2023-03-15 - Toronto Star corrects article to credit content taken from Associated Press, cite proper number of illegal Israeli settlers
On March 14, 2023, the Toronto Star published an article by journalist Rob Ferguson about Ontario NDP candidate Sarah Jama, his second on the subject. The article described the attacks against Jama due to her support for Palestinians human rights but failed to cite any Palestinian perspectives on the issue. Further, a CJPME media analyst noticed text plagiarized from an Associated Press article, copied and pasted directly without proper citation. The text also included misleading information about the number of illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), putting the number at only 500,000 instead of 700,000.
Following CJPME's letter to the Public Editor, the Toronto Star promptly responded acknowledging the editorial mistake. A note was added to the article to resolve the issue, reading “With files from AP.” The text was also amended by removing misleading figures regarding Israeli settlers in Palestine. It now reads “Israel considers the West Bank to be disputed territory and has built dozens of settlements that are now home to roughly 700,000 Jewish settlers, including Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.”
On March 12, the Toronto Star published an article by journalist Rob Ferguson about Ontario NDP candidate Sarah Jama, which had falsely conflated Jama’s support for Palestinian human rights with antisemitism. Unfortunately, the article had uncritically repeated a smear campaign by pro-Israel advocacy group B’nai Brith. In part, the article claimed that Jama had previously been affiliated with a group which “has called for a Palestinian state ‘from the (Jordan) river to the sea’ — often interpreted as erasing the state of Israel.” Based on this one-sided interpretation, it was assumed therefore that the chant was antisemitic.
In describing a common Palestinian chant, the Star, therefore, had provided only a hostile interpretation which painted it in a negative light, without asking Palestinians themselves what it meant. CJPME promptly wrote to the Star about this gross misinterpretation, which we noted is a simple and legitimate call for freedom for all Palestinians under Israeli rule. CJPME insisted that the Star update its article to “include a Palestinian perspective regarding the meaning of this legitimate chant, instead of relying on interpretations sourced entirely by perspectives which are hostile to Palestinian narratives and activism.”
Late on March 13, the article was updated to describe the chant more accurately as “a contested refrain interpreted by some as a rallying cry for Palestinian freedom, but by others as a call to erase the state of Israel.” An Editor’s Note was appended to the bottom of the article to read: “This story has been updated to provide more context regarding the phrase ‘from the (Jordan) river to the sea.’” However, the article did not incorporate additional Palestinian perspectives or change the misleading headline, as had been requested.
2023-03-10 - Associated Press corrects errors in coverage of Israeli violence in West Bank, number of illegal settlers
CJPME wrote to the Associated Press on March 7 and March 9, 2023, regarding issues with their coverage of Israeli violence in the West Bank. Regarding three of these issues, AP stories were either updated to include accurate information and language, or the feedback was incorporated in later reporting.
1) CJPME took issue with the way that AP described Palestinians killed, which used the qualifier: “around half of them were militants.” CJPME noted that this was inaccurate and misleading, and that such language implied that their deaths were inherently justified. In subsequent AP articles, this language was first changed to "around half of them affiliated with militant groups," and later to simply and more accurately say that they were “killed by Israeli fire during military arrest raids and other confrontations so far this year.”
2) The AP had originally described the settler violence in Huwara without mentioning that a Palestinian had been shot and killed, even though they did mention that two Israelis had been killed earlier in the day. After a CJPME complaint, the article was updated to include this information.
3) The AP’s article on March 6 provided an inaccurate number of illegal Israeli settlers, claiming that since 1967, “500,000 Jewish settlers have moved into dozens of settlements.” After complaints from CJPME, subsequent articles have corrected this problem to say that there are “more than 700,000 Jewish settlers.”
On March 3, 2023, the National Post published an opinion piece by Avi Benlolo tited, “The West keeps subsidizing the Palestinian Authority's death culture.” CJPME identified several issues in the article which crossed the line and amounted to falsehoods and racist tropes, rather than legitimate differences of political opinion.
On March 9, 2023, the article was amended to correct a quote from a video posted to a Facebook page affiliated with the Fatah movement, which had been directly and falsely attributed to Mahmoud Abbas.
Unfortunately, other issues remain uncorrected, including the fraudulent use of the term “terrorism” in a way which includes all acts of resistance by Palestinians (and not only acts of violence against civilians), and the use of a dehumanizing and generalizing trope that Palestinians possess a “death culture.”
On March 8, 2023, Saltwire published a letter to the editor by CJPME’s Policy Analyst Reem Majid rebutting claims in an op-ed by Gwyn Dyer that a “cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians “stretches back” to 1967.
Here is an excerpt of the letter:
It is factually incorrect to claim that Israeli violence against Palestinians stretches back to 1967 when the creation of the Israeli state in 1948 necessitated Palestinian dispossession and death. The Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, describes the mass forced displacement and exodus of over 750,000 Palestinians from their lands and the destruction of over 530 Palestinian villages before, during and after the creation of the state of Israel in 1947-49. This violence also took the form of massacres carried out by Jewish paramilitary groups to facilitate Israel’s project of ethnic cleansing which led to an ongoing problem of stateless Palestinian refugees. Much of the violence that continues today has its roots in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights since 1948.
On March 8, 2023, the National Post published a letter to the editor by CJPME’s VP Michael Bueckert rebutting claims in an op-ed by Avi Benlolo that Palestinians possess a "death culture" due to the inculcation of "generations of Palestinian children to be venerated as 'martyrs' for mass murders." This followed a complaint from CJPME about the many falsehoods and errors in the op-ed.
The edited letter as published is as follows:
Avi Benlolo conflates all acts of Palestinian resistance under the rubric of “terror attacks,” whether they involve acts of violence against civilians or throwing rocks at Israeli military jeeps. What is more alarming however is his claim that the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA are “inculcating generations of Palestinian children to be venerated as ‘martyrs’ for mass murders,” and his implication that a “death culture” is pervasive in Palestinian society. This dehumanizing generalization of Palestinians as a group and labelling them with a “death culture” slander is more than inflammatory and a clear example of anti-Palestinian racism.
On March 6, 2023, the CBC published an analysis by Asia Correspondent Saša Petricic about a pogrom by Israeli settlers against the Palestinian town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank, and the link between Israeli settlers and Israel’s far-right government.
CJPME notified CBC about a factual error, in which the article claimed that a Palestinian man was “killed by rioting Israeli settlers.” However, as CJPME wrote, investigations from journalists have not been able to determine whether 37-year-old Sameh Aqtesh was killed by settlers or if he was actually killed by Israeli soldiers, who were present at the scene. CJPME requested a correction to the article “to accurately reflect that Sameh Aqtesh was killed by Israeli fire, although it is uncertain whether the shot came from settlers or soldiers.” This is significant because Israel has been trying to minimize its role in the violence. Further, CJPME insisted that the article “should also make clear that Israeli forces were present in the area when he was killed, and that there are credible allegations that they were responsible for his death.”
The CBC partially corrected its error on March 7, 2023, noting that a Palestinian man was “killed amid rioting by Israeli settlers,” which is technically correct but less precise, and omits key details which point to the possibility that Israeli soldiers may have been directly responsible for the killing of Sameh Aqtesh. CJPME has asked for the article to be updated further to reflect this information.
On February 19, 2023, the Toronto Sun published an inadequate story about a workshop for teachers in the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF). The workshop was titled “Anti-Palestinian racism: Nakba denial,” and the story focused on complaints from a pro-Israel group who said that the workshop was unfavorable to Israel.
CJPME contacted the Toronto Sun requesting an update to the article, noting that it had failed to “provide a Palestinian perspective nor to explain what the Nakba represents, leaving the reader with a single perspective.” Neither had the article explained what anti-Palestinian racism was. CJPME also noted that the single perspective in the story was from an organization which was hostile to Palestinian narratives and had previously called the Nakba a “fraud.”
On February 28, 2023, the Toronto Sun published a follow-up article which addressed these issues. Titled “CJPME asks for inclusion of Palestinian perspective,” the article provided a definition of the Nakba, and included the definition of anti-Palestinian racism from the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA), as CJPME had requested.
2023-02-27 - Toronto Star corrects headline to reflect Israel’s promises on illegal West Bank outposts
On February 20, 2023, the Toronto Star and other outlets published an Associated Press story with an inaccurate and misleading headline, “Israel promises not to approve additional West Bank outposts.”
CJPME considered this a serious factual issue which misrepresented the content within the article itself, and pressed for a correction. As CJPME wrote to several outlets:
Unfortunately, the headline is factually inaccurate. Israel has not promised that it will not approve any more West Bank outposts. In fact, multiple Israeli ministers have vowed that last week’s settlement expansion and outpost authorization is just the beginning. Instead, as the story itself makes clear, Israel has made a significantly weaker promise to temporarily ‘hold off’ on such activities for the next few months. As the article mentions, this ‘pause’ does not apply to a coming announcement this week to authorize thousands of new settlement units. Further, as it was reported in the Israeli press, Israel only meets once every three months to authorize settlement expansion anyway, a fact which renders Israel’s ‘promise’ completely meaningless.
On February 27, 2023, the Toronto Star updated its headline to accurately state that “Israel promises to pause additional West Bank outposts.”
On February 27, 2023, the National Post and other outlets published a story by the Associated Press on a pogrom by Israeli settlers against the Palestinian town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank. However, while the deaths of three Israelis killed by Palestinians before and after the attack were prominently discussed at the top of the article, it did not mention that a Palestinian was also killed until halfway through the article.
CJPME responded to the Associated Press and National Post about this error, insisting that the Palestinian killed by Israeli fire should be mentioned in the first two paragraphs:
“There is an unjustified asymmetry in how Israeli and Palestinian casualties are reported. While the three Israelis who were killed in two incidents are mentioned in the headline and first paragraphs of the article, it is not until the 14th paragraph until you mention that a Palestinian was killed during the Israeli settler attack on Huwara (Hawara) and surrounding villages. The killing of Sameh al-Aqtash, who is unnamed in the article, is the immediate context for today’s retaliatory attack on an Israeli motorist, and this should have featured prominently in the story.”
Within a day, the Associated Press story was updated to properly reference the Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in the second paragraph.
On February 23, 2023, the Richmond News published a letter to the editor by CJPME’s President Thomas Woodley about the strong opposition in civil society to the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which conflates antisemitism with criticism and protest of Israel.
The following is an excerpt from the letter:
In fact, the main issue with the [IHRA] definition are the 11 “examples” provided with the definition, seven of which focus on the state of Israel rather than on Jews as a group.
The definition, with its examples, disserves Jews because it conflates real antisemitism with criticism of Israel.
And it disserves Palestinians and Palestinian-Canadians because it smears them as antisemites for sharing their stories of dispossession at the hands of Israel and Zionism.
It is for this reason that the BC Civil Liberties Association, Independent Jewish Voices and many other civil liberties groups are so concerned about the IHRA definition.
On February 20, 2023, Global News published a story by the Associated Press with the factually inaccurate headline, “UN Security Council backs draft resolution opposing Israel settlements.”
CJPME contacted Global News about a factual error in the headline, noting: “The UN Security Council did not approve a draft resolution, but ultimately approved a ‘watered-down statement’ instead, as discussed in the first sentence of the article. There is an important distinction here, as UNSC resolutions are binding on UN members while the statement which was approved is only symbolic.” CJPME noted that other outlets to publish the story had alternative, accurate headlines.
Global News acted promptly the following day to change the headline, which now correctly reads: “UN Security Council backs statement opposing Israel settlements.”
On February 6, 2023, the Richmond News published an article about an upcoming vote at Richmond City Hall on the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism, which conflates antisemitism with criticism of Israel.
However, CJPME felt that the article did not adequately express the broad opposition to IHRA in Canadian civil society, and requested that the article name some of the organizations which are critical of IHRA, including the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA). CJPME also requested that the article specify that the threat of IHRA was not hypothetical, and that there were documented cases of it being used to silence speech.
These issues were largely addressed in a subsequent article on the topic, published on February 10, 2023, which included the following discussion:
In response to a Richmond News article on council considering the definitions of anti-racism, a spokesperson of the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Reem Majid, said she felt the opposition to the IHRA definition was broader than just being opposed by one Jewish group, Independent Jewish Voices, mentioned in a previous News article.
This definition has, in fact, been opposed by other Jewish groups, some labour groups as well as the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).
The BCCLA warned Vancouver city council, when they were considering adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, that it was “extremely vague” and “open to misinterpretation” and would “serve to severely chill political expressions of criticism of Israel as well as support for Palestinian rights.”
Some universities and other organization have documented cases where they claim the IHRA definition caused free speech, namely, criticism of Israel, to be stifled.
2023-02-01 - Associated Press corrects article to accurately report statistics on Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in 2022
On January 25, 2023, the Toronto Star published a story by the Associated Press which presented inaccurate statistics related to Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in 2022. The original version of the story incorrectly stated that “Wednesday’s deaths brought to 20 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire this year. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year, making it the deadliest since 2004, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem” (emphasis added).
CJPME brought this error to the attention of the Toronto Star’s public editor and the Associated Press, requesting a correction. As we noted, the figures cited by B’Tselem refer only to Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and do not include Gaza. When Gaza is included in the figures, the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in 2022 is 182.
On February 1, 2023, the Associated Press made a correction to the story which appeared in the Toronto Star and other outlets and included the following editor’s note:
“This story was first published on January 25, 2023. It was updated on February 1, 2023 to make clear that Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in Israeli -Palestinian fighting last year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, making it the deadliest in those areas since 2004, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.”
On January 22, 2023, the National Post published a letter to the editor by CJPME’s VP Michael Bueckert about the Nakba, e.g. the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during the creation of Israel from 1947-49. This followed a complaint from CJPME about a recent op-ed on the creation of Israel which had omitted any mention of the Nakba.
The letter as published is as follows:
Allan Levine fails to mention that 1948 not only commemorates the creation of Israel, which is the focus of the “Israel at 75” series, but that for Palestinians it also marks 75 years since the Nakba: the forced expulsion of at least 700,000 Palestinians by Zionist military forces. This process of ethnic cleansing and its associated atrocities (including the Deir Yassin massacre) had begun in the months prior to Israel’s declaration of Independence in May 1948, and it was followed by the expropriation of refugees’ property and land, the destruction of over 500 villages, and the imposition of military rule over those Palestinians who remained.