Toronto Star Article On Hateful “Nakba Day” Rewrites History, Whitewashing Historical Record Of Arab Regimes Who Sought To Destroy Israel

April 19, 2024

An April 16 news article in The Toronto Star reporting on a controversial school board commemoration blatantly misrepresented the modern history of Israel.

In the article entitled: “Peel school board urged to remove Nakba Day from calendar of significant dates,” Education Reporter Isabel Teotonio covered growing backlash against the Peel District School Board, which in 2023 added an anti-Israel commemorative day among its calendar of significant days.

In Teotonio’s reporting on the controversy, she sought to provide historical background, and while a needed and worthy endeavour, her reporting made serious mistakes in its retelling of events.

Teotonio quoted one parent, Nora Ward, a member of the Coalition for Palestinian and Muslim Students and Families, who called “Nakba Day” an important reminder to commemorate “the forced removal of Palestinian people off their lands.”

While Ward is clearly entitled to her opinion, as historically illiterate as it may be, Teotonio later sought to provide historical context, though it did little to provide clarity.

Teotonio wrote that following the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947, the vote “sparked fighting between Arab and Jewish militias,” and “After Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, the conflict escalated into a full-blown war.”

To be clear, fighting did not simply arise out of thin air, and writing that “the conflict escalated” only serves to muddy the waters.

Immediately following Israel declaring itself independent in 1948, the country’s Arab neighbours declared war and attempted to invade and destroy the newly reborn Jewish State, with senior Arab leaders promising to carry out “a war of extermination and (a) momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.”

Amidst the planned genocide against Israel, Arab leaders encouraged that their peers leave Israel for a variety of reasons, including fears that they would become allies of the Jewish State, and that they could be caught up in the Holocaust, confident they would soon return.

As noted historian Benny Morris has written, “Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages in certain areas, lest their inhabitants ‘treacherously’ acquiesce in Israeli rule or hamper Arab military deployments.”

But those plans were foiled, Israel survived, and the scheming of Arab leaders created an estimated 700,000 refugees, whose descendants ­– now numbering in the millions – continue to live in deliberate squalor and suffering across the Middle East. Following the failure to wipe out Israel, “Nakba Day,” using the Arabic word for catastrophe, was born.

Rather than make clear for readers that the ongoing suffering of these millions of Arabs throughout the Middle East is a result of the refusal of any Arab country to admit them as citizens, Teotonio instead laid the blame at Israel, saying that the country “has refused to allow Palestinians to return to protect the Jewish majority.”

Following World War Two, the millions of refugees rendered homeless and stateless as a result of the war were overwhelmingly settled within a few years. But in the Middle East, nearly 80 years later, the ideological refusal to re-house Arabs whose ancestors left Israel has created endless suffering.

James Lindsay, the former general counsel to UNRWA, the disgraced United Nations agency tasked with providing aid to Palestinians, but which has widespread ties to Hamas, has accused the organization of refusing to assist the rehousing of Arabs due to a “political decision,” namely the extremist “Palestinian political thought espoused by those who are intent on a ‘return’ to the land that is now Israel.”

In her article, Teotonio did more than misrepresent history; she uncritically quoted Dania Majid, the president of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, as supporting the Nakba Day commemoration.

Unsaid by Teotonio, Majid has attempted to malign those who oppose Palestinian propaganda as racists, and more heinously, signed an open letter in late 2023 which could be reasonably seen as a de facto justification of Hamas’ bloodthirsty massacres in Israel. Incredibly, none of these details were provided to readers, and Majid was presented as a respectable and legitimate commentator. Rather than tell readers the truth, which is that Arab countries, not Israel, started the 1948 war, and who bear the responsibility of those who left Israel as a result of their attempted – but failed – genocide against the Jews, Isabel Teotonio’s article in The Toronto Star legitimized the historical revisionism used by anti-Israel fanatics to delegitimize the Jewish State.

HonestReporting Canada has filed a complaint with the Toronto Star to register our concerns about this article. Stay tuned to this page for any future updates.

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