By Judy Haiven
No one reading this believes that journalists should be killed for reporting what is going on in Gaza.
No one reading this thinks that reporters should not report on “wars.”
No one reading this believes that a free media exists in every country. Perhaps a few who are reading this know that Israel has deliberately targeted and killed 96 of the 109 journalists who have been murdered in Gaza in the last three months. Fewer realize that more journalists have been killed in Gaza in the last 107 days than in all six years of World War II.
The reason you don’t know is because Canada’s mainstream media doesn’t report any of this. Canada’s small handful of foreign correspondents are “embedded” with the Israelis in Jerusalem – just 77 kilometres but light years from Gaza. Whether it’s Irris Makler, a CBC stringer who makes her home in Jerusalem, or CBC’s veteran international correspondent or several others who report on Gaza, journalists are typically not allowed to go into Gaza. Instead, they are treated to press briefings, media reports, army film screenings and briefings with Israeli politicians on the far right, and by IDF generals and their media henchmen.
Recently, The Intercept did a quantitative analysis of articles in newspaper coverage of the first six weeks of Israel’s war on Gaza, studying three US newspapers “of record” – the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. All three newspapers “showed a consistent bias against Palestinians.”
An article published last month in The Intercept reveals that 48 journalists in Gaza died in the first six weeks of Israel’s war on Gaza. While the war has been one of the deadliest in modern history, “the word ‘journalists’ and its iterations such as ‘reporters’ and ‘photojournalists’ only appears in nine headlines out of over 1,100 articles studied. Only 4 of the 9 articles that contained the words journalist/reporter were about Arab reporters.”
Skewing the news
Journalism in Canada fares even worse. Most newspapers do not even perceive their lack of in-depth coverage on Palestinians and on Gaza. Most of the media in this country is controlled by one of several business empires – the largest among them is Bell Media which owns CTV, CP24 and the Globe and Mail as well as a raft of commercial radio stations. CTV’s National News is the most watched news program in Canada.
In a study covering October 7 to November 7, online news source The Breach found that in its coverage, “CTV National News has featured 62 percent more Israeli than Palestinian voices, aired racist stereotypes about Arabs, and allowed Israeli military officials to make false claims without pushback.” The Breach also noted that CTV did not “identify 41 percent of its Palestinian speakers by name – while identifying the vast majority of Israeli speakers with their names as well as family relationships and personal connections to violence they’ve experienced.”
In total, 133 Israelis and Canadians including politicians, military spokespeople and relatives of people killed or taken hostage by Hamas had appeared in that one month. By comparison only 82 Palestinians including civilians, officials and Palestinian-Canadian relatives were featured on the newscast.
CBC did not do all that much better. According to an article published in VICE on May 21, 2021 –nearly three years ago – two CBC journalists said they had been barred from covering the “ongoing violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories” after they had signed an open letter which called for more “nuanced coverage.”
More than 2,000 people, including many journalists, signed an “open letter to Canadian newsrooms.” The letter said the Canadian media did not include enough context or voices of Palestinians when covering “the ongoing nature of the Israeli occupation.” It asked for “fair and balanced coverage” of the conflict.
The letter was published a week after Israeli air strikes killed 228 Palestinians, including children, in Gaza.
The letter also noted the CBC’s decision not to cover a Human Rights Watch report that described Israel’s behaviour toward Palestinians as apartheid.
The VICE article quotes a number of CBC journalists who had to remain anonymous as they feared repercussions on their careers for speaking out.
Another issue the journalists raised was “both-sides-ism” – the fact that reporters are meant to cover both sides of the conflict even-handedly despite the “disproportionate power dynamics favouring Israel.”
Emma Paling wrote in The Breach that, after a complaint filed by a member of the public, CBC agreed that they used words such as “‘murderous,’ ‘vicious,’ ‘brutal,’ ‘massacre’ and ‘slaughter’ to refer only to Hamas’s attack on Israelis on 7 Oct. But when Israel has bombed Palestinians – more than 100,000 dead and seriously injured since that date – the CBC prefers softer terms like ‘intensive’, ‘unrelenting’ and ‘punishing’.”
The Breach further reports that according to CBC, “the more evocative and sympathy-generating terms don’t apply to Palestinian deaths, because Israel carries out its killings ‘remotely’ instead of face-to-face.”
Guardian journalist, author and professor of English, Moustafa Bayoumi, writes that the double standard of how events in Gaza are reported is policed by both-sides-ism. It “hides the massive asymmetry of power between the state of Israel and the scattered population groupings that make up the Palestinian people. They’re not equal. One dominates while the other is dominated. One colonizes. The other is colonized.”
Journalism in the crosshairs
As a preamble to articles about Gaza and Palestine, reporters usually note that their newspaper or broadcast “unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians.” But many Canadian journalists recognize this is not true – history with regard to the Palestinians did not begin on October 7.
In her excellent article “This War Did Not Start a Month Ago,” published in the New York Times in November, Dalia Hatuqa notes Israel’s outrageous and racist limits on Palestinians’ freedom prior to October 7. As a Palestinian who lives in Ramallah on the West Bank, Hatuqa explains Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens. Israel has passed many laws that restrict Palestinians’ movements including where they can live, whether or not they can visit family, what schools their children can attend and, of course, the lack of the fundamental right to return to the villages from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and beyond. She also reminds us that two-thirds of the people of Gaza are refugees. There is also the not-so-small issue of millions of Palestinians – in the West Bank and in Gaza – having to live under Israel’s brutal military rule.
Canadians for Justice in Palestine and the Middle East (CJPME) has published excellent list of Guidelines for Improved Coverage on Gaza-Israel War. The guidelines ask journalists to (1) show sensitivity when interviewing Palestinians impacted by the conflict; (2) understand the anxiety in the community; (3) not force average Palestinian-Canadians to answer for Hamas; and (4) respect the guidance provided by Middle East journalists associations.
CJPME’s Media Accountability team tracks media coverage. They welcome journalists to contact them for the guidelines and to access additional resources.
There are many examples of Canadians’ careers, jobs and opportunities being ruined because they supported Gaza. Perhaps they only clapped when a pro-Palestinian rally went by, yet four Moxies restaurant workers in Toronto were fired for doing this. Perhaps a journalist signed a petition for a ceasefire. Perhaps, as in the case of Toronto Star columnist Shree Paradkar, she was demoted – Paradkar had dared to write a column about doctors who have been sidelined or even suspended for their support of Palestine.
We are seeing that journalists are in the crosshairs of those who support every murderous thing Israel does. In 16 weeks, Israel killed 26,000 people and seriously injured more than 64,000.
Israel’s supporters include the establishment Jewish community in Canada and their mouthpieces Honest Reporting Canada and the Canadian Jewish News, which routinely “out” and attempt to destroy critics of Israel and supporters of Palestine. Support also comes from major organizations such as Canada’s media empires, universities and pro-Zionist organizations including the evangelical Christian churches.
Canada’s fourth estate is already teetering from job cuts, newspaper closures and the excesses wrought by corporate concentration. Silencing journalists who want to write and talk about Gaza is another nail in the coffin.
Judy Haiven is a Halifax member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada – she can be reached at jhaiven <at> gmail.com
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