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Ombudsman denies anti-Israel misinformation on radio program violates CBC standards

CBC ombudsman Jack Nagler has denied that two of Carol Off’s radio interviews in May 2021, covering the war between Hamas and Israel on her former show, As it Happens, violated CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices.

The lawsuit filed by HonestReporting Canada subscriber Murray Teitel took Carol Off to task for two radio interviews on May 14 and 25, 2021.

In the premiered May 14Off interviewed a Palestinian woman in Gaza named Rima Aburahma, who repeatedly made false statements, including that Israel does not allow any building materials into Gaza for the construction of bomb shelters, that Israel was targeting homes where only children were present, and that Israel was “killing people and taking over our land”.

CBC, As It Happens, excerpt from May 14, 2021

In his review, which can be read in full by click here, CBC ombudsman Nagler wrote that “a radio guest making a complaint is not the equivalent of a CBC complaint” and that “the bar for me to conclude a violation of journalistic standards based on something the radio guest says is quite high. The falsity of the statement must be indisputable and the materiality of the falsity must be unquestionably high.

Nagler wrote that while interviewees may have made statements that were objectionable to many, she was, in one instance, “entitled to describe her reaction.”

Unfortunately, in the eyes of HonestReporting Canada, this is an insufficient defense. According to CBC Journalistic Standards“In the case of statements made by a person expressing an honest opinion, we ensure that this opinion is based on facts relating to a matter of public interest.

The claim that Israel is blocking construction materials from entering Gaza may be a sincere belief of this Palestinian woman, but it is patently false nonetheless. CBC points out that Israel has (temporarily) restricted cement imports into Gaza, which is true, but not the same as an outright ban, as the interviewee claims. Israel only limits dual-use materials that could be reused in weapons like rockets.

Claims around Israel targeting homes with only children present, and that the Jewish state was “killing people and taking over our land” are even more egregious.

This is problematic, firstly because, as Teitel pointed out in his complaint, under the oppressive Hamas regime in Gaza, the lack of freedom of expression means that one can never truly express one’s free opinion, and secondly , personal opinion notwithstanding, these claims are certainly unquestionably false. There is simply no evidence that Israel is deliberately targeting innocent civilians, nor is it indiscriminately murdering Palestinians and stealing land.

In the second airing May 25Off interviewed a Palestinian, Refaat Alareer, who made the same baseless claims about Israel’s “deliberate attack”.

CBC, As It Happens, excerpt from May 25, 2021

In his complaint to CBC, Teitel pointed out that this The Twitter account of a Palestinian shows well over 100 examples of anti-Israel content specifically comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. As It Happens executive producer Robyn Smythe was quoted in Nagler’s report as saying “she had no knowledge of it” before the lawsuit was filed and that it would be “unreasonable” to make a review of Alareer’s entire social media history. .

This is a surprising defense for two reasons. First, if Teitel were able to discover these posts on Twitter, it would seem that CBC would certainly be able to do so as well. Second, and far more problematically, comparing Israelis to Nazis is not just a claim based on lies, but it is bona fide anti-Semitism.

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, adopted by Canada, anti-Semitism can also include “comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and that of the Nazis”.

While the IHRA definition is not a binding policy, it is a stark reminder that drawing parallels between Israelis and Nazis is more than just wrong; it is downright defamatory, even an incitement to hatred. It is therefore very surprising and problematic that CBC apparently does not consider these statements problematic, nor disqualifying for a possible interview guest.

CBC defends its interviews, saying “the show has the right to interview whomever it wants” and that “a guest’s behavior before or after the interview is their own responsibility.”

While it is certainly true that people are responsible for their own words, in our view, the CBC did not respect its journalistic practices in allowing such blatant misinformation to air on its radio show. As Canada’s public broadcaster, it must do better in the future.

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