And the Oscar for best actor goes to… the CBC for refusing to atone for broadcasting unverified footage depicting a Palestinian man faking injuries allegedly sustained in an Israeli air strike.
At the height of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, CBC’s flagship news program “The National” broadcast a report on November 14 by its Mideast correspondent Sasa Petricic showing dramatic footage of an apparently injured Palestinian man being picked up off the ground and carried away by other Palestinians.
Based on this dubious footage, CBC viewers were left to conclude that the man had been injured by Israeli ordnance, coupled with the CBC reporter’s description in a voice-over commentary that “Many explosions shook Gaza killing 10 Palestinians including 3 children according to Hamas’ health ministry. Israeli leaders are unrepentant.” This reporter’s characterization that Israeli leaders have no remorse for the alleged killing of innocents, specifically several Palestinian children, was inflammatory and without merit. Equally troubling was the CBC’s reliance on Palestinian casualty statistics straight from a terrorist organization’s own “health ministry”.
But there was no blood, wounds, or damage visible on this individual’s body and clothing. Importantly, the BBC also aired this same footage of the Palestinian man being carried off, only the BBC’s version included additional footage showing the man staging a remarkable recovery, all caught on camera, as he was later shown walking around apparently unscathed.
Welcome to “Pallywood!” The cottage industry dedicated to producing Palestinian propaganda materials designed to demonize Israel, using protagonists who fabricate fictional atrocities in an effort to conjure up the Big Lie against the Jewish state.
Palestinian terror organizations like Hamas are adept at using the media to incite public opinion against Israel. Remember the staged scene France 2 aired of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Muhammed al-Dura allegedly caught in crossfire and killed at the beginning of the second Intifada. Think back to Jenin in 2002, the scene of what the media commonly referred to as a “massacre” of thousands based largely on lies made by Palestinian officials like Saeb Erekat on CNN. At the time, Israeli drone reconnaissance footage showed Palestinians in Jenin faking a funeral procession where the supposedly dead Palestinian falls off a stretcher and then miraculously stands up and gets back on the stretcher. Just as Hollywood employs writers, actors and directors for its film productions, so too does Pallywood, aided by Palestinian stringers who work for western news organizations and abetted by mainstream media outlets who give a platform to their fiction.
Pallywood is not a new phenomenon. Author Kenneth Timmerman recalls in his book: “Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America” another example in 1983: “… when a mass fainting epidemic among Palestinian girls in several West Bank towns led to claims that Israel was deliberately poisoning them as they approached childbearing age in a diabolical scheme to reduce the high Palestinian birth rate. Championed by the Arab League and the Islamic Conference, this specious claim was spread worldwide by journalists and editors – including those of the prestigious French dailies Le Monde and Libération. ‘Poisoned’ girls were driven by the truckload to hospitals and paraded before reporters. When the reporters left, the girls would simply get out of bed and go home.”
When the media air fraudulent footage and fail to atone for it, they become tools in what American historian and author Richard Landes refers to as “cognitive warfare”.
Our organization vigilantly monitors the media to ensure fair and accurate Canadian news coverage of Israel. Within hours of viewing the CBC’s report, we notified the CBC’s Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Jennifer McGuire, about the apparently staged footage it had aired. It wasn’t until two full weeks later (that’s fourteen news cycles) that the CBC offered a reply saying only “We are currently looking into the source and contents of the footage.” This initial statement serves as a searing indictment that the CBC aired questionable footage which it itself had acknowledged not knowing the “source and contents of.” One wonders what other questionable footage CBC and other Canadian broadcasters have put to air on a multitude of topics without proper scrutiny and verification.
Prior to receiving the CBC’s initial response, we again contacted Ms. McGuire on two separate instances to inform the CBC that CNN’s AC360 show hosted by Anderson Cooper, had on November 18 issued an on-air (see below) and online statement acknowledging that they can’t “independently verify” this footage and that CNN won’t use the footage again. The CNN statement noted that their source of this footage came from Canadian-owned news agency Reuters, a wire service that also couldn’t confirm the veracity of its own footage. CNN’s statement said that Reuters didn’t “… know the source of the image of that man standing or when that image was shot. They also said that they never saw or shot any similar image.” CNN’s statement also went on to acknowledge that individuals were trying to manipulate the media: “…This is not only a traditional military conflict but one that’s being waged in the media as well…”
Despite CNN’s efforts to publicly redress the situation, we were met with radio silence by the CBC, but not by its French-language counterpart, Radio-Canada (SRC), who also aired this unverified footage on its “Téléjournal” program on November 15. SRC, unlike CBC, issued a statement on November 21 similar to the one CNN had authored which acknowledged the lack of authenticity of this footage. SRC also appended a warning note to the footage after we brought our concerns to their attention.
CNN and SRC both made efforts to remedy their airing of this unverified footage, CBC on the other hand defended it. On February 4, close to three months after receiving our complaint about this questionable footage, Ms. McGuire replied to our complaint saying in part that: “… to the best of our knowledge, the images included in his report were not “faked”, but accurately reflect events taking place.”
Using equivocating language, the CBC’s official response used words like: “appears to be”, “to the best of our knowledge”, “seeming”, “apparently”, etc., but importantly, CBC could not produce the name of the alleged victim or substantiate that he was even at the scene when the alleged explosion occurred. Corroborating statements from eyewitnesses or cameraman? None. Documentation from the responding ambulance or hospital? None. Forensic evidence confirming the alleged explosion was due to Israeli ordinance and not the premature detonation of a Palestinian rocket destined for Israel. None. The lack of evidence bore all the hallmarks of a fraud.
Despite this, the CBC speculated that “the absence of such visible wounds is not evidence of fakery. It does not preclude his being concussed or stunned, for example, and recovering sufficiently half an hour later to be standing.” But where’s the proof? The CBC has no evidence – no proverbial smoking gun – that an Israeli air raid injured this Palestinian man and yet our public broadcaster had the temerity to claim that “the images … accurately reflect events taking place.” The CBC then claimed that Reuters “has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video.” This development marked a complete departure from the wire service’s first statement to CNN which noted its inability to confirm the video’s veracity, to now claiming it was completely authentic.
Both CBC and Reuters have a professional obligation and moral duty to authenticate high impact video recorded at emotionally charged events like the one captured by the Reuters cameraman. This kind of powerful imagery compressed into a few seconds may well create a lasting negative impression in the mind of the viewer. It’s a case where pictures speak louder than words. That’s why news editors must exercise maximum care and discretion when airing such a video. At the very least, a news organization must be able to substantiate in spades that what a viewer is seeing… actually happened.
As General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of CBC News, Ms. McGuire has in the past claimed that “… all our stories are fair, balanced and accurate. The ultimate responsibility for what we broadcast on radio and television, and post online, lies with my office, but everyone who works at CBC News shares the responsibility.”
As CBC still cannot confirm the authenticity of this footage, in the interests of accountability and responsible journalism, CBC is obligated by its own journalistic standards to set the record straight on its airing of this unverified footage. We have called on the CBC’s Ombudsman to arbitrate our concerns and are hopeful that such a review will find that the CBC’s actions were in violation of its own policies.
One thing is for certain, the CBC’s Oscar-worthy Pallywood performance confirms the relevance of the axiom that “In war, the first casualty is the truth.”