"That this language is being repeated more than two months after my last complaint only further establishes the pattern that the CBC’s language around Israeli attacks on Palestinian refugee camps is at risk of being characterized as having a bias over time."
September 25, 2023
George Achi, Director of Journalistic Standards and Public Trust, CBC News
Brodie Fenlon, News Editor-in-Chief, CBC News
Nancy Waugh, Sr. Manager, Journalistic Standards, CBC News
Jack Nagler, Ombudsman, CBC
Dear George Achi, Brodie Fenlon, Nancy Waugh, and Jack Nagler,
I’m writing to express my disappointment and concern about the CBC again using the contentious terminology of “terrorism” during a widely broadcast radio segment on a recent Israeli military attack against a Palestinian refugee camp. I heard it on CBC’s 1400 AM CBG at around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 24.
The transcript reads:
Palestinians are attending a funeral for two people killed in an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early this morning. One of those killed was a fighter with Hamas. The family of the other man said he just stepped out onto the roof of his home to see what was going on when he was shot by a sniper. Witnesses say the raid sparked a 6-hour gunbattle with Palestinian fighters. The Israeli military says it dismantled a terrorist operation command centre and uncovered dozens of explosive devices and bomb-making components. One Israeli soldier was injured in the raid.
Presumably, the justification will again be that the CBC’s broadcasters merely cited Israeli sources, protected by the qualification: “The Israeli military says.”
It should be noted that other international media outlets did not use the term “terrorist” when describing the events. The Associated Press wrote that the Israeli military described it as a “militant command centre,” while Reuters cited Israel’s claim that it was an “operational command centre.” Both of their articles, while imperfect, avoid the unbacked and unhelpfully rhetorical suggestion that the infrastructure was for “terroristic” purposes.
All of this matters because, regardless of how you define terrorism, an undeniable stain comes with its association. A trend is emerging in which the CBC uses the term in cases where Palestinians actively resist Israeli military attacks on refugee camps. While the justification is that Israeli sources are using the word and the CBC is only quoting it, given that the most far-right coalition in its history currently governs Israel, one would expect the CBC to exercise particular vigilance around Israel’s claims.
As explained in CJPME’s previous letter on this matter to the CBC, a quick look at Israel’s breakdown of alleged “terrorist” incidents from 2015-2023 shows that a considerable proportion of the “terror attacks” it documents are, in fact, attacks on Israeli soldiers and security forces while they are on duty. Terrorism requires attacks on civilians.
The use of “terrorism” in this context is irresponsible. There is no evidence that the bomb materials the Israeli military found in the so-called “command centre” would be used against civilian targets. There is ample recent evidence of Palestinians in the West Bank using explosives specifically to target Israeli military vehicles during attacks on Palestinian villages and refugee camps. Indeed, the Associated Press reported that the exact Palestinian resistance fighters described by the CBC as having a “terrorist command centre” were focused on resisting an attack by Israeli military forces:
It said that engineering units detonated a number of bombs planted under roads and that militants opened fire and hurled explosives, as troops responded with live fire.
Given that the CBC previously informed CJPME that our “constructive feedback” dated July 10 on this file was shared with the CBC’s teams reporting on the Middle East, I am disappointed that the feedback seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
That this language is being repeated more than two months after my last complaint only further establishes the pattern that the CBC’s language around Israeli attacks on Palestinian refugee camps is at risk of being characterized as having a bias over time. I invite the CBC’s Ombudsman to consider this when reviewing the matter of the CBC’s language regarding Palestinian resistance.
Director of Media Advocacy, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East