"To fail to include these points is to aggravate the crisis of trust in journalism. In these difficult days, we expect you to provide readers with the facts, even when they are startling."
October 13, 2023
Lolita C. Baldor, Reporter, Associated Press
Matthew Lee, Reporter, Associated Press
Donovan Vincent, Public Editor, Toronto Star
Josef Federman, News Director – Jerusalem, Associated Press
Dear Lolita C. Baldor, Donovan Vincent, and Josef Federman,
I am writing on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, cjpme.org) to implore correction of the imbalance in your October 13 report, “US defense secretary Austin tells Israel’s Netanyahu ‘we have your back’ after the attack by Hamas.”
The international legal prohibition against Israel’s announced attacks on civilians demands explicit coverage in your report.
You report that the President of the United States has described Palestinians as subhuman. “This is not even human behavior,” you quote Joe Biden as saying. “It’s pure barbarism.”
You report that the Defense Secretary of the United States is shipping Israel additional weapons with which to strike at the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. “He voiced little public criticism of [Israel’s] stunning demand that some 1 million civilians evacuate northern Gaza,” your subheading reads. You quote his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, threatening death to Palestinian civilians who do not obey an Israeli expulsion order that is strictly impossible to follow: “he said those who want to save their lives must ‘go south.’”
But nowhere do you report that this constitutes announcement of grave war crimes.
We insist that you inform readers that what Israel and the United States are doing is a grave breach of international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today spelled out what is obvious, and what you must spell out, too: “The instructions issued by the Israeli authorities for the population of Gaza City to immediately leave their homes, coupled with the complete siege explicitly denying them food, water, and electricity, are not compatible with international humanitarian law.”
Your reporting absolutely must make two points:
- Armed forces are legally required to distinguish between civilians and combatants. The Israeli army spokesperson has openly signalled that Israel is not doing so: “the IDF Spokesperson said ‘the emphasis is on damage rather than on precision,’ reports Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. That is a war crime.
- Israel’s use of siege warfare to strike at Palestinian food and medical access is itself also a war crime. “Critical infrastructure that people depend on to live,” as the ICRC implores us to remember, “including electricity and water networks – must not be targeted. Irrespective of any military siege, the authorities must ensure that civilians have access to basic necessities, including safe water, food and medical care.”
To fail to include these points is to aggravate the crisis of trust in journalism. In these difficult days, we expect you to provide readers with the facts, even when they are startling.
Feel free to reach me at 438-380-5410 should you wish to discuss this matter further.
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