Pandemic Reporting Police

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Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Covid-19 Files

“Honest Reporting” Canada Slams PEI Publication

By David Kattenburg

(Revised on May 3, 2020)

Among the various expressions of “modern antisemitism” cited by experts on such matters, none arouse more furor than the purported “singling out” of Israel on the international stage — holding the Jewish people’s “one and only state” to a higher standard of behaviour than other supposedly democratic countries.

A cursory examination of the facts suggests the obverse — that Israel has been granted a unique dispensation to violate international law with impunity. More on this below.

Israeli activist Miko Peled tells police commander what he thinks.

In one respect, Israel does indeed appear to be quite singular. Here in Canada, no other country has the wherewithal to stifle media reporting about itself, aided by a network of supporters who monitor, police and reprimand the media, rendering critical reporting about Israel and its behaviour as disagreeable and as painful as possible.

Iran doesn’t do this. Nor does Syria, Turkey, Cuba, Venezuela or any of Canada’s European friends. Russia and China reportedly manipulate social media, but neither Putin nor Xi seem able to yank chains inside Canadian newsrooms, bullying producers, editors and reporters into silence.

Israel does. Foremost among Israel’s media police — the Orwellianly named Honest Reporting Canada (HRC).

HRC claims to be an “an independent grassroots organization” with 45,000 Canadian members, committed to “promoting fairness and accuracy” in reporting on Israel.

It’s good at what it does. On those rare occasions when it runs a story about the Israeli occupied/colonized Palestinian Territories (OPT), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) can anticipate being deluged with a tidal wave of furious mail from HRC foot soldiers coast to coast — a huge burden journalists, producers and the CBC Ombudsman would just as soon avoid, and likely do.

Israeli border policeman manhandles Jewish activist

No newsroom is too small to evade HRC’s vigilant gaze. This past April 23, the PEI Guardian, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island — that tiny sliver of a crescent in the belly of the Gulf of St. Lawrence — received a bitter taste of HRC spleen.

The Guardian‘s crime? Publishing a letter critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, innocently titled “Palestinians not getting help.”

“P.E.I. Guardian Publishes Antisemitic Letter Blaming Israel For Coronavirus’ Spread,” the HRC headline bitched.

“Stanley Bridge resident and anti-Israel activist Richard Deaton used the COVID-19 pandemic and The Guardian as a platform to incite hatred against Israel and Jews,” HRC declared. “Deaton took to the pages of the Guardian … to blame Israel for the virus’ spread to Palestinians, outrageously claiming that Israel imposed a “death sentence for thousands of Palestinians.””

Among various “bold lies and outright falsehoods” flagged by HRC in Deaton’s letter: claiming that Jerusalem is “occupied,” that the “world’s only Jewish state” has “no right to exist,” and that Israel’s formation was a “historical mistake in need of rectification.”

Israel’s Separation Wall overlooks Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem

Rallying to HRC’s call, angry Zionists deluged the Guardian with emails and letters.

“Some pretty hateful comments” landed in its mailbox, Guardian Managing Editor Jocelyne Lloyd told the GPM. Those fit to be published trotted out well-worn claims: Israel is not an occupying power; its treatment of Palestinians is ceaselessly benevolent — notwithstanding the Jew hatred and terrorism meted out against it in return; whatever problems Palestinians do face in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic are entirely of their own making.

Of course, HRC tracks the complaints it engineers, praising its followers and urging vigilance. Quite the media policing system.

Full disclosure: The author left a phone message with the Guardian‘s Managing Editor, and submitted a comment at the Guardian‘s website, urging the Guardian to brave HRC’s efforts to bully it into silence.

Palestinian youth at an Israeli military checkpoint in occupied Hebron

Were Mr. Deaton’s comments “antisemitic,” as HRC claims? The first paragraph in Mr. Deaton’s letter consists of three separate propositions:

1) “Israel maintains a violent military occupation of the occupied territories including the West Bank and Jerusalem …,”

2) “… [Israel] has failed to meet its obligation under international law, as an occupying power, to provide medical supplies to Palestinians,” and,

3) “During this coronavirus epidemic, this is effectively an Israeli-imposed death sentence for thousands of Palestinians.”

Mr. Deaton’s first two propositions are true.

Under modern rules of war, laid forth in the 1907 Hague Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and curated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Israel’s presence in the West Bank is deemed a “belligerent occupation” because it is enforced and administered by the Israeli military.  The term “belligerent” is understood in this, rather than any pejorative sense.

That said, Israel’s belligerent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is certainly accompanied by violence routine, systematic and widespread in nature. Read what Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Israel’s own preeminent human rights NGO, B’Tselem, have to say about the systematic violence of Israel’s occu-colonization.

And yes, because the 365-square kilometer Gaza enclave is under complete Israeli military control — from land, sea and air — Israel is deemed to be an occupying power there, as it is in East Jerusalem, notwithstanding the 3000-year-old ethno-national claims of Israel and its supporters.

All of the above are facts, whether HRC and its Zionist recruits wish to acknowledge them or not. Saying so is decidedly not antisemitic.

As for Israel’s legal obligation to “provide medical supplies to Palestinians,” and its purported failure to do so, reports like this and this and this and this and this and this do suggest that Israel is failing in its duties.

This study drills down into the mathematics of Covid-19. An excellent review of alleged (well documented) acts of interference on Israel’s part.

Freedom fighter ballet, Nabi Saleh, Palestine

Not charges to be taken lightly, nor to be ignored, or condemned for raising, as Mr. Deaton strives to do in his letter to the PEI Guardian.

What precisely are Israel’s legal duties to provide health care to the Palestinians? Article 56 of the FGC (and Canada’s own Geneva Convention Act) state:

“To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties. If new hospitals are set up in occupied territory and if the competent organs of the occupied State are not operating there, the occupying authorities shall, if necessary, grant them the recognition provided for in Article 18. In similar circumstances, the occupying authorities shall also grant recognition to hospital personnel and transport vehicles under the provisions of Articles 20 and 21. In adopting measures of health and hygiene and in their implementation, the Occupying Power shall take into consideration the moral and ethical susceptibilities of the population of the occupied territory.”

How about Mr. Deaton’s third proposition, that Israeli actions in the OPT constitute a “death sentence for thousands of Palestinians”?

Hyperbole, perhaps.

How many Palestinians have died at the hands of Israeli soldiers and police since Israel’s conquest of the West Bank in 1967? How many Gazans have died in the course of Israel’s thirteen-year siege?  Thousands did in the course of devastating Israeli military assaults in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014. Since the start of their largely peaceful Great March of Return, in March 2019, over two hundred have been killed and some 8000 grievously injured by Israeli snipers, firing from positions behind the ghetto’s heavily fortified perimeter. Many Gazan youths are now maimed, or infected by drug-resistant bacteria.

Demolished home, Al-Walaja, Israeli-occupied Palestine

Does Israel “refuse” to provide Covid-19 testing in Israel’s “Arab” communities, as Mr. Deaton avers in his letter to the PEI Guardian? Reputable reports of discriminatory health services in Palestinian versus Jewish communities are legion. Read this and this and this.

Willful discrimination can be hard to prove. What is clear — and uncontroversial, outside of staunch pro-Israel circles: Palestinian communities get short shrift in the social services department. So do Jewish Israeli communities — Haredim, Sephardim, Ethiopians and aging Shoah survivors.

 

As for Mr. Deaton’s use of the A-word, hard to imagine a larger, more crimson flag for HRC.

The term is entirely legitimate in Israel’s regard, indeed, uncontroversial.

How else to describe a country with fourteen million inhabitants, half of them Jewish, with full citizenship and national rights (distinct categories in Israel), systematically dominating the remaining half — ten percent of whom are citizens with no national rights, forty percent with no rights at all, under permanent military rule, 300,000 with Jerusalem residency permits that can be revoked at any time, and some two million living inside an “an open-air prison,” under comprehensive siege?

Bethlehem protester

It’s called Apartheid. That Israel practices it — certainly in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza — has been widely argued by people of knowledge and substance. Saying that Israel practices apartheid — or engages in activities akin to apartheid; or is poised on the edge of apartheid — is not antisemitic.

Check this out. And this and this and this.

Mr. Deaton’s closing citation of Jerusalem mayor Moshe Leon is also entirely correct.

As reported by the left-centre Israeli publication Ha’aretz on April 8, in a letter to Israeli Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Simon Tov, Jerusalem Mayor Leon wrote:

“I would like to warn you regarding the serious shortage of medical equipment at the hospitals in East Jerusalem, particularly protective equipment and equipment to conduct coronavirus testing. This is despite repeated promises on the part of your [ministry].”

Mr. Deaton’s bottom line in his HRC-reviled letter to the PEI Guardian:

Israel’s actions constitute apartheid, and apartheid is a “crime against humanity.” Absolutely true. Not in the least hyperbolic. Among the list of eleven “crimes against humanity” itemized in Article 7(j) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998): the “crime of apartheid.”

So, aside from a few flashes of hyperbole and polemic (customary, I gather), Mr. Deaton’s recent letter to the PEI Guardian constituted fair and factual commentary. This did not spare him from the excoriating, arguably defamatory attacks of Honest Reporting Canada, though, for whom the interests and reputation of a foreign power are what count the most.

A foreign power quite unlike any other, blessed with assets like HRC policing the Canadian media on its behalf.

For the latest news on human rights in the Occupied/Colonized Palestinian Territories, with specific regard to the Covid-19 pandemic, I spoke with Amit Gilutz, spokesperson for Israel’s preeminent human rights NGO, B’Tselem.

Listen to our conversation here:

All images by David Kattenburg.

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