Israel at War – Canadian Media Coverage Deconstructed (January 4 2009)

January 4, 2009

Israel at War – Canadian Media Coverage Deconstructed

January 4, 2009

By: Mike Fegelman

Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:

Canwest News reporter Matthew Fisher made the following keen observation this week in the Montreal Gazette: Wars are not only won by armies, but in the court of international opinion.”

According to Fisher: The problem for Israel has been the optics. It has been frustrated that foreign news reports have dwelled on dramatic images of destruction and death caused by its warplanes in Gaza — and the international opprobrium that often comes with it — while often failing to convey how thousands of rocket fired over the past few years from there have terrified tens of thousands of its citizens living in border areas in the Negev Desert.”

As Israel’s Operation Cast Lead continues in the backdrop of escalating rocket attacks, HonestReporting Canada is on the front lines keeping Canada’s media honest. Here is a small selection of items detailing how we are intervening with the media to ensure fair and accurate news coverage of Israel, and how you can add your voice at this critical time.

CTV Source’s Anti-Semitic Rant

On December 30, CTV Newsnet interviewed Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the UK-based Ramadan Foundation. Early in the interview Shafiq accused Israel of carrying out “genocide” against Palestinians, adding “…we totally condemn the aggressive genocide that is being committed by the Nazi-like regime in Israel…”

To view the interview online please click here or on the image below.


Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis – a staple of anti-Israeli rhetoric – fits the European Union’s working definition of anti-Semitism. Although CTV host Milczarek termed Mr. Shafiq’s statements “pretty strong language,” his comments should have come as no surprise to CTV. The lead item on the Ramadan Foundation’s website is a press release from Dec. 27 – three days prior to the CTV interview – that declares: “ATTACKS ON GAZA ARE WAR CRIMES, NAZI LIKE REGIME IN ISRAEL CONDEMNED.”

We don’t doubt that CTV finds these kinds of comments abhorrent, but the broadcaster bears full responsibility for allowing this kind of language into the Canadian discourse. Considering the inflammatory, bigoted and hateful comments from Mr. Shafiq, CTV should not use him or other members of his organization for future segments. Furthermore, the network needs to do a better job of vetting its guests in advance, as the organization’s views were clearly posted on its website. We have filed a complaint with CTV executives and are currently awaiting their response.

CBC Misrepresents “Media Analyst”

On December 29, CBC Newsworld host Mohammed Lila interviewed Phyllis Bennis, whom the CBC deceptively described as a “media analyst” for the Institute for Policy Studies commenting on international opinion and the current Middle East conflict.

To view the report online please click here or on the image below.


Ms. Bennis is neither a “media critic” nor an objective commentator on the Mideast conflict, but rather a hard-core critic of Israel affiliated with many far-left and “anti-war” organizations. Furthermore, her “analysis” was almost exclusively dedicated to condemning Israeli policy and actions in a way that had nothing to do with analyzing the media. In her five-minute interview, Ms. Bennis opined about Israel’s “collective punishment,” lauded former President Jimmy Carter’s efforts in describing “Israeli apartheid,” alleged that there’s a “pro-Israel bias in U.S. media and textbooks,” and falsely claimed that “no Israelis were killed by any … [Palestinian] rocket fire” this year.

We appreciate that the CBC has the right to search for a “range of opinions,” but presenting Ms. Bennis as a neutral observer, rather than the ardent pro-Palestinian activist she is, was entirely deceptive. It is almost inconceivable that CBC staffers were not familiar with her background, and CBC should have disclosed the facts to its viewing audience.

As the CBC indicated at the conclusion of the interview that it will “check in” again with Ms. Bennis “as the military and public relations fallout continues,” we have asked CBC editors to properly divulge her background in future interviews. We are awaiting their reply. To send your considered comments to the CBC, please click here.

Vancouver Sun Falsely Alleges “Israeli Militants Fire Rockets and Mortars” Killing Two Palestinian Girls

In the December 27 edition of the Vancouver Sun, a wire service brief carried a headline which falsely alleged that Israeli militants fire rockets and mortars” which “killed two Palestinian girls.”


Contrary to this report, the “militants” the original wire report was referring to were Palestinian, not Israeli. A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinians toward Israel fell short of its intended target and landed in Gaza, killing the Palestinian girls, aged 5 and 12.

After we brought this error to the attention of senior editors at the Vancouver Sun, the following “correction” was printed in the January 3 edition of the paper:


While we appreciate the token correction and the Sun’s acknowledgement of error, this “setting it straight” notice was unsatisfactory as it didn’t properly clarify that Palestinian terrorists had killed these two innocent Palestinian girls. Vancouver Sun readers who read the original story are still left to believe that Israel was responsible for the deaths. To send your considered comments about this dismal correction to the Vancouver Sun, please send emails to Vancouver Sun Senior Editor Nicholas Palmer at:

Toronto Sun’s Grossly Inflated Statistics

As various Canadian cities saw pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests, unfounded malicious allegations were promulgated by Israel’s enemies and accepted as fact by Canadian reporters.

A Toronto Sun report by Amy Chung on December 29 reported how “tempers flare over Palestinian deaths” at a protest in Toronto. Reporter Chung interviewed pro-Palestinian supporter Maha Elharake who was quoted as saying that:

  • “I was in Beirut in 2006 when 5,000 people died from (airstrikes) … all we have to defend ourselves there are stones,” she said.”

Had Ms. Chung or Toronto Sun copy editors actually vetted this statement, they would have recognized that these figures were grossly inflated. In fact, the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 saw fewer than 1,400 casualties resulting from the fighting, the majority of casualties being armed Hezbollah terrorists.

After communicating our concerns to editors at the Toronto Sun, they promptly and professionally set the record straight by issuing the following correction on December 31:


What You Can Do To Make A Difference:

The above examples are only a small fraction of the media coverage that we have analyzed and responded to over the past week. Stay tuned for additional alerts focusing on specific media for as long as this crisis situation continues.

To help keep the media honest, please use HonestReporting’s Primer to help you confront Hamas’ disinformation efforts, remembering that the court of international opinion has not yet been adjourned, even though the war on the ground continues unabated.


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