"You end your segment with a problematic claim: 'Militias will make a volatile situation even more combustible.' Why is the recent upsurge in violence blamed solely on the militias? In the context of Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank, its regime of apartheid and its new far-right government which encourages settler attacks, it is more evident to believe that the recent surge in violence is a result of Israel’s actions and policies in the West Bank than young Palestinian militants. In fact, there have been near daily raids by invading Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank where Palestinians are indiscriminately killed. It is simply unfair and unbalanced to claim that it is militias who will make the situation 'more combustible.'"
March 15, 2023
Chris Brown, Foreign Correspondent, CBC The National
Melissa Mancini, Producer, CBC The National
CC: Jack Nagler, Ombudsman, CBC
Dear Mr. Brown, Ms. Mancini and Mr. Nagler,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to express my concerns regarding your video segment titled “Independent militia groups gaining support in West Bank” aired by CBC The National on March 15, 2023.
The video segment reports on three young Palestinian militants killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. Before I point out important adjustments required, I will say that I appreciate that your segment includes interviews with Palestinian residents of the occupied Palestinian city of Nablus. It is crucial for Canadian audiences to hear accounts of the recent upsurge in violence from the people most affected.
However, I have several concerns about the language used in your segment.
- First, you state that “Israel says [Wadee] al-Houh murdered one of their sergeants.” In every other instance where you mention the death of Palestinians however, you state that they were “killed” by Israeli forces. Further, in your interview with an IDF spokesperson, he also asserts that Palestinian militants “killed” soldiers. Why do you choose to use the term “murdered” to refer to the killing of an Israeli soldier?
According to the International Press Institute’s guide for language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, labelling a killing as a “murder” implies that it was an extrajudicial act. Under occupation, however, Palestinians are subject to military law, making it inaccurate to label such an event as a “murder.”
The IPI also points out that murder “has a specific definition under the criminal codes of most countries, and therefore should be used with care. It is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.’” This clearly does not apply to the case of a Palestinian militant accused of killing the Israeli sergeant.
As such, I ask that you add an editor’s note to the webpage with the video to indicate that you should have used the term “killed” rather than “murdered.”
- Second, I appreciate that you include the death toll of Palestinians and Israelis since the start of 2023. However, to properly contextualize this information, it is crucial to also include the number of civilian deaths. More than half of the at least 80 Palestinians killed were civilians, including at least 15 children according to Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP). Your audience should be privy to this context which reflects the power dynamics at play in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
As such, I insist that you mention these civilian deaths in an editor’s note on the webpage for this video, and include such information in future reporting on the occupied West Bank.
- Third, you claim that according to Palestinian residents, “militia violence is terrible but so is life under occupation.” While this is true, it is also widely recognized that Israel is practicing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians. In fact, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN experts, and Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups like B’Tselem, have all argued that Israel should properly be defined as a regime of apartheid. Thus, it is important that you include apartheid when describing the conditions Palestinians in the West Bank face.
As such, I insist that you add an editor’s note on the webpage for this video to point out that Amnesty International and other groups assert that Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians.
- Lastly, you end your segment with a problematic claim: “Militias will make a volatile situation even more combustible.” Why is the recent upsurge in violence blamed solely on the militias? In the context of Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank, its regime of apartheid and its new far-right government which encourages settler attacks, it is more evident to believe that the recent surge in violence is a result of Israel’s actions and policies in the West Bank than young Palestinian militants. In fact, there have been near daily raids by invading Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank where Palestinians are indiscriminately killed. It is simply unfair and unbalanced to claim that it is militias who will make the situation “more combustible.”
As such, I insist that you add an editor’s note on the webpage for this video to point out that the Israeli government, as much as Palestinian militias, could make the “volatile situation even more combustible.” And overall, in this and future stories, I urge you to include the necessary context of Israel’s military occupation and far-right government when discussing events in the West Bank.
Thank you for making these changes. Several of them are quite serious and may oblige me to take a complaint to the National Newsmedia Council if not addressed promptly. Should you wish, you can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.
Policy Analyst, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
 “Use with Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” International Press Institute, Oct. 23, 2013, https://ipi.media/use-with-care-reporters-glossary-of-loaded-language-in-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict/