Government-Funded UBC Student Newspaper Publishes Fawning Article About Anti-Israel Speaker

In an April 9 article in The Ubyssey, a student newspaper at the University of British Columbia (UBC) entitled:  “Mental health under occupation: Palestinian psychiatrist Dr. Samah Jabr speaks at UBC webinar,” author Yomna Bedaiwy exploited stories of personal challenge and public concern over mental health in order to score cheap political smears against Israel and to perpetuate blatantly false stereotypes and myths.

Bedaiwy reported on a recent event in which a self-identifying Palestinian doctor living in Israel, Dr. Samah Jabr, shared personal stories about how various security-related policies tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have impacted her daily life and personal happiness. Naturally, living in a conflict zone comes with many challenges and can take a serious toll on people of all backgrounds who find themselves in that situation.

Reporting on this phenomenon and shedding light on this important human aspect of conflict could have been an extremely insightful and valuable exercise, had it not been co-opted so cynically.

Bedaiwy began her article by noting that Dr. Jabr often has to spend “two, three hours [at military checkpoints]” during her daily commute, and cites “Israeli settler colonialism and genocide” and “fear produced by the Zionist lobby” as explanations.

Scandalously, the piece also overtly calls for the politicization of the mental health field, denouncing the field’s “over-emphasis on neutrality” in their work and urging mental health professionals to “say Palestine” and “call Israel’s genocide a genocide” — “whenever and wherever you can.”

Bedaiwy never critically questioned any of these claims before regurgitating them as factual, nor did she provide background, balance, or context for any of the complex topics she discussed. She also failed to provide quotes or perspectives from anyone who doesn’t share the same uniform opinion of the situation, making no effort whatsoever to avoid one-sided narratives or ensure normal journalistic standards.

The piece perpetuated the lie that Israel has committed a genocide against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza (mentioning the word four times)— a claim that has been repeatedly rejected by virtual all credible, mainstream sources. On the contrary, the proportion of civilians to combatants killed in Gaza is historically low for an operation of this nature involving urban guerilla warfare against a brutal, amoral terrorist organization that uses human shields in a heavily populated area.

The frequently-repeated figure of over 30,000 casualties is a claim made by the Hamas-operated Gaza Ministry of Health, and has never been independently verified. It also does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, nor between casualties killed by Hamas versus Israeli actions.

Most importantly, “genocide” is a term that requires intent. There is no evidence whatsoever that the goal of Israel’s military operations in Gaza is to destroy the Palestinian population as a group, and a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Israel routinely takes measures to pinpoint the precise location of terrorist targets before attacking, and takes unprecedented measures to warn civilians before most strikes. When the war began, Israel warned the entire population of the northern Gaza Strip to flee with several days’ worth of time to do so before launching its ground invasion. It is now again providing similar warning and evacuation assistance to civilians in the Rafah area ahead of a potential counterterrorism operation there.

These are not the actions of a government whose policy is determined by genocidal intent, no matter how loud or how often activists shout otherwise.

In addition to the absurdly unethical implications of Bedaiwy’s suggestion of politicizing mental health care, her narrative here is also outrageously dishonest. The percentages of Palestinians cited as suffering from depression, while alarmingly high, are not particularly more excessive than the percentage of young Canadians suffering from similar feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic a few years ago. None of her political claims follow from the obvious observation that people affected by trauma and crisis can suffer from depression, and it certainly doesn’t justify singling out one group’s pain above everyone else’s simply because of a political agenda.

Why did Bedaiwy choose only to look at Palestinians suffering from this phenomenon, and not anyone from any other place in the world — or for that matter, the thousands of Israelis suffering from PTSD and other mental health challenges in the aftermath of the October 7 massacres and the decades of Palestinian terrorism that preceded them?

Yomna Bedaiwy’s article, while passing itself off as legitimate journalism, was little more than a press release for an anti-Israel activist to spread groundless disinformation, and not for the first time at The Ubyssey, a a student newspaper at the University of British Columbia (UBC) which is funded by the Government of Canada.

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