Halifax Herald: Blaming the Victims

I think it behooves the editorial staff of The Herald to look at the facts with a measure of fairness, so as not to mislead their readers. -- Dr. Ismail Zayid

Daily newspapers such as the Chronicle Herald and Mail Star advertise their letters' column as the "Voice of The People". After all, they are the only section of the newspapers in which people have any input, however cosmetic. The Herald, as with most publications, this one included, also stipulates: "Letters are subject to editing." But what happens when the letter writer strips bare a policy of deliberate misinformation in the news and editorial pages?

The following letter was submitted by Dr. Ismail Zayid on August 31, 2003 to the Halifax Herald, in response to an editorial of August 30th. It was only published on September 11. The verbatim text is reproduced below.

However, significant sections, indicated by us in bold text, were deleted. The deletions all contain documented and verifiable fact. This is not a case of editing "for reasons of space". By doctoring his letter, the Herald distorts three main points:

  1. The facts cited place the onus of responsibility for the breaking of the truce on assassinations which were initiated by Sharon –– not the Palestinians. Groups such as Hamas retaliated against the assassinations of their leaders along with innocent people.
  2. Dr. Zayid also defends the right to resist the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza on Israel, which is upheld by international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
  3. Citing Jewish academic studies of Israeli textbooks and statements by Israeli political leaders, he fixes responsibility for promoting race hatred.

As a result, a quite different letter –- a new letter -- is produced, but with the original letter writer's name still attached. The ordinary reader will get the impression from the "new letter" that the letter writer is just penning unjustified assertions, i..e, mindless propaganda. This "new letter" further reinforces the editorial position of the Halifax Herald and other media that facts on the ground are merely part of the "endless accusations" -- part of "vicious cycle of violence". The chief perpetrators -- Israel and its American surrogate go scot free.

As it turned out, they set up Dr. Zayid as a straw man. Less than a week after Dr. Zayid's letter, in contrast to the almost two weeks it took to edit and publish the original letter, the Herald descended to publishing a vitriolic letter from a Zionist reader attacking Palestinians.(6)

Instead of using the opportunity of the intervention by Dr. Zayid -- one of the most knowledgeable authorities on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Canada today -- to learn about the origins and realities of the conflict, the editors resumed their arrogant manipulation of facts on September 9, 2003 with yet another editorial -- "Vicious circle in Palestine" http://www.halifaxherald.com/stories/2003/09/09/fEditorial100.raw.html -- echoing the same twaddle. "The trading of accusations while the killing continues, even while people in positions of leadership fail to demonstrate that they possess any such skills, has become the modus operandi for Middle East diplomacy." A modus operandi entirely familiar to the Halifax Herald?

If this is how the Herald can, by mere sleight of hand, completely change an individual letter, what hope does the truth have in its news and editorial columns?

Is the Herald open and accountable? We challenge the editorial writers of the Halifax Herald Ltd. to furnish to us any statements by Arab leaders promoting hatred towards ordinary people of Jewish faith of the level promoted by the Zionist political and religious leaders of Israel.

Dr. Zayid’s unexpurgated letter

Please note: Bolded text was deleted by the Halifax Herald. Authoritative references cited by Dr. Zayid have been separated out by us and listed at the end.

Original Message
From: zayid@hfx.eastlink.ca (Ismail Zayid)
To: newsroom@herald.ns.ca (The Halifax Herald)
Cc: bdauphinee@herald.ns.ca (Beverley Dauphinee); llepierres@herald.ns.ca (Laurent Le Pierres); bhowse@herald.ns.ca (Bob Howse)
Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2003 11:38 PM
Subject: Blaming the Victims.

August 31, 2003
The Editor,
The Halifax Herald.
Dear Editor:

In your editorial ("End of the road map" August 30), attempting to present a 'balanced' view of the background to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, you omit fundamental facts.

There is no mention of who initiated the provocative acts of assassination that brought about the termination of the cease-fire and the end of the road map. At the Aqaba summit, on June 4, the road map was agreed to by President Bush with Sharon and Abbas. On June 5th, Sharon sent his forces and assassinated two Palestinians near Tulkarm. On June 10th. Sharon's forces attacked Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas political leader, in a failed assassination attempt. It was these attacks that brought about the acts of retaliation by Hamas.

You make no mention of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories that has been allowed to stand for 36 years, in defiance of international law and repeated Security Council resolutions. This occupation brought about imprisonment without charge or trial, legalised torture, daily humiliation, extra-judicial assassination, demolition of thousands of homes, expropriation of territory for the creation of illegal Jewish settlements, all in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus war crimes, as defined by international law.

It is perhaps relevant to point out that international law and the UN Charter entitles all peoples, including
even the Palestinian people, under foreign occupation to resist such occupation. It is complete unconditional termination of this occupation that must be called for by our political leaders and media. There should be no requirement for negotiation between the occupier and the occupied. When Iraq illegally occupied Kuwait, no one entertained the idea of negotiations between Kuwaitis and Iraqis, and nearly a million troops were sent to expel Iraq from occupied Kuwait.

You speak of "burning hatred is ... constantly stoked in Arab schools, mosques and by their political leaders." This is an Israeli fabrication that has been refuted in a number of academic studies, by neutral and Jewish academicians.

Marc Perelman, in an article in the American Jewish periodical Forward, entitled "Professor Debunks Charges Against Palestinian Textbooks", quotes Professor Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs, at George Washington University:

"Palestinian textbooks, often cited by politicians, the press and Jewish communal leaders as being full of bloodcurdling incitement to war, anti-Judaism and even anti-Semitism, are much more balanced than they're made out to be." (1)

Professor Brown, who is Jewish, goes on to say, "The think-tank, that has been at the forefront of publicising the allegedly inciting material, the Jerusalem-based Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace [CMIP] has highlighted those passages in a way that is highly misleading and always unreliable."

On the other hand, this hate-promotion is more applicable to Israeli school textbooks.

Maureen Meehan, in an article entitled "Israeli Textbooks and Children's Literature promote Racism and Hatred towards Palestinians and Arabs", quotes a study by Professor Daniel Bar-Tal, of Tel Aviv University, and states: "Israeli school textbooks, according to recent academic studies and surveys, portray Palestinians and Arabs as "murderers". "rioters" and "generally backward and unproductive." (2)

As to statements by political leaders, it is the Israeli leaders whose statements of hate and racism should be condemned.

Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, in a speech to the Knesset, referred to the Palestinians as "two-legged animals." Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir stated :"[The Palestinians] would be crushed like grasshoppers...heads smashed against the boulders and walls." (3). Rafael Eitan, Israeli Chief of Staff, stated: "When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle." (4) Ehud Barak, Israeli prime minister, stated: "The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more..." (5). Rabbi Perin, in a eulogy for Baruch Goldstein, in 1994, stated: "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail." Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party and former Israeli Chief Rabbi, described the Arabs as serpents and in his Passover sermon, stated :"The Lord shall waste their [the Arabs] seed, devastate them and vanish them from this world. It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnnable."

I think it behooves the editorial staff of The Herald to look at the facts with a measure of fairness, so as not to mislead their readers.

Yours sincerely,
Ismail Zayid, M.D.


  1. January 18, 2002
  2. "Israeli Textbooks and Children's Literature promote Racism and Hatred towards Palestinians and Arabs", Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 1999
  3. New York Times, April 1,1988
  4. New York Times, 14 April 1988
  5. Jerusalem Post, August 30, 2002
  6. We reproduce here the more systemic lies engendered , a programmed reaction of aggressors, by the unethical exercise of editorial privilege by the Halifax Herald in publishing Dr. Zayid's letter.

    The Halifax Herald. Letters to Editor. September 17, 2003

    Systemic propaganda

    The Sept. 11 letter by Ismail Zayid accuses The Herald of "omitting fundamental facts" in an Aug. 30 editorial and portrays Israel as the aggressor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    While it is true that inappropriate statements are made by both sides, the systemic propaganda from the Palestinian/fundamental Islamic world does nothing to advance the cause of truth or peace. To constantly justify Palestinian/Islamic terrorism, homicide bombings, etc., while pointing an accusing finger at Israel is hypocritical. Any nation capable of doing so would defend itself aggressively against the type of terrorism being thrust on Israel by forces bent on her elimination. The misuse of the terms "occupation" and "aggressor" leaves the false impression that Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has a plan to expel Arabs and establish a Jewish-only state. Her constitution and example prove otherwise.
    Among other things, Mr. Zayid denies the anti-Israel hatred taught in Palestinian schools, despite mountains of proof to the contrary. Pro-Palestinian propaganda all too often is swallowed hook, line and sinker by Western media and politicians who, for some reason, fail to open-mindedly research the facts.
    Israel is more than willing to live in respect, safety and security with Palestinian and Arab citizens and neighbours. Most of the Arab/Islamic world will not rest until Israel does not exist.

    Eric Malloy, Cole Harbour