CBC Offers Uncritical, Sympathetic and Biased One-Sided Coverage of Anti-Israel Flotilla (June 28, 2011)

By Mike Fegelman

June 28, 2011



CBC Offers Uncritical, Sympathetic and Biased One-Sided Coverage of Anti-Israel Flotilla

By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director                                                                              June 28, 2011

Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber,

We expect our media to provide fair, neutral, and balanced coverage of controversial issues. News organizations themselves claim to subscribe to these basic precepts of media accountability and transparency.  Proving that there are exceptions to every good rule, the CBC’s recent television and radio reporting of the latest instalment of the anti-Israel Gaza flotilla, has shown that what is ethically preached is not always journalistically observed.

In last night’s broadcast (June 27 at 9pm EST) of CBC “The National,” reporter Alexandre Szacka was granted “rare access” to the so-called “Canadian Boat to Gaza” (also known as Tahrir). In an uncritical report (watch by clicking here or on the image below) Szacka focused on the living conditions that the activists are set to endure in their planned journey to Gaza. Szacka noted that:

“There are no beds, no showers, and this tiny little kitchen will have to accommodate 50 people during a three day journey across the Mediterranean.”

Szacka interviewed three of the anti-Israel participants who were more than happy to have been given a platform to rail against Israel and to mislead Canadians about last year’s altercation aboard the Mavi Marmara, the current blockade of Gaza, and what their real intentions actually are. Instead of asking serious challenging questions, this CBC reporter acquiesced to the activist’s request that the ship not be visually identified, nor its physical location be disclosed to viewers. Reporter Szacka was then handled and led around the ship by the activists on a guided tour. Her report was framed in such a way that viewers could only be sympathetic to the activists and the potential dangers that they may face in a possible confrontation with Israeli soldiers. No Israeli perspective was given in this report, nor was there any relevant context about the reasons for the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the nefarious agendas of these activists. The CBC also conveniently overlooked the following important facts and statistics:

  • That Israel is well within its rights in enforcing a legal maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of Hamas, a Canadian designated terror group.
  • That there is a history of weapons smuggling via ships in international waters. Israel has intercepted these weapons destined for its Arab foes and bears a specific responsibility and the right, as enshrined by the UN, to self defence. As Article 51 states: “Nothing… shall impair the inherent right of… self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”
  • That Israel allows a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid and affords medical exit visas for Palestinians to seek treatment in Israeli hospitals. According to the Canada-Israel Committee:

    “While Israel maintains an arms blockade of Gaza, it has maintained a steady and massive flow of humanitarian aid into the territory. In the month of May 2011 alone, this totalled some 127,353 tons of goods. That’s over 150 pounds of aid per month – including food, clothing, and other supplies – for every single person in Gaza. Nearly 5,000 truckloads entered Gaza from Israel in May. In terms of food alone, this includes:

    • 376 truckloads of flour, 324 truckloads of wheat, 225 truckloads of fruit and, vegetables, 142 truckloads of dairy products, 113 truckloads of meat and fish, 44 truckloads of milk powder and baby formula, 65 truckloads of rice, 59 truckloads of cooking oil, 492 truckloads of other food products.

    In the other direction, Israel granted permits to 3,612 Palestinians to enter Israel from Gaza in May 2011. Of these, 1,238 were for business purposes and 1,892 were for medical procedures (986 patients and 906 accompanying individuals).

    On top of this, contrary to what many claim, Gaza in fact has been exporting goods to Europe. Since November of last year (the beginning of the season), this has included: 368 tons of strawberries ,6.59 tons of cherry tomatoes, 6 tons of bell peppers, 9.7 million carnation flowers.

    Hamas has asserted that “there’s no starvation in Gaza,” and the Red Cross stated clearly: ‘There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza… ‘ Source: COGAT Report – for more details, click here.

It should also be noted that Israel recently announced the transfer of $100 Million in construction materials to Gaza. The decision, which will include the building of 1,200 homes and 18 schools, was welcomed by the UN a “significant step.

Unfortunately this type of reporting wasn’t unique on the CBC’s various news platforms. On the June 23 edition of CBC Radio’s “The Current”, host Anna Maria Tremonti did just what reporter Szacka had done, offering an uncritical interview with another anti-Israel flotilla activist, novelist Alice Walker. To listen to this interview which aired after 8:37am EST, please click here or on the image below:

Instead of asking challenging questions, Ms. Tremonti allowed Ms. Walker to make the following baseless and inflammatory statements on air without any real critical challenge:

  • Walker: Israel carried out “terrorist destruction” in Gaza in 2009.
  • No counter mention was provided by Ms. Tremonti to inform listeners that Israel fought Hamas in a month long war following the firing of over 10,000 rockets at Israeli cities and that Israel made unprecedented efforts to minimize civilian casualties during the war. For Ms. Walker to call a recognized democratic country that respects international law “terrorists,” is disgraceful, but for the CBC to not challenge this language in any particular way was especially problematic.
  • Walker: Israel is an Apartheid state
  • Of course, everyone knows that this is patently false and Ms. Tremonti had ample opportunity to challenge this statement as Ms. Walker made this claim three times in the lengthy interview. Given that Ms. Tremonti was a former Mideast reporter, she also had the ability to offer a challenge as she’s well informed about these issues. She also had the responsibility to do so.
  • Walker: Israel builds “roads that only Jews can use.”
  • While there are roads prohibited to Palestinians in the West Bank, there are no “Jewish-only roads.” Israel’s Arab citizens and, indeed, Israeli citizens of any religion or ethnicity, have just as much right to travel on those restricted roads as do Israeli Jews. Israeli Arabs frequently use the bypass roads for business and to visit relatives.

Here is what host Tremonti did say and ask:

  • Ms. Tremonti described Walker’s efforts as “A controversial and potentially dangerous venture” asking her “why are you doing this?” (This would seem like a fair question, but without any context of why it’s controversial and why it’s dangerous, the effect of this question is weak). While we do appreciate that there’s an expectation that the CBC’s viewing audience has some knowledge about these issues, at the very least, some context would have been fitting to better inform the CBC’s audience about the blockade, the flotilla, and the current conflict.
  • Ms. Tremonti said: “You know there are many in your country and in mine who are very critical of those of you who are going on this flotilla, how do you respond to their criticism?” What isn’t indicated by Ms. Tremonti is who and why people in Canada in the U.S. are critical of their efforts. It would have been instructive to note that the NDP, Liberals and Conservative (as enunciated by Foreign Minister Baird) oppose their efforts. So does the UN, UK, EU, U.S., Germany, France, Etc.
  • Recalling the civil rights struggle and the Palestinian situation, Ms. Tremonti lobbed a softball question to Ms. Walker to ask her to explain these parallels.
  • Ms. Tremonti asked: “What is it like to fight for something when you’re seen as a radical, when others disagree with the way you see things.” It’s fair to say that people see individuals like Walker as “radical,” but why just label them and not give the CBC’s listening audience the required context to properly understand why their efforts are misguided, radical, and dangerous?

It unfortunately didn’t end there with the CBC. On the June 24 broadcast of the “Information Morning Nova Scotia” radio program which aired after 5:55pm Atlantic time, CBC host Don Connolly interviewed Haligonian-resident and anti-Israel flotilla participant Miles Howe.

Again, just like with Ms. Szacka and Ms. Tremonti’s reporting, this CBC radio program offered uncritical and one-sided coverage, giving this activist a soapbox to make inflammatory and baseless statements about and against Israel. In the course of this interview, Mr. Howe stated the following:

  1. Israel and Israelis were “inherently racist”
  2. Israelis committed a “massacre” referring to the previous flotilla altercation
  3. The people aboard the Mavi Marmara were “largely unarmed” and that no guns were used
  4. Israel committing unspeakable war crimes, murder, and the killing of civilians

To listen to this interview in full please click here or on the image below:

With respect to the first claim, this assertion is outrageous especially because Israelis are well known for their openness, tolerance, and for promoting fundamental freedoms regardless of race, religion, creed, or nationality. While yes, there is racism in Israel, just as there is racism in Canada, the U.S., and even in the CBC’s own offices we presume, but there is no state-sanctioned racism, nor are Israelis as a people “inherently racist.” There will always be a select few in every society who are bigots and discriminators, Israel included, but they are on the margins of society, not the majority. Mr. Howe has essentially claimed that Israelis are born or indoctrinated to hate and that is a fundamentally racist allegation in and of its own right.

Mr. Howe’s second and fourth claims are trumped simply by the available facts on the ground. Also, regarding Mr. Howe’s false claims about the activists being largely “unarmed” and his erroneous claims that no guns were used, it’s instructive to note that the participants of the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship were not the disciples of Mohatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King as he would have you believe. Instead, hard-core Islamists from the IHH terrorist organization were aboard the ship armed with lethal guns, automatic weapons, knives, metal rods, firebombs, Molotov cocktails, slingshots and other weapons that were used to attack Israeli forces as they tried to interdict the flotilla.

How You Can Make A Difference:

In short, it is of real concern for our organization to see 3 successive CBC Radio and TV reports which whitewashed and offered sympathetic, uncritical, and biased one-sided coverage of the anti-Israel flotilla. Long passed are the days of Edward R. Murrow, a pioneering journalist who levelled hard questions to interviewees to shed an important light on the truth. As a result of these unfair CBC reports, viewers were altogether misled about the anti-Israel activists and as a consequence, Israel’s image was once again tarnished by the CBC.

Please refer to the following CBC programs which produced biased anti-Israel coverage of the flotilla participants and file a complaint with the CBC on their online feedback webpage:

  • A television report by CBC “The National’s” Alexandre Szacka on the “Canadian Boat to Gaza” (June 27 at 9pm EST)
  • A CBC Radio “The Current” interview with host Anna Maria Tremonti and anti-Israel flotilla novelist Alice Walker (June 23 at 8:37am EST)
  • A CBC Radio “Information Morning Nova Scotia” inte


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