Biased article based on unfounded sources lacks context

"In the first part of your article you reproduce statements from almost exclusively Israeli sources without attempting to analyze or contextualize and make the connections with the second part, in which you list applicable excerpts from the Geneva Convention. You leave it to the reader to make these connections."

January 30, 2024


Allan Woods, Staff Reporter, Toronto Star

Donovan Vincent, Public Editor, Toronto Star

Dear Mr Woods and Mr Vincent, 

I am writing on behalf of the Saskatoon Chapter of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East ( to express my concern with your news article: " Was Israel's West Bank hospital raid a legitimate operation to thwart Hamas or a war crime?" published on January 30, 2024.

The question posed in your title leads to the expectation of some analysis, which I do not find. 

In the first part of your article you reproduce statements from almost exclusively Israeli sources without attempting to analyze or contextualize and make the connections with the second part, in which you list applicable excerpts from the Geneva Convention. You leave it to the reader to make these connections.

As so often in mainstream media reports, the reader is expected to accept Israeli army statements as unquestioned facts.

You write: The IDF statement said that Jalamneh had been planning a terrorist attack "in the immediate future and used the hospital as a hiding place and therefore was neutralized."

You fail to inform the reader, as the Associated Press does, that Israeli forces did not provide evidence for these allegations. [1] A photograph of a gun (a pistol, according to Ha’aretz) does not constitute evidence in this situation, as stated in article 19 of the 4th Geneva Convention (GC), which you include at the end of your article.

Israeli occupation forces are again quoted: "Jalamneh transferred weapons and ammunition to terrorists in order to promote shooting attacks, and planned a raid attack inspired by the Oct.7 massacre." 

Once more the reader is supposed to take this at face value (how does the Israeli military and Shin Bet know what ‘inspires’, one might ask ) when Israeli army statements have been found to be inaccurate time and time again.[2] Especially since the quote contains a reference to October 7th, to which the readership has now been thoroughly sensitized, you need to make it clear that the army is not necessarily a credible source.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz published the same quote, except that it says 'Hamas attack' instead of 'massacre' and most importantly specifies the planned raid was “on Israeli settlements.” [3] Yet, you leave this out. 

'Settlements' refers to the illegal Jewish-only communities in the Occupied West Bank where Israeli National Security Minister Ben-Gvir recently handed out some of the 10,000 assault rifles destined for settlement militias. [4]

Leaving this part of the quote out changes the picture completely and is potentially misleading. Instead of an attack, as the reader might have assumedon unarmed civilians legally present in Israel proper, we are talking about an attack on armed militias living illegally on land belonging to Palestinians. 

You write: Mohammad al Ghazawi, described as (you don't say by whom) “involved in attacks on IDF soldiers.”Here, you need to add essential context: that an occupied population has a right to defend itself against its occupiers by any means.

With these uncontested and incomplete quotes, the article might leave the reader with the impression the raid was justified, especially with the addition of Ben-Gvir’s quote calling it ‘heroic’.

You also write: "that Hamas attack on southern Israel killed some 1,200 people, resulted in 240 others being taken hostage in the Gaza Strip and instigated the now nearly four-month military war between Israel and Hamas. More than 26,000 Palestinians have since been killed during the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza. In an ongoing humanitarian crisis, 85 per cent of the territory's population has been displaced."  

Writing "some 1200 people" is disrespectful when  updated numbers are available: social security data confirm 695 Israeli civilians, 71 foreigners and 373 security forces were killed on October 7th. [5]

Also, simply writing 26,000 doesn’t take into account that 70 % of the casualties are women and children or that 65949 Palestinians are reported wounded, with little or no access to medical treatment.[6

On another note, I would like to bring your attention to the use of disguises as a violation of international humanitarian law that you failed to mention.

Disguising oneself can be considered as perfidy. 

Perfidy is a violation of international humanitarian law and is defined as:  the invitation to obtain and then breach the adversary's confidence, i.e., an abuse of good faith. [7]

Some military manuals translate this rule as follows: it is prohibited to commit a hostile act under the cover of a legal protection.The simulation of civilian status (by using a disguise) is perfidy because civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities must be respected and may not be the object of attack.

Dressing up as a doctor to kill an enemy clearly fits the definition. 

Yet, you report the operation was hailed by Ben-Gvir as a "heroic" raid conducted by the Israeli military and Shin Bet, the domestic security service.  

There is nothing "heroic" about invading a hospital in disguise and shooting people -one of them paralyzed-point blank while sleeping in their beds when they could have been arrested and prosecuted under the law instead of ‘neutralizing’ them extrajudicially. 

Killing wounded or sick fighters is also a violation of article 12 of the 4th Geneva Convention.

Other media provided Palestinian voices, such as hospital  director Naji Nazzal, who is quoted saying: " they executed them in cold blood as they slept." [8] This gives the reader a very different impression of what happened. 

In your reference to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor you manage to cut out the parts that are particularly incriminating. 

You write “Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, an advocacy group, said Tuesday that Israel had breached humanitarian law by storming the hospital, allowing armed agents to disguise themselves as medical personnel and civilians, conducting an extrajudicial killing of people who could have been arrested and prosecuted under the law, and assaulting and intimidating medical personnel at the hospital.” 

Euro-Med’s original statement reads as follows:

Euro-Med Monitor emphasised that the Israeli forces have committed a complex crime in which there are multiple violations of the rules of international humanitarian law. These crimes include storming a protected civilian hospital;committing a crime of treachery by dressing like doctors, nurses, and civilians; carrying out an extrajudicial executionagainst people who did not pose any danger to anyoneincluding a seriously injured person, at a time when the perpetrators could have been arrested for the aforementioned crimes; as well as torturing and harassing medical personnel. [9]

Summing up, while you give enough information to allow discerning readers to answer the question in your title, only readers who read the article to its end will be able to come to the conclusion that there were multiple violations of international humanitarian law. 

For those who do not reach the end, the doubt cast by your title, incomplete and uncontested quotes, the absence of direct quotes from a Palestinian perspective and the lack of important context might well lead to a different conclusion.

As a journalist not on the ground and only reporting second-hand, with numerous sources to choose from, it is your responsibility to eliminate bias, include varied sources and identify less than credible sources as such.

I am disappointed with your reporting on what was an unprecedented and utterly shocking attack. This must not be allowed to become normalized by unfair reporting.

I expect you will add the information in bold  to your article and hope for unbiased, honest journalism in future reporting on Palestine-Israel.


Renée Nunan-Rappard

CJPME Saskatoon Chapter

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan






[6] UN OCHA oPt Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel Flash update #107