"By describing Fatah as mainstream, you are suggesting that their policies are somehow ‘normal’ or dominant, and others would not be. That is neither fair nor entirely true, and fails to provide listeners with accurate or relevant information."
Dominic Valitis, Reporter, CBC
Khalil Hassanali, Host, CBC The World This Hour
Brodie Fenlon, News Editor-in-Chief, CBC
Dear Mr. Valitis, Mr. Hassanali, and Mr. Fenlon
I'm writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to express concern about a segment that aired on the July 30 segment of CBC The World This Hour.
The segment begins with a statement by host Khalil Hassanali:
“At least 6 people have been killed in two days of clashes in Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp. As Dominic Valitis tells us, the mainstream faction Fatah has been fighting rival Palestinian groups which support Islamists.”
I am particularly concerned and confused by describing Fatah as “the mainstream faction.” I’m not sure the use of the qualifier “mainstream” makes much sense. Does "mainstream" mean that Fatah is the ruling party? Does it refer to the fact that Fatah is the preferred party of Western governments? Or does it mean that Fatah is secular, in contrast with “Islamists”? Nonetheless, the framing of the conflict in Ein el-Hilweh as being between a “mainstream” faction in contrast to “groups which support Islamists” is a one-sided narrative. By describing Fatah as mainstream, you are suggesting that their policies are somehow ‘normal’ or dominant, and others would not be. That is neither fair nor entirely true, and fails to provide listeners with accurate or relevant information.
Among Palestinians, Fatah’s popularity has been in steady decline. Polls from 2021 showed that if a national election had been called in Palestine, Hamas would likely win, not Fatah.[i]
It is hard to imagine the CBC describing Canada’s Liberal Party as a “mainstream faction” in contrast to other political groups. Such a description would be inappropriate. There should be no double-standard for Palestinians in which the Western preferred faction is described as “mainstream” and everyone else is reductively derided as simply “Islamists” or as “supporting Islamists.” Canadian listeners deserve to hear fair descriptions of these groups, which are fundamentally concerned with Palestinian national liberation.
I urge the CBC to retract the descriptions given in this segment and provide more balanced descriptions of Palestinian groups in the future.
I am sharing with you a resource developed for journalists in their efforts to fairly describe Palestinian groups and their objectives. Please see: “What Palestinian resistance groups really seek.”
Should you wish, you can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.
Director of Media Advocacy, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
[i] Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research, “Public Opinion Poll No (82),” December 8-11, 2021, https://pcpsr.org/en/node/866.