Toronto Star Article Acts As Publicist For Anti-Israel Film Festival

April 8, 2024

Richie Assaly’s April 4 article in The Toronto Star entitled: “‘A feeling of catharsis and hope’: Sarah Polley on why she’s paying tribute to Palestinian artists and writers killed in Gaza,” reported that Oscar-winning filmmaker Sarah Polley will be participating in an event being hosted by the Toronto Palestine Film Festival.

But rather than reporting the story itself, Assaly’s coverage instead represented a lengthy hatchet job against Israel, exclusively interviewing anti-Israel voices and providing little to no context for readers.

Some of Assaly’s statements in the article are commonly-found tropes, such as making reference to “Israeli occupation” of the Gaza Strip, with no acknowledgement that prior to the current war, not a single Israeli, civilian or soldier, had been inside the territory permanently since the summer of 2005, when thousands of Israelis were forcibly removed by their government in an attempt to pave the way for peace with Palestinians.

Assaly also told readers that “the Israeli military has killed more than 32,900 Palestinians in Gaza,” failing to provide attribution for the source, namely Hamas’ “Gaza Ministry of Health,” a source which – in addition to providing unverified and statistically unlikely figures – also fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and those killed by Israel or killed by Palestinian rockets.

The author also ignored how Israel states that any death toll figure includes more than 13,000 combatants from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), who are certainly not civilians.

In his article, Assaly quoted Dania Majid, co-founder of the Palestine Film Festival, who is also the founder of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, as claiming that Israel is committing a “genocide” in Gaza.

Untold by Assaly, Majid is a vocal anti-Israel activist who, following Hamas’ October 7 massacre, signed an open letter which could reasonably be seen as justifying Hamas terrorism against Israel, and who has attempted to censor criticism of pro-Palestinian propaganda, falsely labeling the refusal to accept such disinformation as racism.

Rather than providing a balance and offering a voice pushing back against Majid’s irresponsible claims of accusation, Assaly lets the allegation stand by itself, unchallenged.

The only party guilty of genocide is Hamas, the jihadist Islamic terrorist organization which on October 7, invaded southern Israel and carried out a mass campaign of rape, torture and murder against innocent Israelis, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping hundreds more. Israel, in sharp contrast, has targeted Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and has taken significant steps to minimize civilian casualties.

As a result of these efforts, the proportion of civilians killed in Gaza has been significantly lower than in virtually any other armed conflict in recent history.

Assaly’s writing has been the subject of HonestReporting Canada’s alerts before as a result of him giving extended publicity to the anti-Israel cause under the guise of news reporting.

This is the second time that Assaly has written an article covering the Palestine Film Festival, and in November, he penned an article giving a platform to false claims of Israel being a settler-colonial state.

Whether Sarah Polley’s appearance at an anti-Israel event necessitates a dedicated news article is debatable, but Richie Assaly’s April 4 article, rather than providing a balanced and informative picture to readers, instead presented an exclusively one-sided hostility to Israel, combined with falsely presenting unverified Hamas propaganda as fact.

HonestReporting Canada has filed a complaint with the Toronto Star. Stay tuned to this page for future updates.

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