Home Media Action Alerts2018 UPDATED: After Demonizing Israel, CBC The Current Airs Pro-Israel Interview

UPDATED: After Demonizing Israel, CBC The Current Airs Pro-Israel Interview

by Mike Fegelman

UPDATE: February 12 and 22, 2018:

Subsequent to HRC’s issuing a complaint and action alert condemning CBC The Current for demonizing Israel, this CBC Radio program broadcast an interview on February 12 with Asaf Romirowsky, the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) who commented on how Iran poses an existential threat to Israel and how it funds strategic and tactical terror threats Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza, all who fire Iranian-made and/or financed rockets at Israeli cities.

Listen to the interview by clicking here or immediately below. Read the transcript of the interview here.

The CBC’s broadcast of this segment is inline with our request for corrective action to be undertaken by this program. Specifically our request that The Current broadcast a new segment to provide a more comprehensive outlook on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinian terrorism and Israeli society.

In the interview, Romirowsky said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “projection of strength secures the support of young Israelis.” Romirowsky also commented on the state of politics in Israel, the paralysis of leadership in Palestinian society, and how the “one-state solution” is a non-starter. Meanwhile, Anchor Anna Maria Tremonti mentioned the recent Iranian infiltration of Israel through its launching of a stealth drone from Syrian territory. An aggressive violation of Israeli sovereignty which prompted a strong Israeli reprisal.

The Current’s broadcast of this segment is a step in the right direction for the CBC and is a tacit acknowledgement of the shortcomings of its original program on February 7.

Meanwhile, on February 15, HonestReporting Canada Executive Director Mike Fegelman received the following reply from CBC News responding to our complaint about The Current’s program which demonized Israel. It can be found immediately below with emphasis added. Importantly, while CBC denies that its program demonized Israel, it claims that its programmers came to the realization on their own that “there remained a need to provide another perspective, with more connection and alignment with the majority view within Israel.”

Here is the full CBC reply:

Dear Mr. Fegelman,

I’m writing to acknowledge your complaint about a segment that aired on The Current on February 7 titled “A generation born into conflict: young Israelis and Palestinians speak about the path to peace.”

As the senior director of programming responsible for network talk radio, including The Current, Jennifer McGuire shared your letter with me. And I am pleased to respond.

Let me start by explaining that the panel discussion on The Current was intended to be a conversation among four young people who have grown up under conflict their whole lives.  We wanted to hear their thoughts on the peace process and give descriptions of their daily lives and interactions with people of other ethnic and political backgrounds.  It was prompted in part by a desire to hear not from leaders or academics, but directly from real people living in the region who could provide a broader range of perspectives for our audience.

What it was not intended to be – nor do I accept that it was – is what you describe as a “demonization” of Israel.

We selected our guests, including two Jewish and two Palestinian youth, as a way to achieve both political, as well as gender and geographical, balance in the conversation.   As you know from having heard the program, we reached out to various groups, including Likud Youth, searching for a representative to take part in the segment.

You raised the concern that all of our guests were “extremely hostile to Israel.”  We believe that although we deliberately included the voice of a Jewish youth who was critical of the current leadership approach, the focus of the two Palestinian youth was also to be critical of their own leaders.

I will add that while you may feel there were some strong comments within our panel that went unchallenged, our host Ms. Tremonti brought no agenda to the table. She has no goal other than presenting a fair and balanced look at all of the issues she addresses on The Current. So it won’t surprise you to learn that she, and the producers  involved in this program, realized after doing this segment that there remained a need to provide another perspective, with more connection and alignment with the majority view within Israel. I’m sure you can appreciate that perfect balance within each segment or program is an ideal rather than a practicality and that our principle at CBC is to provide balance over time.

And so on Monday, February 12, we aired an interview with Asaf Romirowsky, an academic who has worked as a liaison for the Israeli government in the past, in which he underscored the level of current support for Israeli leadership.  I’d like to think that in the end, we served the audience very well, with these two provocative and insightful conversations.

In addition, we aired excerpts of some listener comments and feedback on Thursday, February 8 that reflected the range of responses we got — including those who wrote in support of “the Israeli cause … of being under siege from all sides of their borders.”

I want to thank you for writing to us and expressing your views on our program content. We always welcome the opportunity to examine our journalism and our practices around selecting guests for our programs.

I will also let you know that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC Ombudsman.

The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent and impartial body which reports directly to the CBC president. It is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The ombudsman may be reached by mail at Box 500, Terminal A, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6, or by telephone at 416-205-2978, or by fax at 416-205-2825, or by e-mail, ombudsman@cbc.ca.

Yours sincerely,

Cathy Perry

Senior Director

CBC Talk Radio

As well, on February 8, CBC The Current aired listener’s letters which emphasized Israel’s security concerns and which voiced criticism of the CBC’s programming due to its unfair portrayal of Israel. Anchor Anna Maria Tremonti stated the following:

“Hello I’m Anna Maria Tremonti and you’re listening to The Current.

Yesterday we brought you my conversation with a panel of young people Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Muslims under the age of 35, all of whom live full time in Israel or the Palestinian territories discussing their lives and visions for peace.

They may live in a divided society but they are shared one sentiment: Disappointment with their political leaders. One of my guests was Haggai Matar a 34 year old Israeli journalist who said he feels disillusioned with Israeli leaders….

After that conversation we heard from many listeners including some who thought that, while all our panellists may have been disillusioned with their leaders, they were all also critical of Israel’s policies.

Edward Weinberg writes: ”I found the views presented very interesting but unfortunately I think they do not reflect the majority of either group. I think you would find that for the majority of Israelis the settlements and the obvious harm they’re causing to the possibilities of peace between the two people is not the most important issue. It is security. Where are the moderate Palestinian voices that seek to live with Israelis and not threaten them physically? Once this happens the majority of Israelis will become more accommodating as they were willing to be in the past.’

Haya Newman writes: ‘I am disappointed with the choice of Israelis for the interview. They do not reflect the Israeli agenda. It was all about the Palestinian issue and none about the Israeli cause of being under siege from all sides of their borders.’

And Goldie Newman of Toronto had this to say: ‘I had to turn off radio this morning during your interview. I wish for peace as well but to talk about walls security as though there was no reason or justification. What about the rockets and suicide bombers? It just isn’t fair to people who fear for their lives’. Others felt the segment brought little heard voices into the conversation. Ayu Ratih of Vancouver writes: ‘For years I have been waiting for CBC to be more balanced in its reporting of what’s been dubbed the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I usually barely hear Palestinian voices. I also don’t hear much of the dissenting voices from Jewish Israelis. I can’t imagine the waves of counterblast you’ll suffer from this unusual reporting. Thank you CBC’.

And Sarah avMaat of Antigonish, Nova Scotia writes: ‘Many times I have felt CBC coverage of Israel Palestine to be, at best lacking in context, at worst biased toward the right wing Israeli view and sometimes missing altogether. So it was extremely refreshing to hear from young Israelis who holds a more open minded view and to give relatively equal time to the two Palestinians’.

Well as always we want to hear what you think about our programming you can find us on Facebook or on Twitter @TheCurrentCBC or send us an e-mail through our website cbc.ca/thecurrent.”

Original Alert: February 9, 2018:

Alarmingly, on February 7, CBC Radio’s The Current news program aired a lengthy 40+minute segment which fundamentally demonized Israel.

Entitled, “A generation born into conflict: Young lsraelis and Palestinians speak about the path to peace,” veteran CBC Anchor Anna-Maria Tremonti introduced the program by casting the Israeli-Palestinian divide in perilous terms and  then by interviewing four individuals, all of whom hold extreme anti-Israel positions and who effectively singled Israel out for opprobrium and exclusive censure, all the while holding the Jewish state to a unique standard – unlike other nations of the world.

(To listen to the program in full click here or below. A full transcript of the program can be found here.)

 

The program misleadingly presented itself as fair and balanced by featuring two Palestinians and two Israelis on the show, however, all these individuals were extremely hostile to Israel and none represented a mainstream Israeli perspective, nor was there a real exploration of Israel’s security concerns, its painful concessions and many generous peace offers. The program gave short shrift to the daily Palestinian terror attacks, endemic incitement, unilateralism, and corruption. The Current concluded their program by claiming that “We did also reach out to the Likud Youth Party to see if one of their members would like to join our discussion but we did not hear back.” And yet, that doesn’t absolve the CBC of its responsibility to produce balanced programming. Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who could have been interviewed  to provide perspectives from the mainstream, centrist or right-leaning voices of Israel, but CBC did not secure any of these individuals to appear on its program. They could have, and they should have.

During this program, Israel was the victim of delegitimization, demonization, and was subjected to double standards and the victimizer was CBC The Current.

The interview guests on the program included:

Haggai Matar is a 34-year-old Jewish-Israeli journalist in Tel Aviv, and the executive director of 972 magazine.
Aya Al-Zinati is a 29-year-old Palestinian Muslim in Gaza. She’s a freelance journalist a past project co-ordinator with the United Nations Development Program.
Fadi Quran is a 29-year-old Palestinian Muslim in Ramallah, and a senior campaigner for Avaaz, an online activist network dedicated to issues such as climate change and human rights.
Bar Gissin is a 28-year-old Jewish-Israeli student at Tel Aviv University. She chairs the youth wing of Israel’s Meretz Social Democratic Party.

In the broadcast, Israel was accused of the following, all without context or rebuttal:

1) Being an “occupier” and “racist”
2) “…the Israelis are the military that’s doing the oppression.”
3) Of unlawfully demolishing Palestinian homes
4) Imprisoning Palestinian “political” prisoners
5) Carrying out the “siege” of Gaza
6) Making Gaza an “open prison”

Guest Fadi Quran said (emphasis added): “And I think it’s important for people listening in Canada because sometimes we can speak about these things and they sound abstract. Imagine if Canada was divided into small Bantustans—small islands. And every city, let’s say Toronto, was its own island surrounded by checkpoints and walls. And every time you would want to go from let’s say Toronto to any other city nearby, you would have to go through multiple checkpoints. And all the way until you get to Montreal you would be stopped by another government that would be controlling your land and that would question you and so forth.” (Untold by Mr. Quran is that Canadians do not face daily terror threats in the form of car rammings, suicide bombings, rocket attacks, stabbings and shooting attacks, that necessitate these life-saving security measures. Ms. Tremonti did not challenge his statement. The only time Israel’s security concerns were ever really addressed was when Ms. Tremonti once stated that “We often hear that some Israelis will argue that Israel is a very small place, the Jewish state needs to protect itself, and it is surrounded by Arab nations and that that always plays into the equation.”

Quran also claimed: “And there are checkpoints in and around the wall and if people try to go in without a permit they could get shot.” (There’s no foundation to this claim and Ms. Tremonti didn’t challenge this assertion. Should someone try to illegally enter Israel, naturally, they will be detained, not summarily shot at unless they posed a threat).

Quran also claimed: “… under Israeli military orders, if I were to have a meeting with 10 people to discuss political issues I could be arrested for up to six months” (Again, there’s no foundation to this claim. Israel does not arrest/detain people for having political discussions. Ms. Tremonti did not rebut this either.)

Quran also stated the following: “… spread the message around the world that Israel is the victim, that Israel is the one that is under constant threat, creating a fake type of consistent existential crisis. When in fact it’s the Palestinian population. And this is based on again the UN. And based on what the international community has now begun to realize the fact is that the Palestinians are the ones that are being wiped off of their land.(Not surprisingly, Ms. Tremonti did not challenge these outrageous claims. Despite Palestinian, Arab and Iranian leaders who openly call for Israel’s destruction, these grievous threats (whether through nuclear attack or conventional warfare are dismissed as “fake”).

Meanwhile, guest Aya Al-Zinati expressed her support for the one-state solution, which a thinly veiled strategy for destroying the State of Israel and questioning its very right to exist. (Ms. Tremonti did not challenge her opposition to the widely accepted two-state solution and her support for efforts which would see Israel wiped from the map.)

Guest Haggai Matar claimed that: “And then there’s Syria and Lebanon that are completely torn apart from the inside and really present absolutely no threat to Israel. So even that past excuse of permanent threats from our neighbours, that doesn’t really apply anymore.” (To wit, Syria represents a clear and present danger to Israel, whether through Assad’s forces who come equipped with chemical weapons, barrel bombs, its conventional armed forces and more, or ISIS and other radical terror groups).

Israel isn’t perfect, but neither is any other country. Criticism of Israel is good as it generates discussion and provides a forum for change, but there are two parties in this conflict and both are deserving of critique. While on the February 9 broadcast of The Current, the program did air a couple letters (listen by clicking here) criticizing their one-sided anti-Israel coverage, that doesn’t absolve the CBC for having produced a program listened to by scores of Canadians which demonized Israel. When the scrutinization of Israel becomes so extreme and only Israel is put under a microscope, something is most certainly not right.

HonestReporting Canada has filed an official complaint with the CBC and we call on our public broadcaster to right this wrong by producing a lengthly segment on The Current which provides a comprehensive forum for a critique and analysis of Palestinian terrorism, incitement, corruption, and rejectionism that is rife in Palestinian society. At this time, we ask all our subscribers and readers of this alert to file a complaint with CBC Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire condemning The Current’s efforts which demonized Israel. Send emails to: Jennifer.McGuire@cbc.ca.

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