On the April 28th broadcast of the CBC Radio One program Let’s Go hosted by Sabrina Marandola, a brief segment was aired which repeated problematic anti-Israel propaganda.
During the segment, intern Vanna Blacksmith spotlighted an art exhibition hosted by the Palestinian Youth Movement organization, taking place in downtown Montreal.
Blacksmith told listeners that following the exhibition, “A 1948 nakba survivor will be doing an open panel about their experience.”
When Marandola asked Blacksmith, “What is nakba?” Blacksmith responded that it “Refers to what they call Palestinian catastrophe…back in the 1947/49…during that period, three quarters of Palestinians were forced to move from their homeland because of that war.”
While Blacksmith is correct that the term “nakba” means catastrophe in Arabic, she failed to give listeners any context. Following Israel’s proclamation of independence in 1948, it was immediately invaded by surrounding Arab states, who intended to destroy the newly reborn Jewish State. While Israel was able to successfully defend itself during the War of Independence that was thrust upon it, it came at a high cost: roughly one percent of Israel’s Jewish population died during the war.
It’s also true that a large number of Arabs who were living in pre-state Israel were displaced as a result of the war. However, because Blacksmith provided no additional context as to why they left or who encouraged them to do so, they could be left with the false impression – widely propagated by anti-Israel activists – that Israel was the culprit who forced Arabs out of Israel.
Listen to the segment in full immediately below:
In fact, large numbers of Arabs left because they were encouraged, threatened or cajoled to do so by senior Arab leaders.
As noted by The Economist magazine at the time, local Arab residents often had little choice but to leave, but the culprit was not the Jewish State.
“Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained. Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit… It was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades,” the magazine wrote in 1948.
There can be no doubt as to what senior Arab leaders attempted to achieve in attacking Israel after it proclaimed independence in May, 1948.
Abdul Rahman Azzam, the secretary-general of the Arab League, crowed that Israel’s rebirth would spur on “a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.”
While the Arab-led war on Israel in 1948 killed thousands of Israelis, it also killed and made stateless thousands of Arabs. Thus, when Blacksmith says large numbers of Arabs were forced to leave “because of that war,” she is effectively whitewashing the responsibility of Arab leaders in harming their own people, to say nothing of the deaths and destruction it forced upon Israel’s Jewish population.
Furthermore, the term nakba, or catastrophe, leaves no doubt that those who use this term see Israel’s creation – the rebirth of the Jewish State after two thousand years of subjugation – as illegitimate and as a terrible mistake, presumably one which can still be rectified. This is not a political opinion; it is a view which denies the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in their historic homeland.
The organization hosting the art event mentioned by Blacksmith, the Palestinian Youth Movement, is one which is not deserving of receiving fawning exposure on a Canadian broadcaster, particularly a publicly-funded one.
In October, 2022, the organization hosted a demonstration outside France’s consulate in Montreal, protesting against the continued incarceration of Georges Abdallah, who they depicted merely as a political prisoner.
In actuality and as HonestReporting Canada pointed out at the time, Abdallah is a convicted murderer, serving a life sentence in a French prison for his involvement in two murders in Paris: that of Yakov Barsimentov, an Israeli diplomat, as well as US military attaché Charles Ray.
Abdallah did not deny the murders, telling police following his arrest that “I do what I do because of the injustice done to human rights where Palestine is concerned.”
It’s hardly the fault of CBC Radio One or the Let’s Go program specifically, that anti-Israel organizations like Palestinian Youth Movement seek to reframe the attempted Arab-led war of extermination against Israel in 1948 as a ‘nakba’ for Palestinians. However, by the CBC’s giving free publicity to their programming and by failing to challenge or provide context to their claims, only serves to amplify their anti-Israel propaganda.