"I sincerely hope that our good-faith efforts as a civic community can help shepherd our city past the danger of unconstructive confrontation, and instead facilitate an inclusive, accurate civic exchange over the tragic events that have so many in our city feeling on edge."
October 14, 2023
Jacob Serebrin, Reporter, Montreal Gazette
Marilena Lucci, Editor, Montreal Gazette
City News, Montreal Gazette
Dear Jacob Serebrin, Marilena Lucci, and City News editors,
I am writing on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, cjpme.org) to implore correction of the dangerous language in your October 13 article, “Pro-Palestinian rally in Montreal amid escalating Israel-Hamas conflict.”
The danger of this story results, I fear, from your omission from this story of any specific number of Palestinian fatalities. You write:
“The Associated Press reports the war has killed at least 3,200 people on both sides so far.”
And yet the number of Palestinian fatalities structurally requires accurate mention.
You can still use the same source. Yesterday, AP wrote: “The Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that roughly 1,800 people have been killed in the territory.” Today, AP reports: “The Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday that over 2,200 people have been killed in the territory, including 724 children and 458 women.”
The danger that arises from not mentioning these details is that it makes the story as a whole dangerously misleading at this sensitive time. I am most urgently concerned with the final sentence of the text cited here, and with the italicized words in particular:
“. . . said Sarah Shamy, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian Youth Movement. ‘As we speak, bombs are raining down on the people of Gaza.’ Shamy, however, refused to condemn the attack by Hamas on Israel, saying only that colonized people have the right to resist their occupation” (emphasis added).
Those italicized words need urgently to be removed. In none of your coverage of local support for Israel have you named a pro-Israel source and then said, “this source, however, refused to condemn the Israeli attack on Palestinian civilians.” More Palestinian than Israeli civilians have been killed this week, but you rightly omit such phrasing against pro-Israel sources. Please see that the double standard you are applying is positively dangerous.
Our journalistic and research community will soon need to turn our attention to the wave of anti-Palestinian hate sweeping Montreal, which builds on well documented trends (see this report, for instance, as distributed by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network).
It is an urgent matter of public responsibility, conscience, and professional integrity that we not contribute to this climate of hostility. To apply double standards against a young woman in the public spotlight, such as you have done in your coverage of this certain Ms. Shamy, is precisely to subject them to dangerous hostility. More balanced coverage is in the urgent interest of an inclusive civic atmosphere for all of us.
Again, I implore you to delete from this story the sentence of yours that reads:
Shamy, however, refused to condemn the attack by Hamas on Israel, saying only that colonized people have the right to resist their occupation
In the alternative, at a bare minimum, please see the need to replace your unfair language above with the following, more journalistically accurate alternative sentence:
Shamy did not make a point of condemning the attack by Hamas on Israel, but instead emphasized that colonized people have the right to resist their occupation.
I sincerely hope that our good-faith efforts as a civic community can help shepherd our city past the danger of unconstructive confrontation, and instead facilitate an inclusive, accurate civic exchange over the tragic events that have so many in our city feeling on edge.
Feel free to reach me at 438-380-5410 should you wish to discuss this matter further, and thank you for your time.
Dan Freeman-Maloy, Montreal
PhD, University of Exeter
Postdoc, Canada Research Chair in Québec and Canadian Studies
Director of Strategic Operations
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East/
Canadiens pour la Justice et la Paix au Moyen-Orient