Canadian Media Eager To Pick Up Flawed Anti-Israel Report
July 16, 2009
By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director
Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber,
Will the media ever learn?
In March 2009, Ha’aretz published a story alleging “war crimes” and serious ethical failures on the part of the IDF in Gaza. Predictably, many international media outlets repeated the allegations without bothering to do any rudimentary checks.
Subsequently, it was revealed that the soldiers’ testimonies were based on nothing more than rumours and hearsay, causing acute embarrassment to Ha’aretz and serving up a salutary lesson for those media outlets that reproduced such shoddy journalism.
Now, Israeli non-governmental organization Breaking the Silence has published a new report reliant upon testimonials from soldiers who served in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Once again, allegations of “war crimes” and misdemeanours are based on second-hand evidence and hearsay.
Defending the IDF operation against charges including the use of human shields, Golani Brigade commander Col. Avi Peled stated that one of the soldiers who testified in the report was not even in the field at the time: “He told his commander about a week [during] which he wasn’t even in the field. He reported about what he heard happened.”
The IDF has issued an initial response to Breaking the Silence that can be viewed on the Canada-Israel Committee’s blog by clicking here.
NGO Monitor’s Dan Kosky points to the Breaking the Silence report’s central problems – flawed methodology and absence of any reasonable research standards:
“By Breaking the Silence’s own admission, the allegations are comprised of “the testimony of around 30 combatants” – a fraction of the thousands of Israeli combat troops deployed during the Gaza conflict. This extremely narrow and presumably hand-picked sample is an absurd basis on which to pass judgment, and even these limited testimonies were entirely unverifiable.
All statements are anonymous, and so-called “evidence” is further compromised by the absence of any details of where and when alleged incidents occurred. Consequently, were the report intended to prompt the IDF to investigate individual allegations, Breaking the Silence has made this impossible.”
The Globe & Mail’s Orly Halpern (pictured right) even wrote on her personal Twitter page: “I’m reading a really moving report which I will be writing about for the Globe and Mail. It makes me sick to my stomach.” This statement begs the following question: Can an objective and balanced story emerge when emotions rather than facts are the driving force?
With this in mind, Halpern’s report was marred by many missing facts. Unlike the CBC’s and Toronto Star’s reports, Halpern failed to mention why Israel carried out “Operation Cast Lead,” which was designed to prevent Palestinian terrorists from firing rockets into southern Israel. No mention was made that Hamas has been accused of war crimes by Israel along with several human rights organizations. Also missing from the report was any reference that there were Israeli casualties in the war. Again in contrast to the CBC and the Star, the Globe’s report only described the Palestinian casualties from the 22-day conflict. Even more remarkable though was that Israel’s adversary in the conflict, Hamas, was not even mentioned in this report!
Furthermore, Halpern’s statement that “Israel destroyed more than 3,000 homes and damaged some 20,000 others – in some cases entire neighbourhoods were razed” lacked any attribution. While this may be a claim made by Amnesty International, Ms. Halpern presented this statement as fact, whereas in reality it would be almost impossible to determine who was responsible for the destruction and damage of the homes given Hamas’ booby-traps, secondary explosions, etc.
Commendably though, CTV Newsnet (Watch Here) allowed Israeli spokesmen Yigal Palmor over 6-minutes to rebut the allegations made by Breaking the Silence. While Toronto Star reporter Oakland Ross noted that “Israel insists its armed forces took heroic measures to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza” and that “Last month, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, told a Jerusalem audience the IDF did more to safeguard the welfare of civilians during Operation Cast Lead “than any other army in the history of warfare.”
How You Can Make A Difference:
Breaking the Silence has succeeded in gaining the international publicity that it sought. Many media outlets, most notably the Globe & Mail, have demonstrated their propensity to uncritically publish unverifiable accounts from non-governmental organizations that feed their own unquestioning narrative of Israel and the IDF.
Please send your considered comments to the Globe and Mail at: email@example.com and refer to Orly Halpern’s July 15 report entitled “Report reveals deadly Israeli actions in Gaza” citing some of the many deficiencies we pointed out.
This communique was adapted from HonestReporting International. Click on the image below to find out more and subscribe.