Correcting Canadian Columnists’ Canards
March 9, 2009
By: Mike Fegelman
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
Syndicated columnists are paid to put forward highly opinionated and sometimes controversial points of view. In contrast to reporters these pundits are not neutral. Their commentaries are printed in various Canadian newspapers to reflect a diverse range of opinion, to add to the marketplace of ideas, and to articulate the various shades of gray on any given subject, especially one as polarized as the Middle East.
While columnists are entitled to their opinions, their own personal politics cannot supersede adherence to strict standards of ethical, accurate, and honest journalism. A columnist who gives expert opinion must also base it on accurate information – anything short of that requires swift corrections.
Haroon Siddiqui Strikes Again
Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui (well known for his criticisms of Israel) recently claimed in a column he authored on March 1 that Israeli forces had carried out an “attack on a UN-run school.”
Contrary to this statement, Israel never attacked the UN-run school. An investigative report by the Globe & Mail’s Patrick Martin confirmed underreported Israeli accounts that the IDF accurately returned fire to the location from which it was being shelled by Hamas terrorists who were located across the street from the school.
HonestReporting Canada brought this matter to the attention of Toronto Star editors who commendably acknowledged that Mr. Siddiqui’s statement could have been written in a clearer manner. On March 4 the Star promptly issued the following clarification to remedy Mr. Siddiqui’s error:
Simpson Skews BBC Poll
Writing in the Globe and Mail on February 9, columnist Jeffrey Simpson (pictured) commented on a recently released BBC World Service Poll which judged the popularity (or lack thereof) of various countries around the World.
In reference to Israel Mr. Simpson wrote:
“Israelis likely do not care and Iranians probably do not know, but theirs are two of the least popular countries in the world. Throw Pakistan into the mix, and the annual BBC World Service poll gives us three of the world’s least popular countries.”
“Israelis are accustomed to believing that most of the world is against them, so the poll’s result will hardly surprise them. To be precise, the poll asked respondents in 21 countries whether other countries were playing a “positive” or “negative” role in the world. Only 21 per cent of respondents said Israel played a positive role; 71 per cent said it played a negative one. In only one country – the United States – did Israel receive a slightly positive rating.”
Contrary to this statement, only “51 per cent” of those polled in the BBC’s World Service Poll indicated that Israel played a “negative role” not 71 per cent. Mr Simpson was off by a whopping 20% margin.
In light of this information, we asked Globe and Mail editors to correct Mr. Simpson’s factual error. On February 11, the Globe issued the following correction to set the record straight:
Rick Salutin Peddles “Israel Apartheid Week’s” 4 Myths
Keeping with the Globe & Mail, columnist Rick Salutin’s March 5 column peddled four of the big myths promulgated by “Israel Apartheid Week” organizers. HonestReporting Backspin editor Pesach Benson fisked Salutin’s polemic:
Myth: The “apartheid” label stems from the security fence. Salutin writes:
“Cabinet minister Jason Kenney calls Israel Apartheid Week “a systematic effort to delegitimize the democratic homeland of the Jewish people” by linking it to racism, a line virtually mouthed by Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff. That is way too cute. Any “settler state,” such as Canada, which took someone else’s land, can be seen as illegitimate. But it’s an abstract point. “Apartheid” became widely used in this context only when Israel began building what came to be called an apartheid wall, looming over Palestinians, sequestering more land, cutting them off from each other.”
Myth: The security fence divides the West Bank into “Bantustans.” According to Salutin:
“The usage grew as Israel expanded settlements, built Israeli-only roads and set up checkpoints so Palestinians would at best be left with “Bantustans,” such as those that apartheid South Africa offered blacks, rather than a true state of their own.”
Fact: The fence, checkpoints and roads are for Israel’s security, not to segregate people. In 2007, Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shalah confirmed as much to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that the Israel’s security measures effectively thwarts terror attacks.
Myth: Jewish students shouldn’t be overly concerned by the campus debate’s invective. Salutin says:
“Most of the specifics come down to shouts at protests. As in: “Cries of ‘Die, Jew’ and ‘Get the hell off campus’ were heard.” The Canadian Jewish Congress’s Bernie Farber says he’s “never” seen it this bad “on the streets of Toronto and university campuses.” Well, I spend lots of time on streets in Toronto and it doesn’t look like Kristallnacht to me. But wait, that’s glib. It’s these images that scare my friends: They evoke Nazi Germany. I know that.
But Nazi Germany wasn’t about name-calling and group hate. Those will persist, perhaps always. The Holocaust occurred largely because anti-Semitism was historically rooted and respectable there: religiously, socially, intellectually, politically. Writers and politicians were proudly anti-Semitic. Here, anti-Semitism is unacceptable in all those ways. This whole debate proves it. We should be glad for that, and keep it in perspective.”
Fact: The Jewish students of 1930s Germany received similar reassurances by people no less well-meaning or enlightened than Salutin. See more sober reactions from McGill’s Professor Gil Troy and Israeli Bedouin diplomat Ishmael Khaldi.
Myth: Hamas can accommodate the existence of Israel. According to Salutin:
“Even Hamas has a (nuanced) position on living with Israel. You can look it up.”
Fact: Okay, I looked up the Hamas charter. Here’s what Salutin confuses for “nuance.” According to the charter: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory) . . . [Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. . . There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.”
Moreover, on closer look, the charter notes early on Hamas’ identification with the Muslim Brotherhood, an international movement with branches in Egypt, Jordan, even the US, and UK. International movements like the Muslim Brotherhood don’t have a track record for the kind of nuance Salutin puts his faith in.
How You Can Make A Difference