Falsehoods and Racism in Op-Ed on "Death Culture"

"This dehumanizing generalization of Palestinians as a group and labelling them with the “death-culture” slander is inflammatory and a clear example of anti-Palestinian racism, as discussed by the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA) in a 2022 report."

March 3, 2023

Rob Roberts, Editor-In-Chief, National Post
Carson Jerema, Comment Editor, National Post

Dear Mr. Roberts and Mr. Jerema,

I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to demand major corrections to the op-ed, “The West keeps subsidizing the Palestinian Authority's death culture,” which was authored by Avi Benlolo and published by the National Post on March 3, 2023.

ISSUE ONE: There is a serious factual error in Benlolo’s discussion of terror attacks, which strays far from commonly accepted definitions of the term “terrorism”. Benlolo writes that:

In the last year alone, 29 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks, while the IDF reports it had prevented an additional 2,200 [i.e. terror attacks].

This claim that 29 Israelis were “murdered in terror attacks” in 2022 is false. The widely accepted definition of terrorism is that it applies to acts of violence against civilians in order to advance political goals. However, as the Washington Post notes, these statistics (sourced from Israel’s foreign ministry) include both “soldiers and civilians.”[1] And indeed, a quick look at Israel’s own breakdown of alleged incidents shows that a huge proportion of the “terror attacks” it documents are in fact attacks on Israeli soldiers and security forces while they are on duty. Israel, in other words, does not make any distinction between attacks on soldiers in battle and attacks on civilians, making their data about “terrorism” meaningless.[2]

I insist upon a correction to clarify that this number does not refer to terror attacks alone, but refers to attacks on both soldiers and civilians.

ISSUE TWO: There are two serious factual errors in the subsequent sentence. Benlolo writes that:

Shockingly, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas boasted that this number [i.e. of terror attacks] is too low and that in fact, Palestinians perpetuated 7,200 attacks against Israeli targets in 2022.”

Following from the previous sentence, this claim is clearly intended to suggest that the Palestinians perpetuated at least 7,200 “terror attacks.” His “report” states this claim directly: it says that Fatah has “publicly boasted of perpetrating a total of 7,200 terror attacks” in 2022.[3] However, if we look to the apparent source for Benlolo’s claim, “Palestinian Media Watch,” we see that it describes a video posted by the Fatah movement boasting of 7,200 “acts of resistance.”[4] A review raises two immediate issues:

  1. Benlolo’s article misattributes this claim directly to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, but it is from the Fatah movement.
  2. Importantly, the claim from Fatah refers to acts which include shooting at military targets, “infiltrations,” throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at military vehicles, and even “demonstrations.” In other words, it applies to a group of activities which is far broader than any reasonable discussion of “terrorism.”

As Benlolo does not make any distinction between violence against civilians and violence (or “acts of resistance”) against military personnel and infrastructure, his discussion of the topic of “terrorism” is fundamentally flawed. By referring to acts of violence or even non-violent resistance against the Israeli military as acts of “terror,” Benlolo is misleading readers into thinking that incidents of actual terrorism are at a level which is magnitudes higher than it really is.

I insist that these paragraphs are corrected:

  1. To clarify that the quote is referencing a video by the Fatah movement, not Mahmoud Abbas;
  2. To clarify that Benlolo is not referring only to violence against civilians, which would be consistent with the definition of “terrorism,” but also refers to any and all acts of violence or resistance to Israel’s military occupation, including against military targets.

ISSUE THREE: The term “death culture” in the headline and in the text of the piece is incredibly offensive and must be removed. Benlolo claims without any foundation that the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA are “inculcating generations of Palestinian children to be venerated as ‘martyrs’ for mass murders,” implying that what he calls a “death culture” is pervasive in Palestinian society. This dehumanizing generalization of Palestinians as a group and labelling them with the “death-culture” slander is inflammatory and a clear example of anti-Palestinian racism, as discussed by the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA) in a 2022 report. The ACLA writes that anti-Palestinian racism includes “defaming Palestinians and their allies with slander such as being inherently antisemitic, a terrorist threat/sympathizer or opposed to democratic values.”[5]

I insist that the term “death culture” is removed from the article and that you provide an apology in an editors’ note for publishing anti-Palestinian racism.

ISSUE FOUR: It is factually inaccurate, incredibly misleading, and another example of anti-Palestinian racism to claim that “most” Palestinian acts of violence against Israelis are because “they simply wanted to murder a Jew. Any Jew.” This is not a matter of opinion but a factual error. The context, which Benlolo ignores, is that the three Israeli victims discussed in the article were killed in the Palestinian West Bank, which has been military occupied by Israel for 55 years. It is the permanent Israeli occupation, the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements, and the daily acts of oppression and violence against Palestinians which has motivated some Palestinians, both individuals and organizations, to use violence, and sometimes target Israeli civilians. Benlolo depoliticizes the context of this violence to present Palestinians as mindless murders who are motivated by antisemitism (i.e. “death culture”), rather than people who are aggrieved by Israel’s military occupation and who are responding with violence.

I insist that this is sentence is corrected, with an editors’ note, to clarify that these acts of violence are motivated by political reasons, including opposition to Israel’s military occupation.

The above is not an exhaustive account of the factual problems in this article, but a minimum short list of serious issues that require a prompt response. Thank you for making these changes. Should you wish, you can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.


Michael Bueckert, PhD

Vice President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East


[1] Miriam Berger, “2022 was deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians in nearly two decades,” Washington Post, December 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/12/29/palestinians-killed-west-bank-israel/

[2] Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Wave of Terror 2015-2022,” published September 13, 2015, and last updated February 2, 2023,  https://www.gov.il/en/departments/general/wave-of-terror-october-2015

[3] AGPI, “AGPI Report on Western Aid Supporting Palestinian Terror and Call for Donors to Stop Funding Mass Murder,” March 2, 2023, page 2, https://agpiworld.com/reports-%26-policy#35c24f0a-ff96-48b7-a9a9-fb085fa3c189

[4] Palestinian Media Watch, “Fatah boasts 7,200 terror attacks against Israel ‘shaded by the PA’ in 2022 alone and criticizes Hamas for not attacking,” October 26, 2022, https://palwatch.org/page/32237; On Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UHPJ8TXA5Y

[5] Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA), “Anti-Palestinian Racism: Naming, Framing and Manifestations,” April 2022, https://www.canarablaw.org/our-work