THE BLOG
04/20/2012 04:53 EDT | Updated 06/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Don't Newspapers Care About Facts Anymore?

On March 30, the Toronto Star published a letter replete with errors and false statements submitted by members of the fringe anti-Israel group, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). While IJV members are entitled to their own opinions, they are not allowed to invent their own facts.

The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read features in a daily newspaper. It provides a unique forum for the views of the average reader and gives the general public an active platform to express their personal opinions on matters of interest.

With proper editorial practices put in place, these discussion boards provide an opportunity to explore and cultivate an important marketplace of ideas. However, when rudimentary fact-checks and balances are not observed, the letters page can become a conduit for the misinformation of ideas.

Case in point, on March 30, the Toronto Star published a letter replete with errors and false statements submitted by members of the fringe anti-Israel group, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). The letter was entitled "Iran obsession a dangerous charade."

While IJV members are entitled to their own opinions, they are not allowed to invent their own facts. Contrary to their claims that the Canadian Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism dictated that "criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism," in actuality, the Coalition pointedly stated that "... criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic." The Ottawa Protocol clearly states that "Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium -- let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction -- is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest."

In their letter, IJV seemed less concerned with Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and calls for Israel's annihilation as it "rolls out the drums of war." Instead, IJV appeared more disturbed that AIPAC, a lobby group that advances the legitimate interests of Israel and the Jewish people, are "frighteningingly powerful" as even President Obama is alleged to be towing "the usual pro-Israel party line." Were the good doctors ascribing conspiratorial overtones in their own obsessive and "dangerous charade?"

Israel has valid existential concerns that Iran may carry out a second Holocaust if it were to use weapons of mass destruction against the Jewish State's close to 8 million people, with over 20 per cent of the population being Arab citizens. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statements in no way "cheapens" the tragedy of the Holocaust, he simply reinforced the message that the world should stand up and declare: "Never Again."

As to the current impasse brought on by the Palestinian leadership, Netanyahu has consistently said that he is "... willing to immediately start direct negotiations with him (PA leader Mahmoud Abbas) without preconditions. I am willing to invite him to my house in Jerusalem and I am willing to go to Ramallah."

IJV also incorrectly claimed in their letter that: "...each and every American President in the past 20 years has declared that the continuing expansion of the settlement population is the single greatest impediment to peace..." There is no basis for this assertion which was presented as a statement of fact. While American presidents have in the past said that Israeli settlements are obstacles to peace, there has never been a declaration claiming they are the "single greatest impediment to peace."

If Canada is, as IJV argues, the most pro-Israel western nation in the world, then we should be very proud that our political leadership commendably recognizes the shared interests and values between both countries, along with the genuine concerns, aspirations, and security threats that Israel faces every day.

On the same day that IJV's letter was published, HonestReporting Canada submitted a counter letter to the editor to Toronto Star editors to rebut IJV's false claims. However, our letter was declined and the Star's Bureau of Accuracy informed us they would not follow-up on our request to set the record straight.

That the Toronto Star elected to publish a letter full of erroneous statements, as well as to not review this matter is revelatory of an unfortunate lack of commitment to accuracy and fairness to set the record straight about false statements made against the State of Israel by IJV.