Did Israel Shell a UN School? Globe & Mail Exposes the Truth
February 3, 2009
By: Mike Fegelman
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
In war, the saying goes, "the first victim is the truth." With bullets flying and people dying, media coverage of the Gaza conflict was often event-driven, context-free, and replete with unproven allegations. But an in-depth investigative report by the Globe and Mail's Middle East correspondent, Patrick Martin (pictured right), proved to be the exception to the rule.
Martin's front-page report on January 29 entitled "Account of Israeli attack just doesn't hold up to scrutiny" investigated the Israeli shelling of Hamas terrorists near a UN school that led to the tragic deaths of 43 civilians. His conclusion: the facts don't support the accepted story that the school itself was shelled.
According to Martin:
"Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.
Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.
While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers."
Martin's report, which also got the Jerusalem Post's attention, confirms the underreported Israeli accounts that the IDF accurately returned fire to the location from which it was being shelled by Hamas terrorists.
The fact that people were milling around the area where Hamas was firing rockets is not Israel's fault, but rather points out that Hamas fired from an area frequented by civilians, engaging in what former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls a double war crime: "Attacking [Israeli] civilians and hiding behind [Palestinian] civilians."
After originally covering the story on January 6, Martin and the Globe and Mail may have felt compelled to further investigate this matter to once and for all set the record straight.
Some of Martin's key findings include:
- There were no dead in the UN school, only some injured according to physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses
- Three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school's compound, not inside
- Incorrect public pronouncements by the UN helped allow "the misconception to linger"
It was news reporting of this incident that supposedly prompted CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan to call for schools to ban Israeli academics from campuses across Ontario. We wonder if the new facts which have come to light will now prompt Ryan to retract his odious boycott efforts.
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, we hope that the world media will follow the Globe and Mail's lead by always casting a critical eye and scrutinizing all accounts, big or small, in their future reporting of the current conflict.