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Feb 23, 2006 at 12:00 AM

On February 15, 2006 the Globe and Mail newspaper printed an editorial. Its title was: “See Hamas for what it is”. The purpose of the editorial was to convince the reader that “The international community should have no truck with a group that embraces such loathsome views”. The “evidence” for the loathsome views was an alleged Hamas video supposedly newly posted on its website, and the content being speeches by two “suicide bombers”.

Samah Sabawi, a writer and activist in Ottawa, read the editorial and found the lack of a url for the video and the extensive quotes of the speeches off-key. So she began an investigation to test her suspicions. Samah recounts some of these efforts, which led her to write an article on what she discovered. A brief account of her efforts and the article published February 23 on Counterpunch (http://www.counterpunch.org/sabawi02232006.html) follow the Globe and Mail editorial.

Subsequently a columnist for the Toronto Star took up the issue of the journalistic ethics and practices of the Globe and Mail in this instance.

Samah Sabawi was interviewed by the Redeye program on Vancouver Cooperative Radio 102.7 FM and the audio of the interview “See Hamas for what it is” can be heard on the Rabble podcast website (http://www.rabble.ca/rpn/rey/47365/).

This matter is far from ended.

But enough is known to suggest that the Globe and Mail could “re-post” its original editorial on Hamas with a new title: “See the Globe and Mail for what it is.”


Globe and Mail editorial, February 15, 2006

See Hamas for what it is

Optimists take the view that the Hamas victory in last month’s Palestinian election will lead the militant Islamist movement to moderate its views. With the responsibility of governing on its shoulders, Hamas will have to put aside its campaign to obliterate Israel and concentrate on delivering public services instead.

Those who take that view should take a look at a video presented on the Hamas website this week. It shows suicide bombers delivering statements before they begin their mission. The first, a young man in green battle gear, sits in front of a Hamas banner with a rifle in his hand and crossed rocket launchers in the foreground.

Here is what he says: “My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children’s thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries.”

The second suicide bomber, similarly arrayed in front of the Hamas banner, says: “In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, [and] purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country. . . . This operation is revenge against the sons of monkeys and pigs. . . . Jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine -- all of Palestine -- from the impurity of the Jews.”

The second bomber is then shown saying goodbye to his mother, who drapes himwith a combat belt. He tells her not to grieve on his “wedding day with the Maidens of Paradise. . . . Be happy and not sad, because in the name of Allah, after death is merciful Allah’s paradise.”

After the video was made, the two men went to a frontier crossing and killed an Israeli soldier. That attack took place more than a year ago, on Dec. 7, 2004, but the fact that Hamas is airing it now shows it has not changed its depraved views or methods just because of winning an election. To the contrary, Hamas leaders have made it clear that they reserve the right to use suicide bombing as a means of resistance to Israeli occupation. Their goal of liberating “all of Palestine” -- by which they mean Tel Aviv and Haifa, as well as Jerusalem -- remains unchanged.

Indeed, according to its covenant, Hamas “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Dismissing the notion of a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, it declares that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours.”

Of course, it is always possible that Hamas will have a sudden change of heart and disavow its twisted views. But it would be rash in the extreme simply to sit back and expect it to happen as a matter of course. A movement that considers it beyond the pale for a faraway newspaper to publish a few cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed but perfectly acceptable for a man with dynamite strapped to his body to blow himself up in a restaurant full of families and children is not likely to see reason all of a sudden.

There is no guarantee that holding office will tame Hamas. Just as likely, it will see its election victory as an endorsement of its program (if that’s the word for such a mission of violence and hate). Hamas has already given itself credit for last year’s Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Its sense of empowerment is unlikely to wane once it holds the reins of power.

The West must take an unblinkered view of Hamas. In practice, that means withholding all aid from a Hamas-run Palestinian government until it forswears terrorism as a method and the destruction of Israel as a goal. Russian President Vladimir Putin set a terrible precedent last week when he indicated that he would invite Hamas leaders to Moscow, the first crack in the diplomatic attempt to freeze the movement out of international society. Hamas is not just an anti-Zionist but an anti-Semitic organization, whose covenant cites the infamous forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that claims to document a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. The race hatred that drips from the suicide bombers’ farewell video is typical of the movement.

The international community should have no truck with a group that embraces such loathsome views.”


Samah Sabawi: Introduction and Commentary, February 23, 2006

Dear Canpalnet readers,

After the publication of my article on CounterPunch, I’ve received countless supportive letters. Many shared with me their own experiences of trying to correct the misinformation in our print media, to no avail. Many asked if I had tried to write a letter to the editor. In fact a friend tried to look up the email address of the Globe’s Ombudsman, only to find out that the Globe and Mail no longer have an Ombudsman. But they informed my friend that readers with complaints are welcome to write a letter to the editor.

This is truly laughable. When I found out with certainty that Mr. Gee has lied to his readers about the link he based his editorial on, I sent a letter to the editor right away. You guessed it, my letter was totally ignored. So, two days later, I wrote a letter to Mr. Gee which I copied to Mr. Greenspon [editor] amongst others at the Globe And Mail. Only Mr. Gee responded.

I have to admit, he was honest about his position and his emails reflected his confidence that what he did was normal practice. This was what made me even more concerned.

Below for your viewing are the two letters I sent the Globe prior to publishing my article:
 

Feb 15, 2006

Dear Editor,

Re: See Hamas for what it is Editorial- Feb 15, 2006

You said the videos in your editorial were on ‘the Hamas website’. When I called you sent me the URL for Palestinian Media Watch - a well known right-wing propaganda outfit run by Itamar Marcus, an Israeli settler notorious for his hateful views of the Palestinians and his ability to stretch the truth. Thus, the Globe first lied to its readers about its source and second relied entirely on a scurrilous anti-Palestinian source.

The Globe’s source Mr. Itamar Marcus came under fire from Israeli journalist Akiva Elder for routinely feeding the media with excerpts from “Palestinian” textbooks that call for Israel’s annihilation without bothering to point out that the texts quoted in fact come from Egypt and Jordan.

Although the videos may be real, they were highly selective for their provocative nature. The fringes of Israeli media are abundant with materials that are as hateful against Palestinians. Mr. Marcus’s extremist vision for Palestinians is no better than Hamas’s vision for Israelis the only difference is the later is currently offering a truce.

According to polls by the Near East Consulting Institute 77% of Hamas’s voters want a settlement with Israel. Working for peace is not a question of optimism it is an obligation.

Shame on you for falling prey to extremist propaganda! Talking about the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis in such terms betrays the humanity of both.

Samah Sabawi


My letter to the Editor was ignored so, on Feb 17, I wrote the following email to Marcus Gee and copied Mr. Edward Greenspon, Ms. Sylvia Stead and Mr. Patrick Martin:
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Samah Sabawi [mailto:samahsabawi@hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2006 4:53 PM
To: Gee, Marcus; Greenspon, Edward; Stead, Sylvia; Letters; Martin, Patrick
Subject: questionable source of Mr. Gee’s editorial

Dear Mr. Gee,

I must insist on an explanation regarding your Feb 15 editorial. You have alleged that Hamas presented a video on its website in recent days of a mission they carried out more than a year ago arguing “the fact that Hamas is airing the videos now shows it has not changed its depraved views or methods just because of winning an election.”

When I spoke to you on the phone requesting the source you used, I expected to get a link to the Hamas website, instead I was forwarded a link to the Palestinian Media Watch. Am I to assume that you do not have proof that the video was re-produced on the Hamas website?

Your editorial came at a time when already Muslims as a whole were being painted with a black brush by the media in the aftermath of the Danish cartoon controversy. More importantly, the editorial surfaced at a time when our own government is deliberating on a decision regarding the new Palestinian government. Having not substantiated your argument, one is lead to believe that you may have attempted to influence that decision by using unreliable sources.

I understand these allegations are serious. It is for that reason that I insist that an explanation is warranted. I eagerly await your response.

Samah Sabawi

I hope the Globe will continue to hear from its readers.

Samah
samahsabawi@hotmail.com


COUNTERPUNCH

February 23, 2006

Editorial Delusions at the Globe and Mail
Hamas and the Missing Video

By SAMAH SABAWI

Canada’s national paper The Globe & Mail was caught last week with its hand in the unethical journalism jar. On February 15, 2006 the Globe & Mail published an editorial titled “See Hamas for What It Is” in which it argued that those who take the view that Hamas will moderate its position in regards to Israel now that it is an elected government should “take a look at a video presented on the Hamas website this week”. After a graphic depiction of the video, the editorial concluded “the fact that Hamas is airing it (the video) now shows it has not changed its depraved views or methods just because of winning an election.”

A lengthy search for the Hamas link mentioned in the editorial, and a series of email exchanges with the writer of the editorial Mr. Marcus Gee revealed that the editor never saw the video on the Hamas website as he claimed in his editorial, but rather he relied solely on a report he received via email from an Israeli extremist site that goes by the name of Palestinian Media Watch.

There are three offenses the Globe & Mail are guilty of; The first is that the Globe told its readers that the videos which the editorial was based on were presented after the election on ‘the Hamas website’--a claim that the Globe was not able to provide proof of. Thus The Globe & Mail has lied to its readers about the credibility of the basis of its argument.

The second issue is that the Globe & Mail’s editorial relied on Palestinian Media Watch - a well-known right-wing propaganda site run by Itamar Marcus, an Israeli settler notorious for his jaundiced views of the Palestinians. In fact, much of the wording (the translation) printed in the editorial came directly from the PMW website. Thus, yhe Globe has relied entirely on a scurrilous anti-Palestinian screed without referencing that source; I believe the correct word for this is plagiarism.

The third issue is that the editorial surfaced at a time when the Canadian government was deliberating on a decision regarding the new Palestinian government. Having not substantiated its argument, one is lead to believe that the Globe & Mail have attempted to influence the Canadian government’s decision by unethical means through the use of unreliable sources.

In one of his emails to this writer, Mr. Gee confessed to not having “any independent proof that the videos were shown after the election”, adding that he had no reason to question the PMW report he relied on.

Mr. Gee failed Journalism 101-- he failed to check the source upon which he based his editorial. Maybe he deemed the source credible only because it falls within his simplistic view of the world. In this case, the information the Globe and Mail relied on without questioning came from an extremist website. This is indeed appalling.

This incident reflects a dangerous trend in the media. Journalists like Mr. Gee who in their zeal to push their own right wing agenda eagerly rely on suspect and biased sources. Such journalists have stoked the fires of war and conflict in the Middle-East and they should be held responsible for the brutal consequences of their sloppy brand of journalism.

No one benefits from prolonging the agony of Israelis and Palestinians, no one but those extremists on both sides who want it all. Are we to understand that the Globe & Mail has become a mouthpiece for such extremists? Right now, there stands an opportunity for moderates, a new beginning with new promises of hope. The Globe & Mail’s irresponsible and uninformed editorial makes the job of the Palestinian and Israeli moderates ever more difficult to achieve.

Samah Sabawi is a writer and activist who lives in Ottawa. Sabawi can be reached at: samahsabawi@hotmail.com

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