Murdered journalist Steven Sotloff was a dual US-Israeli national that told locals during the Arab Spring he was a “Chechen Muslim”.
The freelance journalist who was beheaded by an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighter with a British accent, was a dual US-Israeli citizen who had managed to conceal his second nationality from his captors.
31-year-old Sotloff became the second kidnapped journalist to be beheaded by the group, which also murdered American journalist James Foley. ISIS has threatened to kill a British hostage next.
The revelation of Sotloff’s Israeli citizenship was confirmed by the country’s foreign ministry yesterday morning. On Twitter, Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the ministry, said: “Cleared for publication: Steven Sotloff was Israel citizen RIP.”
The US also confirmed that the video depicting his murder was genuine.
“The US intelligence community has analysed the recently released video showing US citizen Steven Sotloff and has reached the judgment that it is authentic,” national security council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
The revelation that Sotloff also had dual nationality came as President Barack Obama said that the US would not be intimidated by ISIS and would build a coalition to “degrade and destroy” the Al Qaeda splinter group.
Sotloff appears to have been murdered by the same masked man with a British accent who was depicted killing Foley in a video made public by ISIS on 19 August.
Sotloff’s Israeli nationality had not been revealed in the Israeli media during his captivity, while authorities had allegedly gone to extraordinary lengths to censor any reference from the internet to his time spent in the country.
According to Israeli media reports, Sotloff had studied in Israel.
Sotloff grew up in Miami, and according to the Jerusalem Post – had previously worked for Temple Beth Am day school in Florida.
Sotloff also had articles published by the Media Line and the Jerusalem Report.
“We refused to acknowledge any relationship with him in case it was dangerous for him,” explained Avi Hoffman, editor of the Jerusalem Report.
According to an interview in Yedioth Ahronoth with another former ISIS captive, who befriended Sotloff in captivity, he successfully managed to hide the fact he was Jewish from his captors, managing to fast for Yom Kippur by pretending to be ill.
According to the Times of Israel – Sotloff, who had moved to Israel in 2008, later became somewhat disillusioned with his newly adopted country.
“Like most of us, he came here and he became very critical of the government,” said Hillary Lynne Glaser, a former classmate who studied international relations at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzilya with Sotloff.
“I’m not so sure it was about the Israeli-Arab conflict, I think it was more how they treat their own people. But he still came back to visit. He didn’t hate it enough to not come visit,” she told the paper. “He still considered it his home.”
Oren Kessler, an Israeli journalist who had online communication with Sotloff during the Arab spring, told the Times of Israel that Sotloff had been very careful not to reveal he was a Jew, choosing to tell locals that he had been raised a secular Muslim, without a sectarian affiliation, explaining that his name was Chechen.