One of the three American hikers who’ve been detained in Iran since July 31 shares a name with a Brooklyn yeshiva student, leading to a mix-up that’s been spreading around the internet. Last weekend, the conservative political blog Maggie’s Notebook claimed that Joshua Fattal, the detained hiker, “is a resident of Eugene, Oregon, and a junior at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY, according to his bio at The Jewish Week where he is a contributor.” Of course, it’s highly improbable that a 27-year-old Oregonian would be commuting to an Orthodox high school in Brooklyn and writing for the teen supplement of a New York Jewish paper—and, in fact it’s not true. They’re two different people, with the same name. “We have a case of mistaken identity,” said Shira Vickar-Fox, who edits the Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens. “The Joshua Fattal in Iran is not the one who writes for our publication.” A secretary at Yeshivah of Flatbush, who would not give her name or any additional information about Fattal, concurred that “it’s not our student.”
Still, the story has been picked up by websites from Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV to the white supremacist Vanguard News Network. Like the Iranian government, which has questioned whether the hikers were in fact spies, these news organizations have a vested interest in implying that they were there not there as tourists. But an agenda doesn’t always drive the confusion: this one has has even made it into the Jewish blogosphere.
Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.