EDMONTON SUN COLUMNIST
OFFSIDE ON MIDDLE EAST
April 29, 2005
Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber:
It’s not often that professional sports gets mixed up with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But there is always a first time for everything. On April 28 the Edmonton Sun published a column by Lyn Cockburn entitled “Settle ‘Orr’ else!” about Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and former Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr. Cockburn began by urging Orr to help settle the bitter dispute between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association.
Cockburn then suggested that Orr should facilitate talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Initially tongue-in-cheek, Cockburn’s suggestion rapidly morphed into a simplistic analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict, using moral relativism to equate Palestinian and Israeli actions and intentions.
1) Drawing false parallels:
Cockburn compared NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. She then portrayed Israelis and Palestinians as being one and the same, “both sides” lacking “real sense” and causing “the violence on both sides” to continue:
NHL vs. NHLPA
Israelis vs. Palestinians
“He (Orr) went on to label both Bettman and Goodenow intransigent dolts who are mired in a blame game that leads nowhere. Orr stated flatly that they ought to come to a resolution or step aside.”
“Perhaps it will take a Bobby Orr to talk some real sense into the Israelis and the Palestinians, who have a long and violent history of intransigence, revenge, futile negotiations, revenge…. Each side is happy to bore listeners into unconsciousness with rhetoric about how right they are and how wrong the other guys are. Meanwhile, the violence on both sides continues.”
These comparisons ignore the complexities of the Middle East conflict – arguably more complicated than the hockey dispute — and simplistically cast Israelis and Palestinians as being equally foolish and intransigent.
2) Rehashing revenge motives:
Cockburn described Israelis and Palestinians as having “a long and violent history of intransigence, revenge, futile negotiations, revenge.” This formulation blurs the distinction between Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians (suicide bombings in buses and cafes, for example), and Israel’s military response in defense of its citizens. Cockburn ignores the difference between terrorist aggression and military response to terrorist aggression.
3) Discrediting legitimate security concerns:
Cockburn says the following about Israel’s security barrier:
“Yes, yes, Ariel Sharon is pulling settlers out of Gaza, and shutting down some settlements on the West Bank – at the same time he’s giving the go-ahead for more settlements on the West Bank and building a great big stupid fence to keep Palestinians out.”
Cockburn ignores the fact that withdrawing from Gaza is a major (and painful) Israeli step toward satisfying Palestinian demands. And as HonestReporting Canada pointed out in July 2004:
- Israel’s security barrier is a defensive response to Palestinian terror
- The security barrier works: terror is down by 90% in areas where it was built
- By preventing violence, the security barrier saves both Israeli and Palestinian lives
- The security barrier can come down when the Palestinian leadership ends incitement and prevents terror against Israelis
HonestReporting Canada asks the following question to the editors at the Edmonton Sun: How did Bobby Orr and Canada’s favourite pastime turn into a profoundly misleading analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict?
How You Can Make a Difference
Take one minute right now to write a short letter to the editor. Tell the Edmonton Sun that Lyn Cockburn has blurred the lines between Palestinian terrorist aggression against Israeli civilians, and Israel’s military response in defense of its citizens.
Write to the Edmonton Sun editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please keep your letter polite and to the point, using your own words.
- Please include your name and phone number.
- Please forward a copy of your correspondence to email@example.com.