"Your readers do deserve to know that Smotrich is an advocate of hate speech and hateful policy. You write that after the mob assault on Hawara earlier this year, “Smotrich said the town should be ‘erased’”; he added, which you do not mention, that it was his intention to inflict such cruelty with state powers: “the state should do it,” he said."
September 14, 2023
Isabel Debre, Reporter, Associated Press
Rob Roberts, Editor-in-chief, National Post
Aileen Donnelly, News Editor, National Post
Dear Isabel Debre, Rob Roberts, and Aileen Donnelly,
I am writing to express concern about your September 14 report, “Israel’s finance minister now governs the West Bank, critics see steps toward permanent control.”
You do report the budding international human rights consensus. “Rights groups and others have compared the division along ethnic lines to ‘apartheid,’” you report. Now, to be truly accurate, this should instead read: “Rights groups and others assert that Israel is practicing apartheid, a crime under international law.” Apartheid is a term which originates in South Africa but which has a direct rather than a comparative international legal meaning.
Rights groups and international legal experts are clear and explicit on this point; they are making a direct legal assertion, not a comparison. In the words of Amnesty International:
Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control: in Israel and the OPT, and against Palestinian refugees, in order to benefit Jewish Israelis. This amounts to apartheid [note the absence of comparative language] as prohibited in international law [emphasis added].
But the mention of this consensus in your report is anyway to be welcomed.
That said, this story does not adequately inform readers about the profile of the minister on whom your coverage focuses, Bezalel Smotrich, or his true place in Israeli politics.
On the one hand, your readers do deserve to know that Smotrich is an advocate of hate speech and hateful policy. You write that after the mob assault on Hawara earlier this year, “Smotrich said the town should be ‘erased’”; he added, which you do not mention, that it was his intention to inflict such cruelty with state powers: “the state should do it,” he said.
Yet on the other hand – indeed, above all – your readers deserve to know that it was precisely the mainstream Israeli occupation authorities on whom you so heavily rely for your quotes who gave rise to these politics.
To introduce COGAT, for instance, in the way that you do – when you first quote “Ilan Paz, former head of Israel’s Civil Administration, a military body overseeing civilian affairs in the West Bank – is terribly misleading. “Overseeing civilian affairs”? Which civilians?
It is inaccurate to describe COGAT, i.e., the Israeli defence ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, as other than an integral part of Israel’s military occupation. The process through which, in your words, the Israeli government has “created a new Israeli settler agency, led by Smotrich, within the Defense Minister to manage Jewish and Palestinian construction in the 60% of the West Bank over which Israel has control,” is inaccurately painted in this report as the displacement of a legally innocent COGAT.
This is untrue. So too is the implication in your above phrasing that 40% of the West Bank is not under Israeli occupation. Were this the case, you would need to start reporting Israeli attacks on the Jenin refugee camp as a cross-border invasion, which you never have.
The circumstances that have placed an icon of hate speech in control of the finance ministry of a government closed allied to the Canadian government is awkward, to say the least, for those now associated with Israeli settler-supremacy politics at their most brazen.
Yet a more significant shift in coverage of the result is urgent. Accurate reporting will need not only to feature (1) the credible assertion that Israel is practicing apartheid, but also and even more importantly, (2) accurate cultural and institutional details of how mainstream Israeli occupation authorities gave rise to this crisis.
Should you wish, you can reach me at 438-380-5410.
PhD, University of Exeter
Director of Strategic Operations
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East/
Canadiens pour la Justice et la Paix au Moyen-Orient