In an April 21 article in The Link, a student newspaper at Concordia University in Montreal entitled: “Montreal Protests in Solidarity with Palestinian Worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque,” author Menna Nayel reported on a recent rally where “dozens of Montrealers took to the streets” to protest Israel’s alleged aggression against Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem.
While it is unclear why a rally organized by at least four local pro-Palestinian groups comprising “dozens of Montrealers” constitutes news for The Link, the real issue with Nayel’s article is less that it covered a clearly fringe movement, but rather that Nayel repeatedly repeated false information about the recent violence in Jerusalem.
Early in the article, Nayel wrote: “On April 5, Israeli occupation forces brutalized Muslim worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan. For Palestinians, the deliberate destruction of the Mosque during Ramadan has become an annual occurrence.”
While violence did erupt in early April, Nayel both omitted critical details, opting to pursue a cartoonishly oversimplified anti-Israel version instead.
Contrary to Nayel’s claim that Israel “brutalized Muslim worshippers” for no apparent reason, as many as 400 Palestinians had holed themselves inside the Al Aqsa Mosque, clearly intent on an armed conflict with Israeli police. Inside, they had stockpiled weapons, including homemade explosive devices, fireworks, and rocks.
The Israeli police who entered the mosque to conduct arrests, therefore, were not brutalizing Muslim worshippers; they were attempting to prevent widespread death from taking place. They had reason to worry; in past years, Palestinian rioters had turned the Al Aqsa Mosque and environs into a veritable war zone, even throwing potentially deadly rocks onto Jewish worshippers in the Western Wall plaza below.
Simply repeating anti-Israel allegations, as Nayel has done, is more than simply a failure of journalistic ethics; it also ignores the role that such disinformation has played in helping to foment violence in the region.
Following the violence on the Temple Mount in early April, and spurred by anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian media, a wave of deadly Palestinian terrorism erupted. Rockets were fired into Israel from Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip and two separate terrorist attacks were carried out in Israel and Judea and Samaria. In one instance on April 7, a 35-year-old Italian tourist was mowed down in a car ramming attack in Tel Aviv, driven by a Palestinian terrorist, and in another attack on the same day, three members of the Dee family – a mother and her two daughters, aged 15 and 20, were shot to death by a Palestinian terrorist as they drove in their car on a highway near their home.
These four individuals were not only victims of the actual perpetrators who murdered them; they were victims of a Palestinian industry of incitement which is based on disinformation and propaganda.
Furthermore, Nayel failed to provide readers with any context into the Al Aqsa Mosque, namely that it is build atop the Temple Mount platform, the site of two ancient Jewish temples, and the holiest location in the world for the Jewish faith. Without this needed background, readers could easily but falsely conclude that the Al Aqsa Mosque is a place of meaning only to Muslims, further suggesting that Israel’s and the Jewish people’s presence there is entirely illegitimate.
While the image of “Israeli occupation forces” senselessly attacking innocent worshippers is a powerful image for the “dozens of Montrealers” to rally around, it is an extremely misleading image.
At the demonstration, which was organized by at least four pro-Palestinian organizations according to the article, protesters chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” according to Nayel.
This phrase is more than just a popular chant used at anti-Israel rallies around the world; it is a slogan that is an unambiguous call for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State, though Nayel gave no context for readers to understand its toxicity.
One rally organizer was quoted by Nayel as saying that Canada, by supporting Israel, is “complicit in the murder and genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.”
Even a cursory search would have led Nayel to confirm easily that this allegation is a baseless lie. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), since 1948, the population of Palestinian Arabs living in Israel and the Palestinian territories has grown more than five-fold.
While Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms allows anyone to express their views in the public square, even those based on misinformation and half-truths, Nayel’s article not only failed to give any context to the recent violence in Jerusalem, but more fundamentally, simply repeated the anti-Israel disinformation peddled by the rally organizers.
While the fringe attendees and speakers at a rally can believe what they want about Israel’s actions, to mindlessly repeat those baseless claims, as Nayel has done, is patently irresponsible.