Canada’s public broadcaster remains silent about Palestine

Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, came under criticism in the summer of 2020 when it received thousands of complaints about its apology for using the word “Palestine,” and then its erasure of the word from an archive of the recording.

This blatant action has left the CBC under even more public scrutiny about its coverage of Palestine. 

This has included much indignation last month regarding the CBC making a statement to back away from Israel’s responsibility under international law related to Covid-19 vaccines. 

The CBC’s pro-Israel bias is well known, and of course is not alone in this regard, but given it is paid for by taxpayers the accountability certainly should be higher.

The CBC and the ICC

On February 5, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor announced her decision in regard to jurisdiction as it relates to Palestine. 

The Canadian government did not lose any time saying it did not support the ICC ruling.  On February 7, Global Affairs Minister Garneau said Canada’s

longstanding position remains that it does not recognize a Palestinian state and therefore does not recognize its accession to international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Canada has communicated this position to the Court on various occasions.

As Marion Kawas wrote recently in Mondoweiss Canada’s hypocrisy serves to shield Israeli war crimes.

On February 12, several days after the announcement of the new ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, it was announced via twitter that Canadian UN ambassador Bob Rae was elected as a vice-president of the ICC.  

None of this merited coverage by the CBC.

Not seeing coverage of the jurisdiction ruling nor Rae’s appointment by Canada’s public broadcaster or in other mainstream Canadian media for that matter, Just Peace Advocates wrote to the CBC executive saying

Perhaps we are missing something, but we have not seen any evidence that CBC in news, documentary or other programming had made any mention.

On February 18, Paul Hambleton Director of Journalistic Standards at CBC News responded to confirm indeed there had been no CBC coverage, and thanking us 

for drawing our attention to this development at the ICC. As you can likely imagine, there are countless developments in many important stories happening in countries across the globe daily, and we can’t possibly report on all of them. Many of those, I might argue, are under-reported compared to our quite consistent coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

At CBC News, we have to make editorial decisions through the day, every day on which events to focus on; which events to give priority to; which ones to dedicate our finite journalistic resources to; and which developments to keep an eye on.

In addition, in a correspondence received from Hambleton on February 19, Just Peace Advocates was told

My understanding of the ruling is that it is a step along a very long road, and that no ICC probe is pending anytime in the near future. 

I had thought the CBC was in place to report news, not to speculate about a future that seems to align with Canada’s view of the ICC. 

Still waiting on “Palestine” response

In September 2020, I wrote in Mondoweiss that Hambleton had sent a detailed response to the over 2,000+ people who had written to the broadcaster to condemn its deletion of the word “Palestine” and its subsequent apology for uttering the word.  In the response Hambleton continued to insist “Palestine” is not within the CBC language standards. Not satisfied with the response by the CBC program staff, multiple requests were made to the CBC Ombud’s office for an inquiry. 

The CBC Ombudsman reports in August and September referenced the concerns, saying the CBC’s 

intent is to avoid taking sides when it comes to the political future of the West Bank and Gaza. Complainants felt that avoiding the word “Palestine” was in itself a way of taking sides.

Receiving Hambleton’s response last week, I checked in with Jack Nagler, the CBC Ombudsman who on February 19 indicated 

The delay in the review you are waiting for has indeed taken longer than normal, though the reasons have nothing to do with the subject at hand… My hope is that it will be within the next couple of weeks. 

Certainly there will be many watching for Nagler’s report.

Correction’ counters human rights

In addition, the CBC has not responded to over 700 letters sent over the last month in regard to the CBC’s Radio’s The World This Weekend (TWTW) ‘correction’ to a January 12, 2021 interview with Amnesty International’s Saleh Higazi about Israel’s obligation under international law to ensure Palestinians are vaccinated against COVID-19. 

On the January 17 broadcast, the TWTW’s Idil Mussa referenced the earlier interview with Higazi stating:

We should have included Israel’s perspective… Israel’s position is that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for vaccine distribution in the territories, since it negotiated control over administering health care, as part of the Oslo Accord signed with Israel in 1993.

Silence prevails

Earlier this month, in The Passage Davide Mastracci wrote about the Canadian corporate media’s silence in regard to ignoring alleged illegal Israeli army recruitment in Canada saying:

we have a story Canadians would be interested in and on a topic the press has cared about in the past, being told by a trustworthy group of people, with evidence to back it up, that law enforcement is taking seriously enough to investigate. And yet, nothing from mainstream English-language press in Canada.

The CBC had shown interest in this topic with a feature story about “lone soldiers” in 2019, but declined to consider an exclusive related to a legal complaint about illegal Israeli military recruiting in October 2020, even though Le Devoir, a Montreal paper, did run with the story on its front page, with follow up story the following day. Perhaps CBC was shy given that the 2019 story which was supportive of Canadians joining the Israeli military still received complaints from pro-Israel advocates.

In the end it appears the CBC is not willing to take up the story when it contradicts Canadian foreign policy.

Perhaps the ultimate example of this was in regard to Canada’s lost bid for the UNSC seat. At the time the Toronto Star’s Rick Salutin wrote 

There is one and only one reason, IMO, for the resounding defeat of Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat at the UN: Palestine

The only mention by the CBC was in September 2020 with UN Ambassador Rae, speaking to CBC’s Piya Chattopadhyay about the UN’s 75th anniversary and the institution’s continued relevance in the world. Rae maintained that the UNSC defeat had nothing to do with Canada’s foreign policy.


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