*** See Important Update At The Bottom of The Communique ***
It’s perfectly legitimate for the CBC to produce a news report on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and more specifically, about Canadians who enlist in the Israeli military, also known as “lone soldiers”.
It’s quite another thing for the CBC to implicitly analogize between Canadians who join the IDF (a recognized army, from a democratic country and regarded as the most moral military in the world) and those who join ISIS (an outlawed terror group, known for its many massacres and its pursuit of a worldwide Islamic caliphate).
In a report published by CBC News on February 22 by CBC Parliamentary Bureau reporter Elise von Scheel, this disturbing analogy was included in this report.
CBC reported the following (emphasis added):
The issue of keeping tabs on Canadians who choose to fight overseas was the subject of heated debate in the House of Commons last spring, as opposition MPs pushed back against Public Safety Canada’s pitch to reintegrate returning members of ISIS.
That debate resurfaced recently around the question of what to do with Canadians being held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as the U.S. withdraws from Syria. But experts caution against drawing a comparison between Canadians serving in the IDF and those who leave to join extremist groups.”
Israel, however controversial it might be, is considered to be an ally of the Western world,” said Derek Penslar, a professor of Jewish history at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.”
There’s a very close military relationship.”
It’s thoroughly inappropriate for the CBC to feature an analogy between Canadian ISIS recruits and Canadians who enlist in the IDF. While the CBC article does include a quote from Professor Penslar who cautions against using such comparisons, the very reference to this analogy smears Israel and the IDF, and serves to delegitimize Israel’s efforts to recruit foreigners to serve in its military. As the report acknowledges, many other nations like the U.S., Bolivia, Russia, Belgium and France allow foreign nationals to serve in their armed forces. So what’s the issue then? Importantly, this isn’t the first time CBC featured such comparisons. In 2015, then Mideast bureau chief Sasa Petricic compared ISIS terrorists to foreign recruits of the Israeli Defence Forces. After concerns were raised, the reporter tried to walk back the comment.
The report then veers towards a discussion of issues of potential ”conflicts of interest” that could arise for Israel’s lone soldier recruits from Canada who may be asked to do surveillance efforts of Canada or other treasonous activities, presumably espionage. Was the CBC implicitly raising the spectre of dual loyalties, regarded widely as an antisemitic smear? The IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism states the following: “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.“
The resultant effect is that the patriotism of Jewish Canadians enlisted in the IDF is challenged.
Amazingly, and in a roundabout way by linking to its previous reporting, the CBC report then implicitly equates Israel’s lone soldiers with, of all people, convicted terrorist Omar Khadr (now released) who confessed to murdering a U.S. army medic, Christopher Speer, in Afghanistan in 2002.
And then the CBC article veers its attention towards the charity status of the Lone Soldier Centre, an organization that provides housing and other services for lone soldiers. The CBC article says the following (emphasis added):
“(The Lone Soldier Centre, for example, has charitable status in Canada through the Ne’eman Foundation, a fact that has been called out by critics who see any Canadian support for the Israeli military as controversial.)”
This CBC report comes on the heels of a January 4 CBC article which critiqued the Jewish National Fund of Canada, as a “Canadian charity used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military”.
The Jewish National Fund of Canada (JNF) is defending itself against a highly critical article about its fundraising that was published by the CBC earlier this month. The Jan. 4 online article by the CBC’s Evan Dyer alleged that the JNF, one of Canada’s oldest Jewish charities that’s best known for its tree-planting and environmental work in Israel, has been the subject of a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audit over a complaint that it used charitable donations to build infrastructure for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), “in violation of Canada’s tax rules.” The article claimed that JNF has funded projects on Israeli army, air and naval bases.
In back-to-back months, CBC News has produced feature-length articles which have been highly critical of the Israeli military, all done by its parliamentary bureau.
Interestingly, what prompted the CBC to produce both of these reports? With respect to its recent article on the lone soldier recruits from Canada, there certainly isn’t anything NEW in this “news”, which makes you question the motive for the CBC’s producing this report at the onset. This begs the question, why did the CBC produce and publish this report now?
Notwithstanding, there are some silver linings to this article in how it quotes Canadian lone soldiers expressing their pride for being part of the IDF, saying that their service is to protect their heritage and for “Israel to be here for future generations.” The article also acknowledges that it takes 15 seconds for a rocket from Gaza to reach Israel. Of course, the article only describes Hamas terrorists as “militants” and describes Palestinian rioters as “protestors”. The CBC has published the following correction to its article:
Alarmingly, this CBC article tarnished the reputation of Israel and its armed forces, by casting Israeli lone soldiers from Canada as being akin to Canadian ISIS recruits and for tacitly challenging their patriotism and loyalty to Canada.
Shame on the CBC.
HonestReporting Canada has filed a complaint with CBC News Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire and we encourage you to also file a complaint. Send emails to: Jennifer.McGuire@CBC.ca. Please refer to Elise von Scheel’s February 22 report entitled: “‘I don’t see why I shouldn’t have to serve’: Why young, Jewish Canadians are enlisting in the Israeli military”.
UPDATE 1: February 28, 2019:
HRC received the following reply from the CBC on February 28 acknowledging several corrections it made to this article subsequent to our complaint. Notwithstanding, HRC has asked the CBC’s Ombudsman to carry out a review of this report as we contend it violated CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices.
Dear Mr. Fegelman
Thank you for your email to Jennifer McGuire, the Editor in Chief and General Manager of CBC News pointing us to a critique on your website about an article entitled “I don’t see why I shouldn’t have to serve”. Why young, Jewish Canadians are enlisting the Israeli military.” written by Elise von Scheel.
As the Director of Journalistic Standards and Practices, I’m responding on her behalf.
I have reviewed the article, and I wanted to let you know that we have made three adjustments to it.
We had made an error both in the copy of the article and the caption underneath the graphic illustration of the United Nations statistics of casualties sustained by Palestinians as part of the “March of Return” events.
We have updated the copy to read:
The United Nations estimates 171 Palestinians were killed and thousands more injured during demonstrations that lasted for most of the year, and another 57 were killed in “other contexts,” including “Palestinian attacks, Israeli airstrikes and infiltration attempts into Israel.” The UN reported one Israeli death in that period.
We also updated the caption. As well, while I don’t share your view that von Scheel was drawing a direct comparison of Canadians serving in Israel, to ISIS recruits, the paragraph was not written clearly enough, and I could see where a reader might draw that inference. We have made some changes to that section, which I feel addresses that concern.
I also asked that we remove a link to an Omar Khadr story in the section about dual citizenship. Concerns had been raised about its relevance in the script, and I agreed.
You can see the updated article here.. I regret the errors in our copy – it was missed in the vetting process, and that should not have happened. I trust that our other edits have alleviated some of your concerns.
I would appreciate it if you would note this action on your website.
Director of Journalistic Standards and Practices
UPDATE 2: March 7, 2019:
The Canadian Jewish News published an important commentary by Rabbi Howard Morrison of Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda synagogue entitled: “The CBC used my son to attack Israel”.
His commentary can be found below, along with an unabridged version of his sermon that was recently orated to his congregation: