Toronto Star Commentator Denies Israel’s Right To Exist, Citing “75 Years Of Occupation”

October 30, 2023

Naved Bakali’s October 21 Toronto Star column entitled: “Middle East conflict as a war of words,” is a masterful exercise in doubletalk, hypocrisy, and gaslighting, particularly worrying coming from an “anti-racism” professor at the University of Windsor. 

One of Bakali’s more repulsive claims is that Israel is guilty of “75 years of occupation” of the Palestinians. However, Judea & Samaria (often called the “West Bank” by news media outlets), as well as the Gaza Strip, only came under Israeli control in 1967, after the Six Day War. It is readily apparent, then, by referring to 75 years of occupation, Bakali is denying Israel’s very right to exist, unequivocally delegitimizing the entire country, and the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in their historic homeland. 

This view, alleging that Israel has no right to exist, is a carbon copy of Hamas’ hateful views, which see the Jewish State as illegitimate, and thus, worthy of being violently destroyed. 

Does Bakali, therefore, share Hamas’ view that Israel’s very existence is illegitimate and that the goal is therefore not a Palestinian state but the eradication of Jewish self-determination anywhere in their ancestral homeland, by any means necessary, including the use of violence against innocent Israeli civilians? How else is one to interpret this seemingly deliberate and consistent word choice? 

Bakali shares other pseudo-academic phrases with readers, claiming that “this conflict has been… sanitized through language that obscures reality and creates a hierarchy of victims.” 

He argues that using the phrase “Israel has a right to defend itself” is a way of preventing critical conversations about Israeli actions, and suggests instead that news media outlets try to focus conversations about the conflict around phrases like “occupation” and “apartheid.” 

However, a closer look reveals that Bakali is glaringly guilty of the very thing he’s trying to sound the alarm about. 

He notes that international law defines “occupation” as a military holding territory by force, but he makes no mention of the fact that temporary occupations because of defensive wars are completely legal in international law, and that it is the Palestinian side that for 55 years which has rejected every offer made by Israel to end its control over this territory.  

Nor does Bakali mention that the location of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza Strip, is not occupied by Israel since 2005, when it was handed over to the Palestinians to rule. This involved fully removing all Israeli soldiers and civilians from the entire area.  

Soon, Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group responsible for the massacre of 1,400 innocent civilians on October 7, seized control of the territory in a bloody coup, turning it into a hub for constant terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. It was only in response to the incessant terrorism that Israel imposed strict security controls over what gets in and out—not the other way around. 

His claims of “apartheid” in the West Bank are similarly misleading, noting only the inconvenience of security measures on the lives of Palestinians, but not the massive wave of suicide bombings, shootings, and other murderous incidents that led to their implementation.  

Bakali also at one point falsely claimed that Israel has “annexed” parts of the “West Bank” for its citizens, which is not the case. But in reality, Israel has not annexed any part of Judea & Samaria and additionally one cannot annex land that was not previously part of a sovereign country.

He ultimately argues that all of this creates a discourse where one group of victims, Jews, are treated with greater sympathy than another group of victims, Palestinians. 

Once again, Bakali’s column displays the very thing he argues against. 

Bakali’s own commentary answers this question very plainly with its lack of even a passing acknowledgement of the 1,400 Israelis brutally slaughtered, the hundreds of wounded still fighting for their lives, and the 222 people kidnapped from Israel (men, women, children and the elderly), who are still being held as hostages inside the Gaza Strip. 

The level of his conscious omission is so extreme that the word ‘Hamas’ does not appear in Bakali’s commentary even a single time. 

Canadian readers would be wise to apply Bakali’s thesis to his own inadequate writings, and to similarly scrutinize all one-sided, anti-Israel tirades, no matter where they’re published.

After HonestReporting Canada communicated our concerns directly with the Toronto Star, Canada’s highest circulation daily newspaper amended Bakali’s column to now claim that Israel occupied Palestinian territories 56 years ago and that it “essentially annexed” the west bank. However, the attempted remedial action undertaken by the Star is woefully inadequat

Simply put, the author denied Israel’s right to exist. This is (was) beyond inflammatory and the Star (and other Torstar publications who published this op-ed, including the Hamilton Spectator, Waterloo Record and Peterborough Examiner), in our view, should never have published this commentary.

Simply amending this commentary to go from 48 to 67 (75 years of occupation to 56) chalks this issue up to being that of an innocent typo, which it most certainly was not.

The editor’s note appended to this column doesn’t in any way explain the tremendous harm his statements have caused Canadian Jews. The note says: “Editor’s note — Oct. 27, 2023: This column was edited to clarify that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories began in 1967.”

As to Bakali’s annexation claims, there’s no foundation to his allegation and adjusting language to say “essentially annexed” is nonsensical. If there was an annexation, Israeli law would be applied to these lands, which they are not as former British law applies.

Fundamentally, denying both Israel’s right to exist and the Jewish right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland, is antisemitic hate according to the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.

The Star bears full responsibility for giving a platform to this hateful screed and for failing to atone for its egregious journalistic transgression.

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