CBC “Arts” Podcast Commotion Features Extended Demonization Of Israel, Yet Again

April 15, 2024

In the April 10 edition of Commotion, a CBC podcast with a focus on “arts, pop culture, and entertainment,” host Elamin Abdelmahmoud spoke with Palestinian poet and writer Mosab Abu Toha, ostensibly about the role that artists and creators play in times of war or upheaval.

However, as the interview progressed, it quickly became clear that Abdelmahmoud is focusing not on the arts community and conflict as a whole, but was instead using the arts community as an entry into the demonization of Israel and the promotion of an untrue and one-sided narrative around the events of the war in Gaza.

The interview began with a peremptory nod by Abdelmahmoud to the events of October 7, 2023, the “approximately 1,200 people, most of them Israeli civilians” that were killed and acknowledging that Hamas still has “more than 130 [people] held hostage”.

That is the last time any mention is made about the toll taken on Israeli lives, Israeli arts and culture, or the Jewish experience worldwide. In discussing the impact that the conflict has had, Toha said that “people in Gaza and the West Bank and everywhere turn into numbers. When you see the news, they would say 15 people were killed in a school, but no one tells us who these 15 people are.”

And while Abdelmahmoud and Toha went on to dissect this dehumanization of Palestinian dead, they failed to see the irony in their own dismissal of the toll that the conflict has taken on Israelis. While Toha argued that today, in Gaza, “lots and lots of houses are not there anymore”, and that “it’s about erasure of a human life, human experience….. The destruction that’s happening in Gaza to universities and schools and libraries and theatres and cinemas…, it’s about destroying the streets, the markets… every corner that reminds a Palestinian about their previous life is being destroyed”, neither he nor Abdelmahmoud mentioned the fact that on October 7, whole Kibbutzim were destroyed, and that to this day, hundreds of thousands of Israelis remain displaced from their homes in Northern Israel.

Indeed, throughout the interview Toha strongly implied that Israel is indiscriminately bombing civilian areas, that there are inordinate numbers of civilian casualties, and that Israel is deliberately targeting places of civilian life, attempting to destroy locations important to culture and the arts.

While such tactics are favourite strategies of Hamas – the terrorist group did, after all, attack an Israeli music festival celebrating the idea of peace – Israel has said again and again that it is targeting Hamas terror infrastructure, not civilian areas.

Further, despite the fact that Hamas uses human shields, launching rockets and situating bases within civilian population centres, the civilian casualty numbers coming out of Gaza are still similar to those of other modern urban conflicts. According to sources, Israel has dropped more than 45 000 bombs on Gaza since the conflict began in October.

Even if the (highly suspect) Hamas casualty numbers are to be believed, and more than 33,000 people have been killed, that is less than one person per bomb. If Israel WAS indiscriminately firing on Gaza, those numbers would be much, much higher.

And speaking of those casualty numbers – throughout the broadcast Abdelmahmoud repeatedly and unquestioningly shares the figure of “33 000 people dead,” even though it is now clear that this figure has been grossly exaggerated, according to the Palestinian authorities (Hamas) themselves.

The irresponsible repetition of unverified death toll numbers by Western media only serves to fan the flames around the world, especially when not put into context – that 15,000 of the dead are Hamas fighters – that the casualty numbers now being reported fall below those expected for urban warfare, and that the ratio of bombs to casualties is exemplary. Given that the Gaza Health Ministry report walking back the death toll of 33,000 was released on April 6, Abdelmahmoud had ample time between then and his April 10 broadcast date to research and report on the unreliability of this number. Seemingly, he chose not to.

Towards the end of the podcast, Abdelmahmoud brought up the impact of the war on Palestinians celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid, that this year’s “gathering is not going to be the same.” Both Abdelmahmoud and Toha lamented the fact that they face war, even on a holy day. Neither of them, of course, mentioned that this war was launched when Hamas invaded Israel during a holy day, indiscriminately slaughtering, raping and abducting civilians. While Toha shares that it will be a “tough Eid” because “lots and lots of houses… are not there anymore”, no mention is made of the hundreds of Israeli houses that were destroyed, their residents along with them, igniting the conflict on that dark Simchat Torah day in October.

While Abdelmahmoud pointed out repeatedly that “this is an arts podcast”, it is most definitely not an apolitical one. In fact, since October 7, he has dedicated 3 shows to the war in Gaza, none of them with pro-Israel, Zionist or even, arguably, pro-Jewish voices.

Indeed, the Jewish creators he chooses to include are staunchly anti-Zionist, fringe voices, and the November 21 edition of the show was the subject of an HonestReporting Canada alert.

By not including artists and creators that capture and embody the vast majority of Jewish peoples’ experience, he is, seemingly deliberately, painting a dishonest picture of what it means to be a Jew in the world today, and fanning the flames of antisemitism here in the West.

The April 10 edition of Commotion reflected both anti-Israel hostility and an aversion to accuracy and in our estimation, stood in violation of the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices.

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