In June of this year, two representatives of a West Bank Palestinian village toured Canada on a PR campaign to gain public sympathy and support for a lawsuit filed with the Quebec Superior Court against two Quebec-based construction companies for “violating international law” by building Israeli settlements on “occupied territory”. It was clear to any keen observer that the accusers were more interested in maligning the state of Israel in public than they were in obtaining real justice. On June 22, Radio-Canada.ca reported the story and presented the plaintiff’s accusation of “war crimes” as if it were a fact:
Following this report, we asked Radio-Canada if the “war crimes” accusation was being made by the Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Bil’in or by the public broadcaster itself. As Radio-Canada had correctly indicated in the same article, Israel refuses to consider the occupation of “Palestinian territories” (West Bank) as illegal and it therefore rejects the notion of settlement building as a “war crime”. We suggested to Radio-Canada that as long as the future status of the West Bank was subject to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel’s claim to this disputed territory was no less valid than that of the Palestinians. (See “What is the status of the territories?” and “Are Israeli settlements legal?“ for more on this topic). It was therefore highly inappropriate for Radio-Canada to prejudge the outcome of these negotiations or of the Quebec Superior Court’s ruling on this matter.
In the meantime, we suggested, the headline and body of the article should reflect the fact that the “war crimes” accusation was just that, an accusation and not a fact on the ground. We concluded by asking Radio-Canada to use proper attribution rules and put the “war crimes” accusation in quotation marks or otherwise indicate that this is an alleged accusation of pro-Palestinian protagonists and not an actual fact.
Radio-Canada editors agreed with us and revised the online report by removing the “war crimes” accusation in the title and by properly attributing the accusation to the plaintiffs in the body of the article: