Misleading language regarding Israel's killing of two Palestinians in occupied West Bank

"You describe Hamas as ‘the militant group that rules the Gaza strip”. This is rather reductive and lazy journalism. Palestinians have suffered dispossession, occupation and apartheid under Israel for decades, so it is not surprising that many Palestinian groups take up arms against Israel."

August 15, 2023


Tia Goldenberg, Journalist, The Associated Press

Josef Federman, News Director, The Associated press

Paul Berton, Editor-in-Chief, The Hamilton Spectator.

Dear Ms Goldenberg, Mr Federman and Mr Berton.

I am writing regarding the AP article “Israeli West Bank raid kills two Palestinians and a court releases a settler charged in shooting death” as published in The Hamilton Spectator on August 15, 2023.

Your headline refers to the killing of 16 year-old Qusai Omar Suleiman and 25 year-old Mohammad Najum al-Omar during a military raid on the refugee camp Aqbat Jabr near Jericho in the West Bank which you correctly refer to as ‘occupied’.

As this Associated Press article was re-published in a Canadian newspaper it would have been relevant to identify Qusai as a child, defined by the UN as any person under the age of 18. Canada is obligated under both the Fourth Geneva convention and the Convention of the Rights of the Child to ensure that children in the occupied Palestinian territories enjoy the special protection afforded by international law.

Although the Palestinian Health Ministry was listed as the source which provided the names of the victims, it is troubling that you use the Israeli military as the source of what happened on the ground, instead of residents of the camp. Would you trust a Russian army official’s account of an attack on a Ukrainian refugee camp? Journalists must not “equate the victim’s voice with that of their oppressors.”[4]

There was no immediate corroboration that the two Palestinians killed had taken part in hostilities, as residents of the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp told Reuters, and this needed to be stated in your article. Also relevant is the fact that an occupied people has the legal right to defend itself against its occupier by any means possible including violence, except when it is directed towards civilians and thus constitutes terrorism.

I appreciate that you reported that “some of the latest violence has been perpetrated by radical Jewish settlers in the West Bank”. However, ‘some’ is an understatement. The latest UN Protection of Civilians Report cites twenty attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians over the two week reporting period ending Aug 7.

So far in 2023, there have been 503 settler attacks resulting in damage to property plus 189 resulting in casualties. These numbers do not include the thousands of daily instances of settlers driving shepherds off grazing lands and farmers off fields. [2] 

Further context could have been provided by adding that these radical settlers are living in illegal colonies on Palestinian land, their presence constitutes a war crime and that their violence is state sponsored: the Israeli army does nothing to stop attacks on Palestinians, standing by or joining the settlers. [1]

Your article points out that Palestinians ‘opening fire‘ get killed, while settlers allegedly involved in shooting Palestinians are released. I appreciate that the article devotes two paragraphs to the Israeli court order to release two Israeli settlers- allegedly involved in the shooting of Qusai Matan in Burqa- and states that Palestinians and rights groups “sense Israel treats settlers with impunity.”

You might have pointed out that not only settlers, but Israeli soldiers too have rarely been held accountable for killing or wounding Palestinians, including children, non-violent demonstrators and bystanders,[5] or the 20 journalists killed over two decades.[6]

Your report on the settler attack on Burqa in which 19-year old Matan was killed again uses Israeli military sources to describe the events, saying that the altercation between Palestinians and trespassing illegal settlers escalated “leading Israeli settlers to open fire” and “Palestinians to hurl rocks and fireworks.” As a Ha’aretz reader, I know the witnesses in Burqa told a very different story [3] and by leaving this out you mislead your readership, although the contrast between gunfire on one side and “rocks and fireworks” on the other clearly points out to the power imbalance.

The sentence “Israel has been carrying out near nightly raids in the West Bank since last year in response to a spate of Palestinian attacks “ seems to be an Associated Press stock phrase, oft copied and pasted, and implying that Palestinians are always the originators of the violence and that there is a degree of symmetry. I refer you  again to the latest UN Protection of Civilians Report which cites 11 Palestinians killed (277 wounded) by Israeli forces and one Palestinian killed by settlers during the two week reporting period.

By contrast, one Israeli was killed (11 wounded) by Palestinians.

 “Since last year” is misleading. So far this year 2152 Israeli military search and arrest home invasions took place in the West Bank, but there were 3437 in 2022 and a similar number in 2021, almost 10 per night on average.

Settler attacks as well as settlement expansion have been happening under successive governments, not just the latest “ultranationalist“ one.
To avoid misunderstandings about the Israeli government’s intentions towards the Palestinians, journalists should note that the coalition government opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and is actively pursuing the annexation of the occupied West Bank. [7]

You describe Hamas as ‘the militant group that rules the Gaza strip”. This is rather reductive and lazy journalism. Palestinians have suffered dispossession, occupation and apartheid under Israel for decades, so it is not surprising that many Palestinian groups take up arms against Israel.  Nevertheless, their foremost objectives are, unfailingly, Palestinian freedom, liberation and rights. Although Canada considers Hamas a terrorist organization, many countries do not, and a UN resolution to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization failed in 2018. A more rounded and balanced description would be:
"Hamas is an Islamic, Palestinian liberation organization which governs certain aspects of the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, provides social services, runs media outlets, and has a military wing.” [8]

Lastly, I remind you that the West Bank was not 'captured' in the 1967 war.  This usage may mislead the reader into thinking that Israel has a strong claim to, or ownership of, these Palestinian territories. The UN Charter does not allow the acquisition of  territory by the use of force. The UN Security Council  applies the charter specifically to Israel in Resolution 242. Global Affairs Canada states clearly that "Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over the territories occupied in 1967".

Thus, the term 'capture' is incorrect and misleading and I request you change "Israel captured the West bank in the 1967 Mideast war" to "Israel militarily occupied the West Bank...." and avoid using ‘capture’ in future articles.[9]

Canadians will be better served if AP reports are not simply re-published without some critical analysis of their content.


Renée Nunan-Rappard

Box 910,Lanigan, SK

S0K 2M0