Globe Reporter Claims Israel Committed Collective Punishment Against Palestinians

June 25, 2014

As the Globe’s Mideast bureau chief, journalist Patrick Martin is tasked to be politically neutral and is supposed to be an objective reporter, and yet, in a report published to the Globe’s website on June 20, this reporter staked out the position that Israel’s actions in the west bank recently to find the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers is a form of “collective punishment”.

The online exclusive report (subscription required) entitled: “How the missing Israeli teenagers stoke feelings of tribal vengeance” saw Martin state the following (emphasis added):

“The large scale military operation has become an act of collective punishment and has triggered a response from Palestinians such as the clash in which the Palestinian youth was killed.”

“On Saturday, concerned Israelis plan a demonstration in Tel Aviv, to protest the collective punishment being meted out by their defence forces.

Please view it online by clicking here.

It’s important to note that this reporter did not either directly or indirectly attribute the above statements, as such, this is not just the viewpoint only of the Globe’s reporter, but of the Globe and Mail itself.

There’s indeed a healthy debate within Israel about whether such actions do amount to “collective punishment”, see the Times of Israel for example, which notes that legal experts disagree with the viewpoints of some NGO’s who say Israeli efforts amount to “war crimes”.

Either way, for the Globe’s Mideast bureau chief to stake out this position instead of being a neutral observer saw him engage in advocacy journalism. How can we expect Martin to report objectively in the future on this file given his myopic view on this matter?

HonestReporting Canada contacted the Globe and Mail asking senior editors to promptly address this matter. In response, the Globe’s Public Editor, Ms. Sylvia Stead, offered the following reply to HRC on June 23:

“The article by Patrick Martin is a World Insider piece available to subscribers. Those articles are clearly identified as analysis pieces, special articles for the subscribers. It says it is “intelligence on world events and trends exclusively for Globe Unlimited subscribers”. There is further indication this is an analysis by the photo of Mr. Martin and the headline which says “How the missing Israeli teenagers stoke feelings of tribal vengeance: As Middle East correspondent Mr. Martin is expected to write regular analysis pieces based on his extensive experience and knowledge in and of the area. In my view, his article falls well within the area of analysis and is clearly marked as such.”

In a follow-up email to HRC, Ms. Stead claimed that Martin’s report constituted “a well-informed explanation of current events.” As we pointed out to the Globe, an analysis piece does not allow a reporter to insert their personal opinions. They should be fence sitters. Mr. Martin’s outright claiming that Israel committed “collective punishment” is not based on fact, they are his personal views and should not have been included in this report, unless in attribution. 

Is Israel’s operation to find the kidnapped teens a war crime? Raphael Ahren of the Times of Israel notes the following:

  • The Palestinian Authority and several human rights groups are claiming that the IDF operation in the West Bank to find the kidnapped Israeli teens amounts to collective punishment. But according to Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry and a professor of international law at Hebrew University, in searching for kidnapped civilians, apprehending members affiliated with the organization responsible for the kidnapping is legitimate, and the term “collective punishment” does not apply.
  • International law professor Eugene Kontorovich, who teaches at Northwestern and Hebrew University, said: “Rounding up suspects, or potential witnesses, is not punishment, but rather rudimentary investigative process….There is no evidence whatsoever that the Palestinians are being rounded up just to get back at Palestinians, without any regard to their having potentially useful information.” 

Likewise, Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University argues that Israel’s actions are not collective punishment. Steinberg observes: 

  • Israel is in the midst of an extensive military operation in the West Bank to locate three kidnapped Israeli teenagers and to root out the terror infrastructure that facilitated this and other attacks against civilians. Both of these goals are entirely legal and consistent with Israel’s obligations to preserve the welfare of its citizens, its obligations under international human rights conventions and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 that requires States to “prevent and suppress terrorist acts.
  • This week, eleven Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which receive massive amounts of funding from European government bodies (10 also receive significant funding from the New Israel Fund) enabling immoral propaganda campaigns, published a public letter accusing Israel of “unnecessary violation of basic rights and collective punishment.”
  • In accusing Israel of human rights violations, these NGOs invoke international legal terms, such as “collective punishment,” that have specific meanings beyond colloquial usage. Yet, most people are not familiar with the legal definitions, and instead accept at face value the claims of self-declared human rights defenders.
  • As a number of legal experts have shown, Israel’s operation to find the teens and to root out terror infrastructure is not collective punishment. In the context of international law, collective punishment means the imposition of specific criminal penalties on innocents, not measures that impact collaterally on the population at large. It is understood that civilians will be affected by searches for kidnap victims and perpetrators, both of whom may be located within civilian centers.
  • By the NGOs’ logic, Boston police were not just doing their jobs when they locked down surrounding areas in their search for the Marathon bombers – they committed collective punishment. Similarly, the NGOs falsely label Israel’s restrictions of prisoner privileges as “collective punishment.” But denying privileges, such as watching the World Cup on TV, is not the same as violating rights. Once again, the NGOs are far afield from legal definitions and meanings.
  • Indeed, very little of what human rights NGOs say is grounded in the law or connected to the facts of the situation. The NGOs speculate that “The large number of raids and arrests over the last week raises concerns that some of these operations are not the result of pressing operational needs” – but they have no basis for such assertions. The NGOs and their officials are not military experts and are not qualified to address these questions. Furthermore, they cannot possibly know, as they lack the necessary access to military intelligence and strategic information. 

If you would like to send your considered comments to the Globe about this matter, please communicate your concerns about Patrick Martin having claimed that Israel committed “collective punishment” against Palestinians on June 20. Please send letters to the Globe’s Public Editor, Ms. Sylvia Stead at:


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