotloff’s captivity itself was also largely a secret. IS held Sotloff for a year, but even many of his friends did not know he had been abducted. But then, the extremist group posted a video of journalist James Foley’s beheading, during which Sotloff appeared. They threatened to kill him next.

His friend Gregg Roman called Sotloff’s father to offer any assistance.

“He said, ‘Do what you can do to help our son,'” says Roman, who went to university in Israel with Sotloff.

“I said, ‘I’m going to make sure that no harm comes to Steven because of his identity.'”

Steven Sotloff
At least Sotloff, shown reporting a news story, was not executed for being Jewish, a friend says

Roman, who directs the Jewish Community Relations Council in Pittsburgh, assembled a group of friends and various web experts for one mission: To clean the internet of any mention that Sotloff was Jewish or Israeli.

One man recruited for the task was Michael Bassin, an American Jew based in Tel Aviv who travels throughout the Middle East as a trade consultant.

“In the Arab world, they’ve been taught very little about what Jewish people are actually like,” Bassin says. “They are taught they are sinister, they have really poor intentions. Being a Jewish person and being a nice guy do not go hand in hand. So if they found out he was Jewish and Israeli, that means he was a spy and it would have expedited his murder. That was the belief.”

Originally published on BBC News: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29120308

Share it on your social media

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on email
Email

Gregg Roman’s Related Articles

Ending Hamas’s Forever War

by Gregg RomanArutz Sheva The U.S. retreat from Afghanistan has many experts and commentators scratching their heads over this move and the destruction of the hope that the West could leave the landlocked nation peacefully, diplomatically and in a better situation

Read More

Lessons for Israel from the Taliban Victory

by Gregg RomanThe Jewish Press The scenes of a Taliban victory in Afghanistan have resonated very differently in various parts of the world and hold many lessons, especially for Israel. Some in the West have seen a failure of American foreign

Read More