In Hamilton Spectator, HRC Counters Columnist’s Comparing Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Operations In Gaza To The Holocaust

In a November 5 opinion column in The Hamilton Spectator, author Ali Cheaib drew “a painful comparison” between the Holocaust and the “plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

Ostensibly unsatisfied to make such historically and morally indefensible claims, Cheaib then heavily borrowed Hamas propaganda regarding civilian casualties in Gaza. Nowhere in his column did Cheaib draw any distinction between the murderous actions of Hamas and the attempts by Israel to defend itself against those very same terrorist attacks.

In the November 10 edition of the Hamilton Spectator, HRC Executive Director Mike Fegelman was granted space to point out that Cheaib’s commentary was not just a failure in journalism; it was a failure of morality.


Hamas ultimately to blame for suffering of civilians in Gaza

Of all the distorted and false moral equivalences made by some commentators in the weeks following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel, perhaps none are simultaneously as offensive and blatantly false as the comparison between Gaza and Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

But that is exactly what Ali Cheaib, in his Nov. 5 opinion column in The Hamilton Spectator entitled: “Finding common ground in shared suffering: The human tragedy in Gaza,” sought to do.

Cheaib began by saying he seeks to draw “a painful comparison” between the Holocaust and the “plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” and does this by repeating the unproven Hamas-spread claim that “40 per cent of Palestinians killed are children.” He does not offer any critical perspective and context, including how Hamas uses its own people as human shields, operates its terror bases under hospitals and fires rockets from densely-populated civilian areas.

Cheaib says nothing about Israel’s extensive efforts to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, including dropping leaflets, sending in soldiers on the ground when airstrikes would be safer for Israel, and opening humanitarian corridors for civilians to find safe refuge.

Nor does Cheaib point out how Hamas, when it shares its extraordinarily unreliable casualty count, does not distinguish between Hamas terrorists and civilians. It does not delineate between those killed in Israeli strikes or, like those killed in the Oct. 17 hospital explosion, as a result of rockets fired by Islamic terrorist groups from inside the Gaza Strip.

But that was just the beginning; later, Cheaib wrote that “Just like the Nazis referred to Jews as ‘rats’ in a dehumanizing manner, some Israeli officials have made derogatory remarks about Palestinians calling them animals, dogs and unworthy of living.”

Cheaib cites no specific example, but is presumably referring to Oct. 9 statements by Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who referred to Hamas terrorists, not Palestinian civilians, as “human animals.” Whether Cheaib knows this and intentionally chose to mislead, or never sought to do basic research, is unclear. But whether due to malice or ignorance, his attempt to draw a comparison between six million Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust, who were targeted and murdered en masse because of their identity, to Israel’s counterterrorism operations against Hamas terrorists, strains the credulity of any sane person.

Sensing the egregiousness of his callous comparison, Cheaib writes that citing the suffering of Holocaust victims is “not about equating the unique historical and geopolitical contexts of different eras and physical places, but about recognizing the universal pain borne by innocent civilians.”

This point is so simplistic, it is almost meaningless. Nobody doubts innocent civilians experience suffering and pain in war. But for any discussion to be meaningful, it must move beyond superficial platitudes.

Hamas’ primary targets on Oct. 7 — and indeed before — were innocent Israeli civilians, intentionally targeted for rape, torture and death. Civilians didn’t die by accident, or in the crossfire: they were purposely targeted. This is a feature, not a bug, of Hamas: the Islamic terrorist group openly and repeatedly calls for the violent destruction of Israel, and has made it clear it will stop at literally nothing to accomplish that goal.

In an Oct. 24 interview, senior Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad minced no words: “We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do it twice and three times. The al-Aqsa Deluge (the name Hamas gave its Oct. 7 attack) is just the first time,” he told a Lebanese interviewer.

There is no doubt Gazan civilians have died in recent weeks, and their death is a profound tragedy. But there should be no moral blindness that it is Hamas, not Israel, that bears ultimate responsibility for their suffering, using its own people as human shields in Hamas’ ideological war against Israel.

Until the world recognizes Hamas is a genocidal terrorist group, and nothing short of its defeat or total surrender will suffice, civilians in Gaza will continue to pay the price. If Cheaib cared for the civilians in Gaza, he would be cheering for Hamas’ defeat as soon as possible.

Failing to identify the chasm of difference between Hamas terrorism and Israel’s obligation to defend itself against that terrorism is not just a failure in journalism; it is a failure of morality.

Mike Fegelman is the Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada, a non-profit organization ensuring fair and accurate Canadian media coverage of Israel. 

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