Action Alert: CBC Drags a False Equivalence (August 22 2010)

August 22, 2010


 Action Alert: CBC Drags a False Equivalence
August 22, 2010

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By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director

Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber,


News of impending Mideast peace talks was received with the expected fanfare, pessimistic punditry, and boilerplate discussion. Despite the dim prospects for peace and the low expectations surrounding the September 2 summit, the announcement garnered worldwide media attention. Some good, some bad.

Perhaps the most egregious was a report we came across that was aired on CBC Radio’s “World Report” program on Friday August 20.

Correspondent Ben Knight filled a dispatch discussing how talks were set to resume between Israelis and Palestinians. In what should have been a straightforward report, Mr. Knight, who is ABC News’ Mideast Bureau Chief, essentially followed the white rabbit by conjuring up a false narrative implying that Israel wasn’t a willing participant to the talks as it was “dragged back to the table.”

Here’s how this CBC program introduced Mr. Knight’s report:

“There’s word that stalled Mideast peace talks may be getting a jump start. The United States is prepared to announce today that direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will resume shortly, but as Ben Knight reports from Jerusalem, neither side appears to be a willing participant.

Following the introduction by the CBC’s anchor, Mr. Knight reported the following:

“It’s fair to say there are not high hopes for this new round of peace talks. Both sides have been dragged back to the table by an unusually firm White House and each concession has taken weeks of agonizing and sometimes tense diplomacy. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been caught between enormous pressure from the White House and anger amongst Palestinians that he’s going into a new round of talks while Jewish settlers continue to build homes in the occupied West Bank. For his part, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being asked to make concessions on issues like settlements, water, and the future of Jerusalem that his right-wing coalition government is unlikely to accept.

To listen to the full report online please click here or on the image to the right.

Israel’s stance regarding its desire for direct peace talks has always remained consistent. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu, it has sought direct face-to-face negotiations without any preconditions to the talks. The Palestinian position has also remained consistent. Under the tutelage of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, despite US pressure, has refused to participate in direct peace talks unless scores of preconditions were met.

As public records and conflicting media reports show, after two plus decades of direct talks with Israel, the Abbas government has disengaged from the peace process with Israel, instead preferring isolation, obfuscation, and pariah-status procrastination.

As further evidence of Israel’s continued calls for direct talks with the Palestinians, a May 30 CBC National interview between CBC Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw the following exchange which is important to take note of:

Mansbridge: “Prime Minister, I want to talk a little bit about the peace process. The other day you said you want to move to direct talks with Palestinians as opposed to the indirect talks that are kind of refereed by the Americans. Does that indicate the indirect talks have been going well or that they’re not going well at all?”

Netanyahu: “They just began. But my point is why do we need indirect talks anyway? I mean Palestinians live right next to us. The office of the Palestinian leader, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the head of the Palestinian Authority, is 10 minutes from my office. Do you think we need the Americans shuffling back and forth just to pass messages between us? I think we should get into a room or a tent, you know, a peace tent, and just start talking and –

Mansbridge: “Who’s we? You and Abbas, just the two of you?”

Netanyahu: “Yeah, sure, sure, sure. Now I mean I think the help of the United States is always appreciated. It’s always been there from the peace treaty with Egypt, Camp David and elsewhere. But in Camp David, Begin and Sadat sat opposite each other. I myself conducted peace talks at Wye plantation and we stood next to the Palestinian leadership directly with each other. And I think that that’s what we need. I’ve called for direct talks with the Palestinians from day one and they sort of back off, relying maybe on the United States supplying all sorts of theoretical pressures on Israel instead of actually getting in there locking horns – (overlap)

Mansbridge: “But they set a condition on direct [talks] and that’s the settlement issue.”

Netanyahu: “Well, they never said that condition for the 16 years that we’ve had peace talks with the Palestinians. They all of a sudden decide in the last year when there’s been a reduction in settlement activity – and I in fact put a temporary freeze on new construction – and they, instead of embracing these gestures, they actually put on more and more and more conditions, which are making it very hard to move towards peace. So you ask me what I’d like. I’d like a direct engagement, direct talks. Sit in the room with them, raise our concerns and basically move towards my concept of peace, which is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state of Israel. We recognize the Palestinian state as the nation state for the Palestinians; they recognize Israel as the nation state for the Jewish people. After all, we’ve been around here some time, only about 4,000 years. They live there too and we have to find a way to live together. We have to talk to each other.

To watch this interview online please click here. To read the full transcript click here.

Of course, before and after this CBC National interview, Netanyahu relayed his and his government’s genuine desire to engage in direct peace talks without preconditions with the Palestinians. In a June 14, 2009 address at Bar-Ilan University, Netanyahu stated the following:

“I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbours, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let’s begin negotiations immediately without preconditions.

Likewise, a July 7 speech that Netanyahu gave to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, saw the Israeli P.M. state the following:

I want to enter direct talks with the Palestinian leadership now. I call on President Mahmoud Abbas to meet me in the coming days to begin peace talks so that we can have and fashion a final peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.”

So why, we must ask, has this CBC report so negatively and subjectively implied that Israel does not appear “to be a willing participant” in the upcoming peace talks? Why draw or better yet, “drag” a false equivalence between Palestinian foot-dragging with Israel’s publicly pronounced statements that it’s eager to enter into direct peace talks unconditionally?

How You Can Make A Difference:

This CBC report was thoroughly deficient as it erroneously implied that the Israeli government wasn’t desirous to enter into direct talks with the Palestinians.  Ben Knight’s August 20 report incorrectly presented Israel as being an obstacle to the peace talks and a reticent party to the peace process.

In respectful terms, please call on the CBC to remedy the false impression that this report cast on Israel. To send your considered comments to the CBC please click here.

                             View this Article Online and Discuss on Headlines and Deadlines



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