CBC News Gives Undue Attention & Legitimacy To Claim That Israel Holds Palestinians Prisoner As “Revenge”

In a May 17 segment, entitled: “Advocates decry rising numbers of jailed Palestinians as ‘revenge’ by Israel,” CBC’s flagship program, The National, gave undue attention and legitimacy to a highly politicized and misleading anti-Israel narrative without sufficiently contextualizing or backing its claims up.

The segment by CBC reporter Chris Brown, a report who we’ve previously taken to task for whitewashing and romanticizing Palestinian terrorism, talked about the experiences and grievances of Palestinian prisoners who have been arrested by Israel since October 7, 2023.

During the report, a former detainee described himself as having been “a hostage of war” while an activist blanketly described Israel’s arrests in Judea and Samaria (or in media parlance, the “West Bank”) as falling “under the category of revenge.” It’s implied by several of the individuals interviewed that people are being arrested en masse without any justified cause.

Unfortunately, while it’s certainly to be criticized and corrected if anyone has been wrongfully arrested, it’s impossible as a viewer to evaluate whether this accusation is correct in the examples shared, as the CBC News report did not give any real background information on how and why these specific arrests took place.

In one case, viewers were vaguely told that the detainee was involved in “an altercation with Israeli security forces when someone pulled a gun,” and that the family does not believe he was the particular member of that entourage who had the gun. The public is left with this simple story of one person’s word versus another, leaving no real way of evaluating which side of the story is more credible. Nevertheless, the narrative is still built painting Israel as aggressively arresting people undeservedly.

In the case of Omar Assaf, described by CBC News as a “social activist,” viewers were merely told that he was arrested from his home and deemed a “risk to national security” but without any more details about the incident provided. The report then showed Assaf’s generic denunciations of Israel’s practices as a whole. A photo is shown of Assaf holding what appears to be an antisemitic placard depicting various countries as points on a Jewish star (invoking the age old antisemitic trope of Jews controlling the world), crossing out the star, and delegitimizing Israel as a country by putting its name in quotation marks. The content of this image is not addressed in the segment, while the voiceover report vaguely alleges that he was arrested for “protesting Israel’s bombing of Gaza” without any further information.

Assaf complained about a lack of food: “we haven’t any meat, we haven’t any fruits… hungry all the time.” Untold by the CBC’s reporter, Israel claims that it treats all prisoners according to international law and the Geneva Conventions and doesn’t deprive prisoners of food.

It’s also wildly inappropriate for Assaf, and later another interviewee, to compare their ordeals to that of Hamas’ Israeli hostages — who include innocent women, children, and senior citizens taken from their homes and abused solely due to their nationality, without any wrongdoing on their part having even been alleged. While the CBC News report does appropriately point out Israel’s objection to such comparisons, explaining these specific reasons as to why the comparison is unfair would have been far more informative than merely mentioning in passing that Israel disagrees.

Unfortunately, individual cases notwithstanding, the report failed at a basic level to provide general context as to why there have been so many arrests in the “West Bank” — namely, the presence of terror groups there, including Hamas-affiliated cells and groups armed by Iran like Islamic Jihad, and their involvement in attacking Israeli authorities and civilians — including children — in efforts to open up additional fronts in the Hamas/Iranian war of annihilation against the Jewish state. Prior to October 7, West Bank-based Palestinians had committed hundreds of terror attacks against Israelis, with the 2022-2023 period being one of the deadliest since the Second Intifada. Mentioning these very pressing issues would have helped contextualize the situation and provide viewers with a more complete picture, rather than creating the misleading impression that the spike in arrests is happening for no apparent reason.

Similarly, some basic background on the movement by activists to support Palestinian prisoners would have also been a wise and appropriate inclusion in the report. For years, anti-Israel activists have waged propaganda efforts to whitewash the crimes of Palestinian terrorists and murderers, such as Marwan Barghouti and Walid Daqqa, in order to rebrand them as political prisoners being unjustly persecuted by Israel. While this doesn’t in and of itself make concerns about individual cases problematic, it certainly calls for sweeping claims made about the issue by activists to be taken with a grain of salt. Informing the viewers of this history would have been helpful in allowing them to do so.

The report correctly notes that administrative detention by Israel involves a process by which a judge determines that the person indeed poses a potential security threat.

CBC did an inadequate job of explaining why Israel implements administrative detention, where it arrests or detains individuals without trial. Countries worldwide (Australia, Japan, Ireland, the UK and US) use administrative detention to curb terrorism and to fight illegal immigration. Israel does it, it says, when holding a trial would reveal sensitive security information. In the cases of minors, it’s used only in the most extreme of extenuating circumstances. The policy doesn’t just apply to Palestinians, it’s been used against Israeli Jews too.

Israel has several legal safeguards in place to ensure that administrative detention isn’t abused. For example, all intelligence and alternatives must be reviewed by a military prosecutor and judge, the accused has a right to appeal the decision, and there is a 6-month limit on detention, which can only be extended if the initial process for the order is repeated in full.

Why, then, is it appropriate to platform biased activists who baselessly label such arrests categorically as “revenge” — let alone to repeat the inflammatory claim as a headline, creating the potential misunderstanding that CBC News endorses the view?


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