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Media Critique #25 - Toronto Star's Biased Contenta

Media Critique #25 - Toronto Star's Biased Contenta

One of Canada's leading newspapers consistently publishes a one-sided view of the Middle East, to the point of glorifying suicide bombers.


Readers of the Toronto Star have been complaining about the constant anti-Israel bias shown by correspondent Sandro Contenta. His articles are replete with tales of Palestinian suffering, but rarely does Contenta explain that in many cases the suffering is brought on by the Palestinian themselves. On several occasions, Contenta has even tried to present a sympathetic view of Palestinian suicide bombers. Israeli casualties and suffering is rarely mentioned in Contenta's articles.

The Star has a cumbersome website, so it is difficult to provide each article's URL. Instead, we recommend you go to, click on "World" in the upper left-hand corner, and then click on Sandro Contenta's name to view all of his articles.

Here are a few recent examples of Contenta's mission to present tales of Palestinian suffering:

- "In God's Name" (May 20) -- a report on Palestinian Imad Zbaidi who blew himself up in the Israeli town of Kfar Sava, killing Israeli doctor Mario Goldin. In a sort of tribute to terrorism, Contenta presents extensive biographical details of the suicide bomber, and then offers info on the murdered Goldin. That Contenta "evenhandedly" presents a sympathetic picture of a fanatic terrorist along with an innocent civilian is obscene.

- "Portrait of a Suicide Bomber" (March 30) -- another variation of the same theme. Contenta describes the life and death of Dia Tawil who blew himself up, wounding 30 Israelis. Contenta offers statements by Tawil's family defending the terrorist act, and omits entirely the story of Tawil's innocent victims.

- "Wounds that Will Not Heal" (April 1) -- a 2,300-word tome devoted to "Young Palestinian fighters who survive being shot [who] still risk broken bodies and shattered lives." Contenta skirts the fact that the wounded Palestinians chose to violently confront Israeli soldiers. In a sham attempt at "evenhandedness," Contenta tosses in 70 words about three small Israeli children who lost their legs when Palestinians bombed a Jewish school bus.

- "Roots of Conflict: Israeli campaign against Palestinians' trees sows seeds of discord" (June 10) -- Contenta devotes 2,000 words to the IDF clearing of Arab olive groves which gave cover to Palestinian gunmen. Contenta warns of the economic, ecological and environmental dangers caused by the Israeli action. He dismisses in 15 words, however, the fact that Palestinians "have been accused of deliberately setting fires to small Israeli forests."

- "Baby hit by Israeli fire dies in her mother's arms" (May 8) -- details the tragic death of Palestinian Iman Hijo. Contenta also mentions the death of 10-month-old Israeli Shalhevet Pass, but fails to note the obvious distinctions. The death of one baby was accidental, in the context of Israeli troops returning fire after Palestinians shot mortars. Israel's leaders expressed sorrow over Iman's death. Shalhevet's death came at the hands of a cold-hearted sniper. No remorse was ever heard from the Palestinians -- only a cruel claim that the baby's own mother murdered her. At the time of Shalhevet's deaths, Contenta gave the story 35 words, buried in the tenth paragraph of his story, "Arafat's home damaged in attack."

As one of Canada's leading newspapers, it is difficult to understand how the Star justifies publishing such a consistently one-sided view of a complex world issue.

If you believe that Contenta's reporting is biased, send complaints to:

June 23, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, June 1, 2015 3:08 PM

The Star has always had an anti-Israel bias

The left wing Toronto Star is notorious for always having had an anti Israel bias. Every Jew and supporter of Israel along with every supporter of capitalism and private enterprise should never buy the Toronto Star!

(2) Simon Pellman, May 6, 2002 12:00 AM

Sandro Contenta's bias is subtle

Living in Toronto for over 40 years I have read the Star for many of those and I thought that the Star was a good paper. Not yellow or biased. Wrong. The problem is the language used and tactics. Facts are left out,distorted or lies are presented as facts. Example.Everyone knows about Deir Yasin but few know about Hadassah Convoy Massacre that occurred during the same period. MORE. Why doesn't anyone remember Damour where hundreds of Christians were mutilated,raped and killed in order to create Fatahland in 1976. ???? It's all there on the Internet. Tell the world.

(1) Robert Cherry, June 24, 2001 12:00 AM

Give me a break

When are you folks going to stop complaining about biased reporting? First it was the BBC and the Times of London, now it is the Toronto Star. Is it possible that a journalist other than an American who is sympathetic to Israel can write about the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

Do you not understand that military occupation is brutal and a violation international law? Who ever even heard of the palestinians before the 1967 War? If I had grown up in a refugee camp with stories of how my parents or grandparents had been forced to run from the Israelis in 1948, I too would use violence to try to end Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza. Actions have consequences. The Israelis captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 War. They have have been paying a terrible price since then.

BTW, I am a Canadian Jew. I know that my view of the situation is very different from that of most of my fellow Canadian Jews. Most of them apparently think the way you do. responds:

Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts.

Let us get clarity here who is the victim and who is the aggressor.

The Arabs launched a war of annihilation against the State of Israel in 1967
(besides the ones in 1948 and 1973), and Israel's holding of the territories
is purely a defensive position. As proof, in July 2000 the government of
Israel announced its willingness to relinquish all of the territories, in
exchange for a cessation of the conflict.

As for the Palestinians who remain in squalid camps, they all live under
rule of the Palestinian Authority (as do 97 percent of Palestinians in the
territories). Why hasn't the PA done anything to improve their conditions?
Who pocketed all the international funds given to resettle these people?

In the March 1976 issue of "Falastin a-Thaura," then the official PLO
journal, PLO spokesman Mahmud Abbas wrote: "The Arab armies entered
Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny but, instead,
they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their
homeland, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the
Jews used to live."

We must distinguish between the corrupt Palestinian leadership which are manipulating their people and abusing their positions, and the general Palestinian people who are bludgeoned and brainwashed into their unfortunate situation. The masses of Palestianian people are really tragic victims of their leaders. The refugee camps were set up by Jordanians and Egyptians who kept the Palestinians in deplorable conditions while blaming Israel for their plight. It was intended to breed unrest and rage... and succeeded. Today the camps are kept in their terrible state for their political impact. One Palestinian web site declares:

"the Palestinian refugee camps have been a constant reminder of the great injustice done to the Palestinian people and will remain so until a just political solution to their problem is reached."

To provide care for these people eliminates the "constant reminder", hence they must stay as they are. One journalist told me of the "show camp" just outside Jerusalem where visitors are brought to see the horrible conditions. However, visitors are not told that the municipality of Jerusalem has repeatedly offered to run sewage piping and to provide garbage collection to this area. Yet these offers have been consistently rebuffed - it just would not do for the Israelis to be too helpful.

You write of how if you were living in one of these camps you too might feel compelled to violence. Alas, to react in that way is exactly what the Palestinian Authority would hope you would do. Never the less, it is a foundation of the civilized world that speech is better than bullets. Jewish tradition teaches that if two people are having a dispute, and are genuinely interested in reaching the truth, they can reason together and arrive at a common understanding and agreement. All the respected resistance movements have been non-violent -- Gandhi, Martin Luther King, etc.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,

Rabbi Shraga Simmons

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