CBC Front Burner Podcast Gives Undeserved Credibility To Fringe Anti-Israel Encampments

On a May 7 episode of CBC’s Front Burner podcast, entitled: “At the McGill encampment, calls to divest from Israel,” host Jayme Poisson attempted a deep-dive into the issue of the anti-Israel encampment that has taken over part of McGill’s campus after spending time speaking to participants.

While Poisson is to be commended for making some effort at including multiple voices and acknowledging criticisms and controversies surrounding the issues being addressed, the report unfortunately still missed the mark in a few crucial ways that resulted in a highly biased and misleading final product.

Poisson initially explained that her goal was to try and understand the “divestment” that the protestors claim as the official aim of their movement — including “what it means, why students are calling for it, and why the broader push…[for] the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (or BDS) has been so controversial.”

Poisson spent the next 21 minutes (out of a 35 minute show) talking to supporters of the protest movement about a whole host of topics (from their perspective) before finally speaking to those with opposing viewpoints (for a grand total of just six minutes).

After this, the show concluded with a final section in which Poisson addressed two specific highly-publicized antisemitic incidents which took place on the McGill campus, as well as one in Toronto, and discussed these controversies with — once again — supporters of the anti-Israel protest movement.

In so doing, the show presented listeners with a lopsided impression of the situation by engaging significantly more with the views, claims, and perspectives of one side over the other, as well as building an overall narrative that stems from the ideology and talking points of the protestors rather than a balanced discussion of the various intersecting issues and challenges that impact many groups of students in significant ways.

For example, multiple in-depth interview discussions are given time to play out between the host and representatives of the group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) regarding their support for BDS efforts, while a representative of B’nai Brith Canada is only given a minute or so to briefly touch upon some generalized concerns in passing.

CJPME is an anti-Israel pressure group which has been criticized for antisemitic antics and extremist viewpoints such as whitewashing Hamas as a legitimate “resistance organization.”

These concerns are exacerbated by the fact that two other questionable and fringe organizations from the extreme anti-Israel movement are repeatedly given a platform throughout the show — namely, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). Representatives of both these groups are repeatedly brought back into the conversation multiple times throughout the show, without any context given about the controversies surrounding them.

IJV is a group that falsely pretends to represent the views of the Jewish community despite an overwhelming majority of Canadian Jews and virtually all mainstream Jewish organizations repudiating their views — not to mention their history of extremism. Meanwhile, Poisson waited until just before the very end of the podcast before acknowledging that SPHR is an organization that is banned by McGill from affiliating with the university due to its open support for Hamas terrorism. Isn’t this a relevant bit of context for the audience to be aware of before hearing out their claims for 35 minutes, in order to be able to evaluate the content’s credibility accordingly?

Furthermore, the podcast failed on too many occasions to correct, contextualize, or clarify various inaccurate or misleading things stated by the people platformed. Midway through the broadcast, CJPME’s Bueckert claimed that a basis for the BDS boycott of Israeli academics is that some of their institutions are “located on occupied Palestinian land.”

In reality, the only Israeli university located within a disputed territory is the very small Ariel University in the West Bank, land Israel regards as Judea and Samaria. All of the major universities that are widely involved in academic partnerships abroad are located on internationally-recognized sovereign Israeli soil.

Elsewhere, “Rana,” a member of SPHR, stated that Gaza has been “occupied” by Israel for the past “17 years” in a “land, air, and ground blockade.” This is, in fact, the opposite of the truth. It was 17 years ago when Israel voluntarily withdrew both its military and civilian presence from the entire Gaza Strip as a gesture towards peace and Palestinian self-determination. The only reason that Israel ultimately established naval control over the entrance to Gaza’s coast was because the terrorist group Hamas took over the territory and turned it into a base of operations from which to attack Israel’s population.

These inaccurate representations of facts for the sake of serving a political narrative should have been called out, or at least contextualized by the host — and the same goes for all the false reference to the war in Gaza as being a “genocide” or comparisons between Israel’s multicultural democracy and apartheid South Africa.

Finally, it has to be asked why CBC — Canada’s public broadcaster — chose to allow space on its airwaves for things like threats to disrupt the democratic and civil order in order to force a small group’s will on everyone else, rationalization and minimization of violent acts of antisemitic vandalism, or support for brutal acts of terrorist violence, for any reason other than to warn the public about the kind of danger this movement currently poses to public safety and well-being.

With the general Canadian public increasingly recognizing that this movement is far more nefarious than it purports to be, and with constant moments like the aforementioned ones reinforcing the correctness of this skepticism, why are media outlets continuing to accept the movement’s narrative at face value?

This is just the latest instance of Front Burner giving uncritical attention to anti-Israel messaging, while failing to provide balance or context. The May 7 episode of CBC’s Front Burner gave undeserved credibility and attention to a fringe movement, falsely implying it is far more mainstream than it is.

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