In Globe & Mail Column, Former U.S. State Department Official Platforms Unverified Claims As Fact

December 15, 2023

Update: In response to an HonestReporting Canada complaint, the Globe and Mail corrected a false quote that was attributed to Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, which wrongly claimed that he said that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Importantly, Herzog never said these words and the Globe’s editing process should have caught this false statement at the onset. In an effort to set the record straight, the Globe published the following correction in the form of an editor’s note:

Editor’s note: (Dec. 15, 2023): A previous version of this article incorrectly identified a paraphrase of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s statement as a direct quote. This version has been updated with Mr. Herzog’s quote.

As well, the Globe amended this column which now says the following (emphasis added):

“Perhaps it is because the U.S. has absorbed decades of Israeli propaganda that dehumanizes Palestinians, leading to the argument that, in the words of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible” for the Oct. 7 attack.”

Original Alert

In his December 12 opinion column in The Globe & Mail, Josh Paul, the former director of the U.S. State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs entitled: “Washington’s support of the war in Gaza damages its claim to moral leadership,” lambasted what he described as the “complete lack of recognition of the humanity of the Palestinian people” in the U.S. government.

Citing unverified Hamas casualty figures to bolster his argument, Paul, who resigned his post on October 18 in protest of the Biden government’s supply of arms to Israel, attacked opposition to a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as dehumanizing the Palestinians. 

Not only did Paul, like Hamas, fail to distinguish between innocent civilians and Hamas combatants in his casualty claims, he presented no alternatives to the current stated goal of Israel, namely the removal of Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip. 

This omission is critical. Hamas, as Paul is surely aware, is a fanatical Islamic terrorist group dedicated to the total destruction of Israel, and as it demonstrated aptly on October 7, in possession of extensive military and logistical abilities to carry out such attacks. As such, Israel does not have the luxury of living alongside such an enemy and hoping that it drops its genocidal ideology. 

Paul referred to “decades of Israeli propaganda that dehumanizes Palestinians,” citing comments allegely made by Israel’s president that “there are no innocents in Gaza,” though there is no evidence Herzog ever made such a comment. Furthermore, nowhere in the hyperlink in Paul’s column to Herzog’s alleged comments does it include such a quotation. In fact, in the article hyperlinked by Paul, Herzog is quoted as saying literally the opposite, that “there are many, many innocent Palestinians who don’t agree” with Hamas’ actions. The origin of this comment appears to be from 2018 when it was made by former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Paul does not provide evidence for what he terms Israel’s alleged dehumanizing propaganda, but remains strangely silent about Hamas’ dehumanization of Israel, including in its founding charter, the brazen statements of its senior leaders, and most importantly, in its actions, namely the targeted rape, torture and mass murder of innocent Israeli civilians, much of which was filmed for posterity and with pride. 

In his column, Paul also took aim at what he characterized as the “return to McCarthyism” on university campuses, arguing that “powerless students are being doxxed by well-funded entities.” 

This is a very creative take on the current climate on university campuses. In contrast to Paul’s depiction of pro-Palestinian students being hunted down for their opinions, it is Jewish students who face merciless threats of physical assault on campuses across North America. In October, a group of Jewish students in New York City had to hide inside their campus’ library as a violent mob of anti-Israel demonstrators pounded on the door outside.

On campuses across the continent, students, professors and student groups have signed statements that justify, excuse or even praise Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attacks. At Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), an open letter from a group of students at the university’s law school gave its full-throated defence of “all forms of Palestinian resistance,” a clear reference to terrorism and violent attacks against Israeli civilians.

Criticizing these actions does not constitute “McCarthyism,” as Paul alleges. Freedom of expression does not shield anyone from the consequences of their actions, but moreover, defending and advocating for Palestinian terrorism is hardly in the same league as simply sharing one’s opinions or concerns about Israeli practices in the war with Hamas. But to Paul, when these students face repercussions for their actions, “it is because free speech is being quashed.” 

Paul is certainly entitled to his own opinions about the Israel-Hamas war, but his column reflected half-truths, misrepresented facts and statements, and had a reliance on unverified claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.


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