"Why is Lebanon being described in this way? It is not “useful”? What does this even mean? It reads merely as demeaning an entire country and doesn’t seem to relate to the claims of the article."
January 4, 2023
Allan Woods, Journalist, Toronto Star
Donovan Vincent, Public Editor, Toronto Star
Dear Allan Woods and Donovan Vincent,
I’m writing to express confusion and concern regarding a statement in your recent article, “Why assassinating this Hamas leader might have been a gamble Israel was willing to make.”
In particular, I am worried about the following sentence:
But some factors make the assassination of Al-Arouri — a killing that may be permissible under the laws of war — look like a safe bet for Israel, if it did it, at least for the time being.
On first read, it is odd to include, “a killing that may be permissible under the laws of war.” This is especially the case in the print version, as there is no hyperlink.
The hyperlink leads to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) webpage. Unfortunately, the page isn’t entirely helpful or relevant to many of the questions in the case of Israel killing multiple Hamas-affiliated targets in Lebanon. After reading the Human Rights Watch page, I felt one could just as easily say that the assassination of Al-Arouri may be a war crime under the laws of war. It is difficult to point to any particular section and use it as an argument. Israel’s assassination took place in a residential neighbourhood in Lebanon, not in Gaza. In the context of international law, that matters. The broad strokes of an HRW webpage mostly focused on the US are not helpful here. ‘’
The reality is it is not yet clear and is best assessed by experts in international law who have closely studied this case. In a word, it seems irresponsible for Mr. Woods to make such a statement in passing. It is also inappropriate in the context of a news article, although it might fit in an opinion piece. If such a claim is made in a news article, the reader deserves more information.
Perhaps the statement could make sense if a “because” was included to help us understand the logic of the suggestion that this may be legal, but no such qualification is given. It serves almost strictly to plant the seed that Israel “may” have been acting legally.
This problem is only exacerbated by the language used when describing Israel’s actions. Phrases that feel out of place include:
- Israel as “willing to roll the dice” in regards to the assassination,
- Israel’s actions as a “brazen move,”
- Israel’s actions as a “safe bet,”
- The assassination as a “down payment,”
- And Israel’s “lethal mystique.”
We are talking about genocide, apartheid, and thousands of dead children. Those realities feel lost under the weight of many of the article’s word choices.
There is also the issue of the subhead, which reads, “Killing one of the founders of Hamas's military wing — as Israel is widely believed to have done — is not an attack in Iran, or any other useful or high-functioning regime.” Why is Lebanon being described in this way? It is not “useful”? What does this even mean? It reads merely as demeaning an entire country and doesn’t seem to relate to the claims of the article.
To be sure, I think Mr. Woods has done some solid reporting on these issues in the past months. I believe this article misses the mark.
I would urge you to modify the claim that the assassination “may be permissible under the laws of war” with more explanation or clarification for readers.
Director of Media Advocacy, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East