An advance version of a UN Human Rights Council report on last year’s Israel-Gaza conflict has exonerated Israel for the death of a Palestinian child which the media blamed on Israel. It has also acknowledged that the majority of Hamas attacks on Israel were indiscriminate and launched from populated areas, which constitute double war crimes. This should be welcome news by Quebec media outlets such as Radio-Canada, Le Devoir and La Presse which were generally critical of Israel’s counter-terror campaign to end Hamas’ incessant rockets.
But perhaps not-so-welcome news after all, as these outlets have ignored the UN report. On the other hand, the themes of “Israeli racism” and abuse of human rights were deemed newsworthy:
A March 5 radio show on the crowning of an Ethiopian as the new “Miss Israel” quickly turned into Israel-bashing as the reporter on Radio-Canada’s “Medium Large” parroted a false claim that the Israeli government forced Ethiopian women to receive injections of a contraceptive to limit births among the Israeli Ethiopian population. This ‘revelation’ prompted the hostess to reference the treatment of Jews at the hands of Nazis. The reporter also wrongly claimed that Israel has paid members of this community to leave Israel. HRC has asked for a correction from Radio-Canada and is awaiting a response.
And in contrast to the media silence surrounding allegations of torture of a Palestinian detainee in a Palestinian prison on March 2, unsubstantiated allegations of the Israeli torture of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat received media coverage in Quebec and was even wrongly reported as fact in an article in La Presse. In their response to our request for a correction, La Presse cited the need to delay a correction until official conclusive results of the cause of death were available. A repeat request was sent again 3 days later. Eventually, La Presse did modify the article online, removing the allegation altogether. Meanwhile, Ayman Samarah, the 40-year-old Palestinian from Jenin, has died in custody in the Palestinian prison and there is still no coverage.
Allegations of human rights abuses and racism continued. A column in Le Journal de Montreal on March 10 disingenuously titled “Israel: A Racist State?” suggested that Israel is a state “only for Jews”. And an editorial published in March 8’s edition of La Voix de l’Est and LaPresse.ca entitled “It’s Called “Apartheid” or “Segregation” parlayed the inaccurate allegation of “Palestinian only buses” into an indictment of Israel as an apartheid state. As HRC elaborated here and here, there are no Palestinian-only buses. Rather than enlightening his readership, writer Bernard Fournelle ignored that Arab Christians and Muslims seek to immigrate to Israel precisely because Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where every citizen is equal under the law. Israel’s democratic character enables Arabs and minorities to be judges, parliamentarians and diplomats and enables convicted Palestinian terrorists to study toward masters and doctoral degrees or, having failed to set off their suicide bombs, to be rushed to hospital alongside their victims.
Israel’s profoundly democratic character was also lost this week on columnists such as La Presse’s Agnes Gruda who, in an article entitled “The Inconvenient Truth” interpreted the creative freedom and opinions expressed in one Israeli documentary as necessary proof of its content, rather than proof of the open and democratic society which allows Israel’s detractors to produce such documentaries. Unflattering portrayals of Israel in “The Gatekeepers” and “5 Broken Cameras” were submitted to the American Academy of Motion Film after having been financed by the Israeli government. In contrast, the Lebanese film “Attack” was rejected by the Lebanese ministry of culture for submission by virtue of having been filmed in Israel and having a cast of Israeli actors. Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri could face the death penalty were a Lebanese court to interpret his felony as full-fledged treason. Unfortunately, along with Gruda, Bernard Fournelle is none the wiser as –speaking of tolerance for different viewpoints– La Voix de l’Est declined to publish our reply to his editorial.
In creating the impression of racism and apartheid where none exists, these outlets altogether ignored the real apartheid taking place next door to Israel. Last week, Hamas banned women from running in the UNRWA sponsored charity run, which resulted in the cancellation of the competition by the UN. Where was the media coverage? Yet, Gaza is not alone in practicing apartheid. Lebanon is one of several Arab countries which officially applies apartheid laws against Palestinians, denying them proper medical treatment and the right to own property. In Saudi Arabia, there are separate roads for Muslims and non-Muslims. Bibles are forbidden. Slavery, imprisonment and abuse of foreign workers, discrimination against women and gays, denial of citizenship to entire communities such as Kurds and Palestinians are officially practiced. The Middle East has officially supplanted Europe of the 20th century as the hotbed of anti-Semitic incitement, with its simultaneous celebration and denial of the Holocaust, demonization and Middle Age blood libels. Egyptian president Morsi’s comparison of Jews to apes and pigs is one example which inexplicably passed under the media’s radar. Israel is, in fact, the only non-apartheid state in the Middle East.
Media that continue to parrot the fable of ‘Israeli apartheid’ are discarding facts, misleading their readers and ignoring those in the Arab world that would benefit from the exposure of real apartheid in their midst. This is abetted by a media reticent to acknowledge the aggressive information war being waged against Israel by its enemies whose goal of isolating Israel is all too transparent: repeating the strategy which brought pariah status on apartheid South Africa. This reticence and dereliction enables the repeated slander of Israel in the media. The inescapable conclusion is that the media assists in achieving through libels what cannot be achieved through truth. And in this way, Israel continues to be assaulted, one scandal at a time.