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LETTER: Check facts before weighing in on Israel-Hamas War

'Fact checking is useless if you fail to avoid confirmation bias in your research,' says letter writer
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OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via the website. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a letter regarding the Israel-Hamas War, published May 17.

In M. Chaudhuri’s letter to the editor, I heartily agree with this statement: “I encourage everyone to fact check and learn the truth about the most horrific crimes of our lifetimes. Once you know the truth, you will have no choice but to stand on the right side of history.”

But that is the limit of my agreement in that letter. History is often evaluated by a victor and reassessed later. Consider Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation process. Chaudhuri provided us with his or her facts:

“There have been over 40,000 people killed in Gaza over the last seven months, and many believe the number is much, much higher. The death toll may well be in the hundreds of thousands given the lack of medicines, food, and water, not to mention the people who are missing under the rubble.”

Chaudhuri blames Israel for the actions of Hamas. “Hamas has proved unable and unwilling to prioritize the needs of the people. New leadership structures must emerge from within Gaza to fill the vacuum. The most pressing need is to deliver aid to the Gazans who desperately need it.” (Foundation for Defense of Democracies, ‘Hamas Warns Gazans Against Cooperating With Israel on Aid Delivery,’ March 12, 2024.)

The BBC has reported that, “On 6 May, the UN said that 69 per cent of reported fatalities were women and children. Two days later, it said this figure was 52 per cent.” “The overall number of reported deaths in Gaza — which currently stands at more than 35,000 — has not changed, but the UN now says incomplete information has led to the revision.” “The UN says it is now relying on figures from the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, rather than from the Hamas-run Government Media Office.” (BBC, ‘Gaza war: Why is the UN citing lower death toll for women and children?’ May 16, 2024.)

Israel has two grievances with the numbers and the narratives around the death count. First, “Hamas does not provide any figures for its military fatalities,” and that “its overall tally of those killed does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.” (BBC, ‘Israel Gaza: Checking Israel’s claim to have killed 10,000 Hamas fighters.’ Feb. 29, 2024.) Secondly, Hamas has long been accused of being complicit in the deaths of Palestinian civilians and Israel’s position is supported by a NATO report:

“Given the demographic and geographic conditions within which Hamas operates, there is a relationship between geographic proximity and governance where Hamas uses its governance framework to control (providing or withholding) access to vital goods and services. Reliance on or rejection of ‘alternative welfare’ networks provides the Gazan population with limited options.” (NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, ‘Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza,’ undated.)

Israel’s stated position has been clear and consistent:

“I want to make a few points absolutely clear,” Netanyahu said. “Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population. Israel is fighting Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian population, and we are doing so in full compliance with international law.” (‘Netanyahu: Let me be clear — Israel has no intention of displacing Gaza’s population,’ The Times of Israel, Jan. 10, 2024.)

In Israel’s response to South Africa’s accusations against Israel at the International Court of Justice, “Deputy Attorney General Gilad Noam said that (South Africa’s accusations) was an inversion of reality.” (BBC, ‘Israel accuses South Africa of false claims at ICJ,’ May 17, 2024.)

Fact checking is useless if you fail to avoid confirmation bias in your research. Nazi Germany was an echo chamber of a singular message that produced the Holocaust. Pro-Palestinian supporters conveniently ignore the fact that in the 1940s and 1950s, there was a large-scale exodus of Jews out of Arab countries like Iraq, Yemen and Libya. These migrants fled these countries, leaving their assets and properties behind because of the rise in antisemitism. Over the last 10 years in France, there have been correlations between the rise in Muslim immigration, the rise in antisemitism, and the rise of Jewish migration out of France to Israel. The effects of pro-Palestine protests are causing the same fear among Jews that motivates Jews to migrate to the only Jewish country in the world, Israel.

There is an urgency to be mindful that there is a direct correlation between the pro-Palestinian protests and the drastic rise of antisemitism outside of Israel that we see today. You may want to consider the views and facts from two opposing news sources, Al Jazeera English and Israel English News. Critical thinkers can also test the claims made by Israel’s military @IsraelDefenseForces and @unitednations on social media.

Check your facts, and make a moral decision as if your eternal soul depends on your chosen side.

Randy Baker