:: The Canadian Jewish News
By PAUL LUNGEN, Staff Reporter
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
TORONTO The CBC is being accused of journalistic malpractice for airing a radio program that discussed the demise of the State of Israel without offering a rebuttal.
The program, title One-State Solution, ran on CBC Radio’s popular The Current morning show last week. It featured an Israeli guest and a Palestinian guest who discussed the merits of replacing Israel with a single country that would encompass Jews and Arabs.
The speakers, Israeli author Daniel Gavron and Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah, argued such an outcome is all but assured since a two-state solution – the position of the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and the international community – is not going to happen.
They called for a single democratic state, while Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, said such a state would have to offer restitution to Palestinians in much the same way post-apartheid South Africa did.
The premise of the program is “outrageous” and violates the CBC’s own guidelines when airing controversial subjects, said Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“It is hard for me to wrap my head around our national broadcaster giving this kind of prominence to a view that has virtually no support in Israel and is a position that is completely in conflict with the Canadian view,” he said.
“There is a universal recognition that a one-state solution either through violence or as a demographic process means the end of Israel as a Jewish state.”
“I would say this is journalistic malpractice. It flies in the face of CBC’s own policy with respect to balance, especially in regard to issues of a controversial nature.”
In introducing the show, host Anna Maria Tremonti, said “a handful of Palestinians and Israelis have come to a radical conclusion,” that a two-state solution is not going to work and it’s time to try something different.
“They argue a single country, shared by both Israelis and Palestinians is a better, or at least more practical goal.”
Fogel said such a perspective is far outside the Israeli political mainstream – Gavron said he couldn’t convince his own family to support it – while the show offered a response from a PLO spokesperson saying Palestinians need their own state.
In advance of the program, CIJA called on the CBC to provide a perspective to balance those of the two speakers. Two other views were presented, including Toronto Middle East analyst David Goldberg, but they were brief and were quickly rebutted in detail by the guests.
CIJA is now calling on the CBC to offer another program on the topic, “a counter-story that gives the opportunity to respond to the radical arguments presented by both guests,” Fogel said.
A listener unfamiliar with the region could “conclude that Israel’s existence is incompatible with human rights – an irony in that Israel is the only liberal democratic state in the area,” he said.
Esther Enkin, executive-director of CBC News, said, “the program… was one of many discussions of many complex issues in the Middle East. There were other voices. We knew when we did it that it was a contentious and minority view and said so.”
Enkin said the program did not violate CBC’s own journalistic guidelines, adding that the network has aired many programs on the Middle East from a variety of perspectives.
“We continue to cover the Middle East in a way that reflects its complexity and will continue to do so,” she said.
“The fact of the matter is that the purpose of The Current is to explore a range of complex issues.”
She denied suggestions a listener would come away believing that Israel had no legitimacy as a Jewish state.
“There was no ulterior motive,” she said. “I think it was an exploration of an idea. It was put in a context. It is a very complex issue.”
Fogel said CIJA isn’t letting the matter drop. It hopes “to engage the CBC and challenge them” to comply with their own journalistic standards.
As a public broadcaster, the CBC is accountable to Canadian taxpayers. “We will ensure our concerns are heard and there are meaningful responses to them,” he said.
Failing that, CIJA is considering raising its concerns again when the CBC’s license is up for renewal, and it’s contemplating “the political route, to sensitize politicians about our concerns.”
“We’re not the only one with concerns about the CBC,” he added.
Commentators on Sun TV have questioned whether taxpayers should fund the public broadcaster to the tune of $1.1 billion annually, while the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative NGO, has posted an online petition calling for the privatization of the broadcaster.