«« Guerre israélo-palestinienne

Media have abandoned honesty on the Middle East

Many journalists have simply adopted Palestinian propaganda as their context

ISRAEL H. ASPER
The Montreal Gazette
Thursday, October 31, 2002

In a Montreal speech last night, Israel H. Asper, executive chairman of CanWest Global Communications Corp. (which owns The Gazette), denounced dishonesty and bias in U.S., British, and Canadian journalism, especially on the Mideast. Here are edited excerpts from his prepared text:

Tonight, with a combination of sadness, fear and anger, I must tell you that both Israel and the honour of the news media are under grevious assault, both threatened by the same cancer. Dishonest reporting is destroying the trust in and credibility of the media and journalists, and the same dishonest reporting is biased against Israel, thus destroying the world's favourable disposition toward it.

I am not here speaking for our own media company but as a concerned Canadian. Because my company competes with most Canadian media, I will not make specific reference to our competitors' record tonight, with one exception. If any CanWest media outlets happen to fall within this indictment, then they, too, should take notice that I will always do all in my power to stamp out dishonest and biased reporting, not only on Israel but wherever and whenever it comes to my attention.

Tonight, I make the charge that much of the world media, in covering the Arab-Israeli conflict, have abandoned the fundamental precepts of honest reporting. They have adopted Palestinian propaganda as the context for their stories.

The first and worst lie is what this war is all about. Honest reporting would tell you that it is a war to destroy Israel and kill or expel or subjugate all the Jews.

Examples of profound media bias against Israel are found in the world's leading media. In the U.S., the worst offenders are National Public Radio, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the L.A. Times and Associated Press. In Canada, although not alone, the CBC provides the most slanted and biased information and routinely practices dishonest reporting.

  • CNN has reported that 30 Palestinian women have died in labour while being held up at Israeli checkpoints. The story is a complete fabrication, generated from Palestinian spokesperson Nabil Sha'att. To this day, CNN has neither published a categorical withdrawal nor the main proven fact that not a single woman had died.

  • In May last year, Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC correspondent in Gaza for the past 10 years, told a Hamas rally "Journalists and media organizations are waging the campaign soldier-to-soldier together with the Palestinian people." BBC countered outraged complaints by saying that his remarks were made in a "private capacity."

  • CBC Middle East correspondent Neil MacDonald refers to Israeli troops as "assassins" when they pursue terrorists.

    Why is this happening? The answer is plain to see. First, too many of the journalists are lazy, or sloppy, or stupid. They are ignorant of history. Others are, plain and simple, biased or anti-Semitic.

    Every one of us must do what we can to correct this travesty. It is time to say "Enough!'' We must demand that the journalism schools do a better job of teaching integrity more forcefully. Then we must demand that our media owners invest more money in educating their journalists. On the university campuses, we must demand that the administrators retake control of the teaching process, to ensure that hate is not taught, propaganda is not preached and that the revered term "academic freedom" is never used as a license to libel, a podium for propaganda and an advocacy of hate. We should withhold financial support from institutions that fail this obligation of educational integrity.

    If we cannot trust the media in its reporting on Israel, how can we trust it on anything else? And if we cannot trust our media, democracy and our freedom is profoundly threatened.

    You, the public, must be more vigilant and aggressive, by your E-mails, your letters to the editor, your phone calls, your cancelation of subscriptions, your refusal to patronize advertisers of offending media, your withholding of your own advertising.

    Don't think that you are powerless. Always remember that all it takes for evil to triumph is for a few good men - and women - to remain silent.

    We are witnessing the most virulent, vitriolic and vicious explosion of anti-Semitism, rivaled only by the rise of Naziism in the 1930s. Left unchecked, it will consume all freedoms, because every attack of anti-Semitism in the history of mankind has been a forerunner to the destruction of liberty in all other sectors of human endeavour, not just for Jews but for everyone. The painful lesson of the last century is that freedom is indivisible.

    Therefore I appeal to you, do not repeat the errors of your parents and grandparents who passively and complacently witnessed Canadian government indifference to the rise of genocide in Europe during the 1930s. It is time, vigorously and vigilantly, to become activists.

    As for me, I do not intend to be silent. I have carried on a love affair with media all my adult life, and I have also been a staunch supporter of Israel. At the same time, I am an unashamed and unrelenting Canadian patriot. I am not going to stand idly back to watch any of the democratic ideals that made Canada the envy of nations be injured, sullied or disgraced.

    All Canadians should stand tall in support of honesty in reporting and of the right of Israel to exist and to take whatever actions it needs to battle its savage attackers and demand that our media and our politicians act with honour in this quest. I've told you what I'm doing. The question for you, my friends, is what are you personally going to do about it?