«« Guerre israélo-palestinienne

We must end media bias against Israel

I.H. Asper, O.C., O.M., Q.C.
National Post
Thursday, October 31, 2002

Throughout my lifetime I have had an unshakeable commitment to three cornerstones of my personal value system: my first commitment is to this great nation, Canada. My second is to Israel as a symbol and teacher of excellence for all of humankind, and the third is to the media as the most honourable and steadfast advocate, defender and distributor of truth, honesty, fairness, freedom, democracy and human rights.

With a combination of sadness, fear and anger, I must now tell you that both Israel and the honour of the news media are under grievous assault. And, even more painful for me, even though at first glance those two pillars should be separate, I regret to say, they are both threatened by the same cancer and have thus become inextricably linked. This is because dishonest reporting is destroying the trust in and credibility of the media and the journalists, and the same dishonest reporting is biased against Israel, thus destroying the world's favourable disposition toward it.

I want to make it clear that I am not here speaking for our own media company, CanWest Global Communications, but only as a concerned Canadian and a long-time journalist myself. As well because my company competes with most Canadian media, I will not make specific reference to our competitors' record, with one exception. That exception is the CBC -- because all Canadians own it and the governments we elect are responsible to us and it for its quality, and integrity.

Before turning to specific examples and analyzing the causes of this outrage, we should touch on some fundamental lies on which many reporters and analysts base their view of the war.

The first and worst lie is what this war is all about. Dishonest reporting tells you that it's about territory, and Jerusalem, and Palestinian statehood, and alleged refugees. Honest reporting would tell you that it is a war to destroy Israel and kill or expel or subjugate all the Jews. That is proved by the words and deeds of all the key Arab Palestinian leaders. But the media has bought and reported dishonestly and relentlessly the big lie. That big lie is that this war could be ended by Israeli land concessions.

The second fundamental big lie disseminated by world media, including those in Canada, is what gave rise to the current version of the Arab war of extermination of Israel and the Jewish people -- the so-called al-Aqsa uprising or intifada.

The truth is that when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, one of the world's most cruel and vicious terrorists for the past 30 years, that corrupt dictator and thief of billions of dollars of world-intended aid for his people, could not get the extravagant concessions he demanded from the Clinton Camp David meetings, he planned the uprising of terrorism as a means of intimidating the U.S. and Israel into giving in to his maniacal demands.

But he needed an excuse, an appealing argument in which to clothe his new latest war.

And so, in early September 2000, when parliamentary opposition leader Ariel Sharon (he wasn't even prime minister) told both Israelis and Palestinian officials he intended to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, legally part of Israel which is co-sited with the Muslim al-Aqsa mosque, they agreed and both Palestinian and Israeli Security detachments accompanied him on his brief tour.

This was the opportunity Arafat sought. He immediately unleashed the rioting, stone-throwing and armed attacks allegedly as a "spontaneous" uprising against Israel allegedly in response to Sharon's provocation!

It was then that most of the world media bought the propaganda that launched the second big lie of the current warfare: "Sharon's visit provokes Palestinian rebellion." They didn't even ask the fundamental question: Is this true?

The third big lie is that the current conflict arises from Palestinian frustration over the slowness of the so-called "peace process."

The central, and conveniently ignored, fact is that the current warfare is merely the latest chapter in a war against the Jewish people. That war began in earnest 85 years ago, when in 1917, Britain and the League of Nations declared, with world approval, that a Jewish state would be established in Palestine.

The region's Arabs have engaged in terrorist slaughter, riots and multi Muslim states military invasion against the Jewish nation ever since. The only periodic lulls in this savage and often barbaric assault, specializing in seeking women, children and elderly victims, has occurred when the Arabs have been resoundingly defeated.

Then, they sue for peace, issue poor-me hand-wringing pleas for international help, and use the lull in the battle to regroup, re-arm and plot their next assault -- and it is routinely launched.

Any reportage or commentary that is not clothed in this context is, at best, misleading, or ignorant and plain dishonest at worst.

A great deal of the dishonesty arises from the failure to report and the failure to opine on many factors which must be considered in judging the Middle East war. Such as:

- Failure to report honestly an incident in February, 2002. CNN reported "Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian in a gun battle Sunday near an army base in northern Israel and another Palestinian died nearby when a car exploded."

CNN failed to report that the two Palestinians were in the process of attempted double suicide bombings. They were strapped with explosive belts.

- Failure to report that money granted to the Palestinian Authority by Canada has gone to produce anti-Israel propaganda distributed to Palestinian children.

- Failure to report how the Saudi, Syrian and Egyptian media continue to write and propagate the myth that Jews use human blood for their holiday celebrations.

If the omissions don't adequately make the case of planned and engineered media bias, then the commissions of misleading reporting certainly cement a bulletproof case against the media.

And now let me turn to by far the worst offender in Canada.

- The CBC, along with The New York Times and other left-wing media, will still not label the Palestinian murderers as terrorists. By any world recognized definition of terrorism, they are terrorists, but the CBC, particularly in the person of Neil Macdonald, simply refers to them as "militants."

- 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.

- To prove that many journalists have been enlisted in the propaganda army of the Palestinians, in May last year, Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC correspondent in Gaza for the past 10 years, spoke at a Hamas rally and declared: "Journalist and media organizations are waging the campaign soldier-to-soldier together with the Palestinian people."

BBC countered outraged complaints against his journalistic ethics, by saying that his remarks were made in a "private capacity."

But if nothing else in this entire sad and sordid story irrefutably demonstrates the dishonest reporting and inherent media bias against Israel, it is the Jenin massacre myth on which the herd of ravenous reporters descended with vulture-like hysteria.

Hysterical, hyperbolical Palestinian propagandists shrieked "massacre -- 5,000 innocents slaughtered," and the United Nations, the Third World pawns, dutifully closed ranks to condemn Israel, as is routine for that corrupt organization. Soon the Palestinians reduced their alleged death toll to 3,000. Then the number of alleged deaths claimed mysteriously dropped to a mere 500, but the media still sang the massacre melody.

Finally, when the UN Commission declared that only 54 Palestinians had died, and over half of them were armed combatants, the myth exploded. However, few media apologized or retracted the charges of "genocide," "war crimes" and "heinous Israeli atrocities" they had falsely trumpeted to the world.

Why is this happening? The answer is plain to see.

Firstly, too many of the journalists are lazy, or sloppy, or stupid. They are ignorant of the history of the subject on which they are writing.

Others are, plain and simple, biased, or anti-Semitic, or are taken captive by a simplistic ideology.

The result is that the biggest casualties of the Palestinian-Israeli war are truth, and the integrity of the media.

Every one of us must do what we can to correct this travesty. It is time to say "enough!"

The solution starts on the campus, and in the journalism schools, then it goes to the boardrooms of the media owners, and finally, and most importantly, with the public.

At this time, the appropriate position for all Canadians should be to stand tall in support of honesty in reporting, as well as for the right of Israel to exist and to take whatever actions it needs to battle its savage attackers, and to demand that our media and our politicians act with honour in this quest.

I.H. Asper is President of the Asper Foundation and Executive Chairman of CanWest Global Communications Corp. This an excerpt of Mr. Asper's speech to the Israel Bonds Gala in Montreal last night.