CBC Portrays Terrorist as Victim
September 6, 2006
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s largely one-sided portrayal of the Israel-Lebanon crisis continued on Monday, September 4, when CBC’s Beirut correspondent, Nahlah Ayed, sympathetically profiled the family of a cold-blooded terrorist.
The Background: Cold-Blooded Murder
Almost three decades ago, an Israeli court sentenced Samir Qantar to several life sentences for murdering an Israeli father, daughter and two policemen. Qantar was a Lebanese Druze member of the Palestine Liberation Front, a PLO terrorist faction infamous for murdering a wheelchair-bound American Jew on the Achille Lauro cruise-ship. In 1979, Qantar led a group of terrorists from Lebanon to the Israeli town of Nahariya, where they broke into the Haran family’s apartment. The mother, Smadar Haran, hid in a crawl space with her two-year-old daughter:
“As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. ‘‘This is just like what happened to my mother,’ I thought.”
While trying to keep her daughter quiet, Smadar Haran inadvertently suffocated her.
Meanwhile, Qantar’s group took Smadar Haran’s husband Danny and four-year-old daughter Einat hostage. Qantar shot the father in front of his daughter and drowned him in the sea. Qantar then smashed the girl’s head against the rocks and crushed her skull with the butt of his rifle. Qantar’s group also murdered two Israeli policemen.
(Read Smadar Haran’s account of the incident here.)
The CBC Profile: A Study in Contrasts
Qantar’s name has been mentioned as part of a potential prisoner swap for two Israelis kidnapped by Hezbollah, so CBC decided to profile people associated with the Qantar story. But rather than focus on the family of Qantar’s victims, Canada’s national broadcaster chose to focus on the family of Qantar the terrorist.
To watch Nahlah Ayed’s report, click here or below (RealPlayer required):
In an all-too-familiar pattern, CBC ignored the human component of the Israeli story. In a report on CBC’s The National, reporter Nahlah Ayed’s description of the brutal terrorist attack was limited to:
“After a firefight with Israeli security forces, Qantar shot the father and clubbed the 4-year-old to death with the butt of a rifle.”
In fact, CBC did not interview anyone associated with the Haran family. Instead, CBC correspondent Ayed presented the Israeli perspective in the form of a bland Israeli foreign ministry official discussing the political dimensions of Qantar’s potential release.
In contrast, Ayed portrayed Qantar’s family in personal, even sympathetic terms:
Ayed: “In a village far above Beirut in the mountains, Suham Qantar has been waiting to see her eldest son for 27 years. She won’t speak about it publicly, it’s just too disturbing. So she lets her younger son, Bassam Qantar, do the talking.“
Qantar’s brother: “He was a very young guy. I was only one year old. It’s a matter of a long, long time, and I think also it’s time for my brother to come back home.”
Ayed: “Qantar became a hero to many Lebanese. As they saw it, he was fighting for his country against a hated enemy.”
In addition to generating sympathy for a brutal murderer’s family, Ayed enabled Qantar’s brother to legitimize an additional round of unprovoked aggression — the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, murder of 8 others and shelling of northern Israel on June 12, 2006. Using Hezbollah’s code-name “Operation True Promise,” Ayed let viewers know that Hezbollah’s attack was merely an attempt to free a man who’s been imprisoned for too long:
Ayed: “Bassam Qantar isn’t happy a war had to happen, but he has a stack of photos and letters he says shows he’s lobbied everyone he could think of to solve his brother’s case peacefully.” Ayed to Qantar’s brother: “So you support operation True Promise?”
Qantar’s brother: “The True Promise was the latest solution after the failing of all the diplomatic solutions to solve the case of my brother.”
But on July 25, Time magazine, which appropriately chose to focus on Qantar’s victims, reported that Hezbollah’s attacks further victimized the Haran family:
“Smadar Haran, meanwhile, has found herself again directly affected by the conflict, albeit in a much milder way. Nahariya is just five miles from the border with Lebanon and was the target of many of the rockets Hizballah has fired into Israeli towns since Israel launched its bombardment of Lebanon to retaliate for the seizure of two of its soldiers. After enduring a few days living in the windowless, reinforced room in their house — a requirement for any new residence in Israel — Haran and her second family (she’s remarried and has two daughters, now 18 and 25) relocated to the home of relatives in Herzliyya, a tony town near Tel Aviv.”
Troubling Questions About CBC
CBC and Nahlah Ayed’s sympathetic portrayal of Qantar’s plight raises many troubling questions:
- Why did CBC present a one-sided report on a murderer’s family and construct the report so that viewers would feel sympathy for a terrorist?
- Why did The National’s producers not ask Ayed to balance footage of the murderer’s family with footage of the victims’ family?
- Would CBC have constructed a story about callous multiple-murderers in Canadian prisons the same way?
- Was it appropriate for Ayed to adopt Hezbollah’s term, “Operation True Promise,” in discussing the recent kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and murder of others?
- When will CBC balance its coverage of Arab suffering with an exploration of Israeli suffering?
How You Can Make a Difference
Here are several ways to contact CBC:
- Click here to leave your online input on CBC’s feedback page
- Email CBC’s The National at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call CBC Audience Relations at: 1-866-306-4636
- Call The National‘s viewer input line at 1-800-565-1422