Exposing Michael Bell’s Falsehoods in the Globe and Mail

April 17, 2014

In an op-ed published in the Globe and Mail on April 6, Michael Bell (pictured right), Canada’s former ambassador to Jordan, Egypt and Israel, pit all the blame on Israel for the current impasse in negotiations while ignoring every single Palestinian transgression. Israel, which negotiated in good faith vs. the Palestinians, who in violation of previous commitments and in fundamental breach of the Oslo Accords, took unilateral actions towards statehood in joining 15 international treaties and by continuing to evade direct negotiations, failing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and in refusing to end the conflict. 

Israel has extended three generous peace offers to the Palestinians without even a counter offer from its Palestinian counterparts. Israel has made numerous concessions including releasing terrorists with blood on their hands from Israelis jails and in instituting an unprecedented 10-month moratorium on settlement building. What concessions have the Palestinians made? None. They have instead asked for new preconditions to extend the peace talks that harden the chances for peace as they are non-starters, such as calling for a lifting of restrictions on Hamas-controlled Gaza, a terror enclave.

Deeply troubling was how Mr. Bell falsified statistics when saying the number of Israeli settlers in the west bank has doubled since 2010. Yet, the Israeli Census Bureau statistics reports that in 2000 (not 2010 according to Mr. Bell), that there were 192,976 Israelis in Judea and Samaria. Bell disingenuously disregarded Israeli statistics with his current figure of 450,000 Israelis in the area even though the Israeli statistics for 2012 are 344,391. To be clear, Mr. Bell was flat out wrong in claiming that in the past four years, that the Israeli settlement population in the “west bank” has grown by 260,000 people.

HonestReporting Canada brought this error to the Globe and Mail’s attention who issued the following correction on April 11:

Other grossly inflated statistics by Mr. Bell are seen in his claim that “the area controlled by settler municipalities extends to 45 per cent of the land mass.” In reality, Israeli settlements take up less than 2% of the “west bank”. According to the Oslo Accords, the Israel government was accorded the governance of Area C of the West Bank which is 60% of the land mass, most of which is uninhabitable. Settlements take up 1% of the land mass. It’s misleading to suggest that because Israel governs Area C, that the land mass is taken up by settlements. It is not. The Israeli government, through the international legal agreement called the Oslo Accords, governs area C. Its governance extends throughout. However, built up settlements take up only 1% of the “west bank”. The use of these statistics by Mr. Bell was disingenuous to say the least.

Finally, Mr. Bell’s perverting the idea of Zionism was highly objectionable. Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, is not an expansion project. Jews and Arabs are entitled to live anywhere and the suggestion that Jews should not is supporting an apartheid concept.

This was not the first time HonestReporting Canada has had to expose Michael Bell’s falsehoods. A December 2 op-ed published on the Globe’s website saw Mr. Bell claim that Jerusalem lawyer Danny Seideman had been attacked by radical Jewish settlers when his car was stoned causing him to be the recipient of a nasty concussion.

Mr. Bell claimed the following:

Not only were no facts proffered to back up this assertion, but Mr. Seideman actually claimed that his attackers were Palestinian Arabs, not Israeli Jews. HonestReporting Canada and many others called on the Globe to retract this allegation which had unfairly maligning Israel’s settlers movement. To its credit, the Globe did publish the following editor’s note: “An earlier version of this article contained speculation that the attackers of Danny Seideman might have been radical settlers. Mr. Seideman has since said that his attackers were, in fact, Palestinian. The article has been amended to reflect this change.  Mr. Bell regrets the error.” Likewise, after our encouragement, the headline to this article was amended and it now says only “Israel faces a political conundrum”. This edit was put in place to ensure that Globe readers did not come to the false conclusion that Mr. Seideman was stoned by Jewish settlers.

Other mistruths are still seen in Mr. Bell’s referring to Silwan as “a Palestinian neighborhood just outside the Old City’s walls.” This statement alone is quite the bold leap considering that the area was originally a Jewish neighbourhood until Jews were forcibly expelled in 1921/29. Finally, despite our repeated requests, the Globe never did confirm the veracity of each of the following incidents which Mr. Bell claimed occurred: “In the four day period from Oct. 1-4 alone, the following transpired: Radical settler gangs installed caravans on land belonging to the town of al-Khadr near Bethlehem; such settlers vandalized a Franciscan monastery in Jerusalem; they stoned vehicles in Ramallah and Qalqilia; set fire to agricultural land in Nablus; began building an outpost on land belonging to Palestinians from Yanun village near Nablus; and destroyed 100 olive trees and 60 grape vines near Bethlehem.”

As we pointed out to the Globe, these alleged incidents are from 2012 not 2013, despite Mr. Bell’s implications, a correction the Globe made following our interaction. Furthermore, a majority of these claims were made by the PLO’s National Affairs Department, AKA the Palestinian Monitoring Group, whose credibility is suspect to say the least. The rest are from the Palestinian news agency Ma’an News which cannot be considered to be reliable source.

Our efforts in exposing Michael Bell’s falsehoods serve to show the tremendous need for vigilance in media monitoring of Canadian news outlets. Michael Bell is entitled to his own opinions, he is allowed to be a fierce critic of Israel, but such criticisms must be accurate and he cannot invent his own facts. At the very least, we are pleased that the Globe and Mail surely appreciates the need to properly vet commentary from this author in light of his repeated erroneous claims.


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