Toronto Star Columnist Gives Anti-Israel Activist a Soapbox (October 8, 2009)

By Mike Fegelman

October 8, 2009

Toronto Star Columnist Gives Anti-Israel Activist A Soapbox
By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director

October 8, 2009

Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber,

Anti-Israel activist Richard Falk (pictured) recently came to Canada on a speaking tour. Falk, the UN’s “special rapporteur” on the Palestinian territories, has been described by the National Post’s Jonathan Kay as an “ignorant ideologue” with “shrill opinions” having spent the past two decades building a virulently anti-Israel reputation. In a letter to the Jerusalem Post, UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer wrote the following about Falk:

“One with the moral compass to argue, as Falk did in 2002, that suicide bombings were the “only means still available by which to inflict sufficient harm on Israel so that the (Palestinian) struggle could go on.” One with the political judgment to write, in a 1979 New York Times op-ed, that Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution “may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.” One with the good sense to support – as Falk has done openly and repeatedly – conspiracy theories about the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In March 2008, he told a radio interviewer that there are “a lot of grounds for suspicion” that the attacks were an inside job. In June, he called for an investigation into whether “some sort of controlled explosion from within’ destroyed the Twin Towers. Finally, Falk praised “the patience, the fortitude, the courage, and the intelligence” of conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin, to whose 2006 book, 9/11 and the American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, Falk contributed a chapter.”

While most Canadian media outlets ignored Falk’s visit, not surprisingly, Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui gave him a soapbox to inject his anti-Israel venom. Siddqui’s Sept. 27 column presented Falk as a neutral, objective, and credible source, whereas he should have responsibly provided Star readers with at least some peripheral understanding of Falk’s background as a discredited extremist at the UN. Siddiqui went even as far as describing Falk as a “high-profile Jewish public intellectual” and a “prolific author.” This from a man who has described Israel as having “genocidal tendencies.” But instead, Siddiqui repeated past allegations of Falk’s claiming that Israel was committing “collective punishment” and “crimes against humanity”, while quoting Falk as saying that Israel’s supporters “keep shooting the messenger.” Falk also perpetuated the lie that Israel, not Hamas broke the November 4 ceasefire, while endorsing boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns against Israel.

In sharp contrast, a CBC TV interview on September 24 between anchor Harry Forestell and Falk on CBC Newsworld saw host Forrestel confronting Falk’s baseless rhetoric. Forestell commendably contextualized Israel’s security concerns and asked Falk repeatedly challenging questions instead of just giving him a pulpit to mislead Canadians into believing that Israel alone was responsible for impeding efforts to a peaceful resolution with the Palestinians.

To view the entire interview click here or on the image below.

Here’s a short transcript of part of the six-plus minute interview:

Forestell:fundamentally what is it that is keeping these sides (Israelis/Palestinians) from sitting down and struggling to come to terms with the issues that they need to grapple with?

Falk: … Israel is not prepared to allow the Palestinians to have a viable sovereign state and they’re… expanding the settlements, expelling Palestinians from East Jerusalem that make it less and less likely that a two-state solution is anything more than diplomatic rhetoric.

Forestell: Surely the concern on Israel’s side though is understandable that at any point in the past ten or so years when Israel has yielded some ground, opened up the door to that opportunity, the result has been rocket attacks, it has been attacks against its citizens, bombings in the street. One can understand why the Israelis would be chary of doing that again?

Falk: One can understand that up to a point, but I’m afraid that the narrative, on the violence of the two sides has not really been very balanced. Israel I think has never been genuinely committed to negotiations that would produce a real peace solution based on a Palestinian sovereign state, otherwise they wouldn’t continue to expand their settlements, they wouldn’t have built the separation wall on Palestinian territory, they’ve done lots of things that are incompatible with finding a solution.

Forrestell: As has Hamas, I mean what has Hamas done in the last few years that has indicated any willingness on its part to work with Israel toward mitigating the terrible situation of the people who live in Gaza?

Falk: They’ve done several things. When they were elected in January of 2006 they established a unilateral one-year ceasefire and they maintained that even though Israel did a lot of provocative things such as assassinating several of their leaders. Then they had a temporary ceasefire in 2008 just before the Gaza war which reduced the rocket fire to zero and they’ve proposed extending that ceasefire for ten years. Israel refused to have any diplomatic connection with the Hamas leadership and so, I think…”

Forestell: Well it’s difficult to, I’m sorry to interrupt, but it has to be said that it’s difficult to negotiate with a party that refuses your very existence as a state.

While it’s unfortunate that the CBC even gave airtime to Falk given his past statements, efforts, and troubling history, notwithstanding, anchor Harry Forestell exercised the highest standards of professional journalism by asking informed, challenging questions, instead of just giving airtime for activists to spread misinformation and lies. Haroon Siddiqui could learn a thing or two from Harry Forestell.

TAKE ACTION NOW: Please send your considered comments to the Toronto Star pointing out Haroon Siddiqui’s disingenuous attempt to present a virulent anti-Israel activist as a credible and objective source. Please refer to Siddqui’s Sept. 27 column entitled: “Israel keeps shooting the messenger” and send sophisticated, articulate, and non-accusatory letters to: Please send your letters in your own words and limit them to under 200 words.


Bias by omission is one of the most frequent and insidious forms of media bias. By choosing to report certain information over others, the media controls access to information and manipulates public sentiment. This type of bias can occur either within a story, or over a prolonged period of time as a particular news outlet reports one perspective and leaves out another. When it comes to media coverage of Israel, bias by omission often occurs when media outlets neglect to mention the causal factors which lead to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

A Patrice Gaudreault article (read here in French or English), which appeared in the August 31 edition of the French newspaper Le Droit, attempted to document the observations of BQ MP Richard Nadeau after his trip to the Gaza Strip a few short weeks ago. However, the article was marred by many serious omissions which rendered it incomplete thereby misleading Le Droit readers. Typical charges of “Israeli apartheid” and Gaza being the “world’s largest open-air prison” went unchallenged. Nadeau was given a soapbox to attack Israel without challenge and without having any historical context given to the conflict. For example, the article failed to contextualize the reason for both the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip and the crucial background information explaining the cause of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead this past January. The resulting effect of these omissions saw the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict presented as if it had occurred in a vacuum, leaving Le Droit readers with the impression that the State of Israel is an unrepentant aggressor seeking the destruction of its Gazan neighbours.

After HonestReporting Canada brought our concerns to the attention of senior editors at Le Droit, they agreed to print an op-ed submitted by HRC staff pointing out some of the many deficiencies of this report. To read the op-ed as it was printed in the Sept. 26 edition of Le Droit, please click here to read the French version or click here to read the English translation.


Are you fed up with calls to boycott Israeli goods and services like the attempt to stop Mountain Equipment Co-op from using Israeli suppliers, or the campaign against showcasing Tel Aviv at the Toronto International Film Festival? Want to do something about it? Now you can. Sign up for BUYCOTT ALERTS today.

Buycott Israel is a joint project under the coordination of the Canada-Israel Committee, which aims to support Israel by encouraging the purchase of products and services from Israel. Purchasing Israeli-made merchandise is a great way to send a positive message. Buycott Israel will also help you to combat boycott and/or divestment campaigns against Israel by alerting you and giving you the necessary tools to fight back against BDS campaigns.

HonestReporting Canada encourages you to visit the Buycott Israel website today and sign up to join this important campaign.



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