CBC News “Analysis” Little More than A Rehash Of Anti-Israel Propaganda

In a May 10 CBC News article entitled: “How rallying around divestments helped unify Canada’s pro-Palestinian movement,” Senior Investigative Journalist Jonathan Montpetit presented a grossly one-sided, biased narrative that lacked context, minimized bad behavior, and distorted the truth.

The article glorified the illegal encampment movement and the related Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, uncritically starting from the assumption that they are merely “social movement[s].” Never was any meaningful space or attention given to the reasons that these movements are so heavily criticized, nor to the widespread adverse effects they are having on the lives of Jewish Canadians, nor to the nefarious external origins of their funding and leadership, nor to correcting the various falsehoods and inconsistencies in the claims made by the people the CBC reporter showcased.

Montpetit repeatedly cited Palestinian activist’s outlandish claims, such as how: “settler colonialism can describe not only how Israel was formed in 1948 but also the country’s aspirations for the remaining Palestinian territories — Gaza and the West Bank.”

One can only stand in awe and amazement at the immense talent it must take to be able to get that many things wrong in just a few short words.

Firstly, the claim that Israel’s formation was an example of “settler colonialism” is a gross and false distortion of history that is not taken seriously by anyone outside of fringe anti-Israel activist circles. “Settler colonialism,” as the name suggests, includes two parts — a colonizing power who conquers a land, and settlers who usurp the native population’s presence on the colonizer’s behalf. While this certainly describes the process by which various modern countries were born, it does not in any way reflect the way modern Israel came to be.

Modern Israel’s founding involved the indigenous population of the land (the Jews), who had been systematically and forcibly removed again and again by colonial powers over the years, voluntarily returning to purchase and develop largely uninhabited areas of the region for the purpose of self-determination. After the international community formally recognized this right, those communities declared themselves an independent state — agreeing to live peacefully alongside a separate independent state for their Arab neighbours on parts of their ancestral and legally-promised territories. Unfortunately, the Arab leadership rejected this compromise, refusing to recognize the rights of Jews to govern themselves anywhere in the region and launched an attempted war of annihilation against Israel — which ultimately caused the displacement of many Palestinians. Ever since, dishonest extremists have peddled the false myth that Israel was created by foreign invaders kicking the locals off their land.

No part of the actual story resembles the definition of settler colonialism. There was no foreign power sending Jews to control the land on their behalf — on the contrary, Jews who immigrated there from other parts of the world were usually fleeing other places such as refugees. If anything, the term settler colonialism better resembles the history of how much of the Palestinian Arab population emerged in the region, the gradual result of hostile conquests by the Umayyad, Mamluk, and Ottoman empires.

It is also wrong to call the West Bank and Gaza “the remaining Palestinian territories,” as this falsely asserts one side’s opinion as fact. There was no previous State of Palestine from which the rest of Israel was taken, implying that these two territories were left for Palestinians. There was a British Mandate, followed by the independence of Israel as already described, followed by the occupation and illegal annexation for themselves of the West Bank and Gaza by Jordan and Egypt, followed by their coming under Israeli control when a second attempted war of annihilation against Israel took place in 1967. Since then, various negotiations have taken place and parts of these territories have been placed under Palestinian autonomy, but no final status has been determined due to the consistent rejection of compromise offers by extremist Palestinian leaders.

Finally, it is also grossly misleading to claim that Israel has “aspirations” for these disputed territories, or that modern Israeli political actions there constitute a new example of settler colonialism. Not only has Israel repeatedly offered the Palestinians opportunities to turn the majority of the West Bank into a Palestinian state, to no avail on the Palestinian end, it also unilaterally withdrew its entire civilian and military presence from the entire Gaza Strip in 2005. While it’s true that hundreds of thousands of Jewish individuals have privately chosen of their own volition to live in the West Bank in the five decades during which its final status has remained in flux, and while it’s true that a fringe minority on the Israeli right are currently seeking to restore former Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip, the primary government motivation for maintaining a hold on these territories is the enormous security risk that they continuously pose to Israel’s civilian population when in the hands of Palestinian terrorist leaders, as demonstrated unambiguously on October 7th. This situation in no way even comes close to resembling what the term “settler colonialism” is meant to describe.

Montpetit’s article is peppered throughout with similarly uninformed, naive conflation of politically-charged and misleading viewpoints with objective facts. And, consistently, he legitimizes this extremism with the authority of Canada’s national broadcaster.

Perhaps the most disturbing example of this is when he fails to follow up or challenge a student whom he quoted celebrating the fact that her peers are now starting “[to] say the Zionist regime, the Zionist entity, [or] the Zionist state” instead of calling Israel by its name. The idea that one side of a human conflict should have its very legitimacy and identity erased is outrageous — even without the added detail that the language being promoted instead was that of the theocratic totalitarian Iranian regime. Worse still is that the interviewee is identified as a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at McGill, a group that has been formally banned from affiliating with the university due to its open support for violence and terrorism.

Did Montpetit do such little basic research on the subject matter before writing this piece that he wasn’t aware of all these relevant details? Or did he simply choose to abdicate his journalistic duty and refuse to include information that challenged his preferred narrative of the encampment movement as a virtuous social movement? Either way, Jonathan Montpetit’s May 12 article reporting on the anti-Israel campus occupations represented a striking failure of investigative journalism.

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