Home Media Action Alerts2015 Toronto Star Article Ignores Israel's Security Concerns

Toronto Star Article Ignores Israel's Security Concerns

by Mike Fegelman

Recently, the Toronto Star published an article (see appended below) on August 15 by GlobalPost reporter Laura Dean which was ostensibly about how Israeli authorities allegedly shoot at Palestinian fisherman and impede the efforts of Gazan surfers.

Nowhere in this report did it mention that Gaza is governed by the terrorist group Hamas which wages war and is committed to Israel’s destruction, and that’s why Israel enforces a maritime blockade of the Strip to ensure that weapons/rockets don’t end up in the hands of these radical Islamists. For example, in a 2013 New York Times article about Israel extending the designated zone for Gaza fisherman, the Times’ reporters noted that “Citing the need to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, Israel maintains a naval blockade on the Palestinian coastal enclave, which is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.”

This is the kind of critical context that this report was sorely lacking and it should have been mentioned, otherwise, readers can only conclude that the blockade is in place as a form of “collective punishment”.

For more information about why the blockade is a) UN-approved and b) why it’s necessary, please click here to read our Huffington Post commentary on the topic.

While we recognize that this report was not produced by a Star reporter, but nevertheless, Star editors who packaged this piece should have recognized these significant omissions and amended the report in the interests of fairness and balance.

We posed this query to the Star’s Public Editor, Ms. Kathy English, whose August 21 reply to HRC Executive Director Mike Fegelman stated the following:

Dear Mike:

I have now had opportunity to talk with the Star editors involved and the Global Post writer and editors.

I am in agreement with their strong view that no remedy is called for here. As always, however, you are welcome to write a letter to the editor for publication consideration to make the points you have made here.

We do not think this information is directly relevant to the story. And even if the writer had chosen to include more information about the naval blockade, she would not have expressed the same perspective as you have put forward here but rather would have made clear that the blockade is controversial and in fact some international organizations have labelled it “collective punishment.”

Best Regards,

Kathy English
Public Editor
Toronto Star 

Here is our reply to Ms. English sent that same day:

Dear Kathy:

Thank you for your reply. The Star’s statement of principles states the following under the “accuracy and truth” heading: “Good faith with the reader is the foundation of ethical and excellent journalism. That good faith rests primarily on the reader’s confidence that what we print is true. Every effort must be made to ensure that everything published in the Star is accurate, presented in context, and that all sides are presented fairly. Journalistic integrity demands that significant errors of fact, as well as errors of omission, should be corrected promptly and as prominently and transparently as warranted.”

In this report, Israel is accused of the following in chronological order:

1) Holding onto a Palestinian’s surfboard for five years. No reason or context was given to explain why Israel allegedly impounded the board, nor were any Israeli sources quoted in this piece.

2) The article claims Israeli bombs damaged Gaza’s wastewater system turning the coastline into an “inhospitable” place. No context was provided to explain why Israel waged a war against the Hamas terror group because it fired thousands of rockets at Israel and Israel was responsible for protecting its populace. Israel didn’t just carry out these attacks without provocation.

3) Israel is implied to be solely responsible for the environmental disaster of 90 million litres of raw/partially treated sewage gushing into the Mediterranean. Nowhere is it mentioned that Hamas has done a terrible job maintaining the Gaza sewage system, and for example, Reuters reports that: “Gaza’s 1.8 million residents, due to pollution stemming from the fuel shortages that have halted work at sewage treatment facilities… Baha al-Agha of the Gaza Environment Quality Authority said about 100,000 cubic metres of untreated waste water are being pumped into the sea daily.”

4) Israel is accused of killing innocent Palestinian fisherman. No context explains how the area is under a United Nations approved legal maritime blockade to ensure that weapons/rockets don’t fall into terrorists hands and to prevent Hamas naval commandoes (so-called frogmen) to enter Israel proper to carry out attacks. In fact, the word “blockade” isn’t even mentioned in this article. Readers can only conclude that this is Israeli caprice to “collectively punish” Gazans.

I maintain our concerns that Israel’s perspective and legitimate concerns were completely ignored and were therefore not presented fairly by the Star, a violation of the Star’s journalistic standards. You, along with editors at the Star and Global Post, do not believe that the context I have mentioned is “directly relevant to the story” and as such, you believe “no remedy is called for here”.

Forgive me, but I simply cannot understand how you came to this conclusion. I believe very strongly that these serious omissions and lack of context mislead Star readers.

I again respectfully ask you to reconsider our complaint.

Yours truly,

Mike Fegelman
Executive Director
HonestReporting Canada 

Ms. English’s final reply that day stated only: “While the second paragraph could have used a bit more explanation to help readers understand that a controversial naval blockade is, in fact, in place, I don’t think this warrants a correction or clarification.”

Take Action Now:

If you feel that the Toronto Star was unfair to Israel for its failure to acknowledge Israel’s legitimate security concerns, please send an email to Ms. Kathy English to add your voice to our complaint. Send emails to kenglish@thestar.ca and refer to the August 15 article by GlobalPost reporter Laura Dean entitled “Surfing the waves instead of the web”.

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