CBC News Peddles Unsubstantiated Allegations That Tens Of Thousands Of “Children” From Gaza Are Missing

In a June 24 CBC News article by Yasmine Hassan and Rhianna Schmunk entitled: “Tens of thousands of children are missing in Gaza — 3 of them are her grandchildren,” the public broadcaster relied on — for the second time in one day — unsubstantiated and highly disputed data figures to create an unfairly negative perception of Israel’s war actions, failing to put the numbers into their proper context and to question the validity of the claims being made.

For her part, Schmunk has been the subject of a previous HonestReporting Canada alert regarding HRC’s prompting CBC to correct the false claim that Palestinians have been around for “tens of thousands of years.”

Hassan and Schmunk’s article shared the tragic personal story of a Palestinian mother whose children have gone missing amidst the chaos of the ongoing war, initiated by Hamas with its brutal and unprovoked October 7 massacres in Israel. These personal accounts are, of course, extremely upsetting — and serve as a reminder of the sheer evil of Hamas’ leaders for putting both the Israeli and Palestinian populations through this unnecessary horror.

That being said, the article missed the mark when it asserted certain claims without properly explaining that they may not mean what they seem to mean on the surface level, such as the claim right at the top of the article that “more than 20,000 children have been lost, detained or buried in mass graves during the war.”

Opening the article with a claim phrased in this manner, and then moving into an anecdotal story — as horrifying and deserving of the public’s attention as that story may be — created the false impression that this sad story is but one example representative of tens of thousands of comparable cases affecting uninvolved civilians throughout the Gaza Strip.

A closer re-read of this statement revealed that even those who crafted the phrasing know that this impression is misleading at best, if not outright inaccurate. The inclusion of the option of  “detained” alongside those who have gone missing in order to reach the alarmingly high number of 20,000 suggests that nowhere near that number are stories that actually resemble the one the public read about here in any meaningful way.

Hamas famously distorts its casualty figures to increase global sympathy by labeling its teenage soldiers — sometimes even those as old as 20 — as “children” when breaking down death toll data. If a significant portion of these “20,000” — and evidently a significant enough portion that the qualifier was invoked to try and justify the figure — were ‘detained’ by Israeli authorities rather than went missing through happenstance due to the chaos of the war, this suggests that a fair number of them are likely Hamas combatants being falsely labeled as children to intentionally mislead the public. This alone renders the number “20,000” meaningless from the perspective of the narrative the rest of the article sought to build, and called the angle as a whole into question.

Furthermore, as a totalitarian regime with no regard for human life, rights, or international law, Hamas famously uses child soldiers (including for carrying out terror attacks on their behalf) and runs indoctrination camps to brainwash the children of Gaza into its hateful ideology from an early age — another reason why children there often wind up in dangerous situations despite Israel’s historically successful and excessive efforts to prevent civilian casualties.

But the problem is even more basic. The source of the statistic on which the article bases its entire focus is highly problematic. As HonestReporting Canada has previously noted, the report from Save the Children is not transparent about how it arrived at the number in question. Aside from the organization’s own history of politically-biased language on this issue, CBC News’ article pointed to UNICEF as their main confirmed source, but then linked to a statement by one individual affiliated with the United Nations Palestinian operations — and one whose claim has already been addressed by HonestReporting Canada for having its own credibility issues. This statement, too, failed to explain how it arrived at its figure, and notds that it is merely “an estimation.” Importantly, there are no details provided about the methodology or background on how this estimate was calculated. Then we are told that 4,000 children are estimated to be missing under the rubble in Gaza, again, a completely unsubstantiated claim. As is the mass graves libel, which has been debunked as they were Palestinian-dug graves with bodies from local hospitals.

In all likelihood, both organizations are merely links in a direct chain that ultimately leads back to the so-called Gaza Ministry of Health, the official Hamas-run institution which produces the only numbers permitted to be cited within its totalitarian-run territory. As experts have revealed numerous times, the statistics and data shared by the Gaza Ministry of Health — and subsequently cited by uncritical reporters the world over until it starts to be treated as fact — are wholly unreliable, to the point where the UN ultimately acknowledged that a whopping half of the reported casualty claims could not be substantiated.

It’s laudable that CBC News is seeking to share personal stories about the real human impact of Hamas’ violent war, but it must make sure to put its facts in proper context when doing so and to ensure the accuracy of its sources. Anything less plays into the hands of nefarious propagandists who only seek to make the situation worse.

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