Israel lobby launches fierce attack on CBC’s Michael Enright over Erakat interview

CBC journalist Michael Enright’s 30 minute interview on November 10th with Palestinian/American lawyer, author and human rights activist Noura Erakat has incensed the pro-Israel lobby group “Honest Reporting Canada”. They have complained to the CBC and to its ombudsman that the segment was “biased” and full of “anti-Israel and anti-Zionist” invective. Why are they attacking Enright, who defends the idea of a “Jewish State”? What is it that has so upset them? Read more.

Over the last several years, Michael Enright has had many guests on his “Sunday Edition” program discussing Israel and the Palestinians. The Israel/Palestine issue, and the associated issue of anti-Semitism, are subjects Enright is clearly interested in and to which he comes back very frequently. Among his recent guests have figured Israeli authors David Grossman, and Ari Shavit,  and US professor Deborah Lipstadt, who discussed her recent book on anti-Semitism.

Based on his editorial comments over the years, Enright appears to fall into the category of a “liberal Zionist” i.e. critical of some of Israel’s more egregious actions, but supportive of the Zionist idea of a Jewish state. Every time he addresses the issue, of course, Enright gets pushback – some of it from those who think he is too supportive of Israel and some from those who think he is too sympathetic to the Palestinians. That should hardly surprise as Canadian opinion on Israel/Palestine is sharply divided.

But his recent 30 minute interview with US/Palestinian academic and author Noura Erakat has drawn howls of indignant anger from Honest Reporting Canada (HRC), a pro-Israel media watchdog group based in Toronto.

Erakat is a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. She has recently completed a speaking tour in Canada organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. (CJPME).

The Sunday Edition interview is interesting – a pretty good give and take between Erakat who has a principled critique of Zionism, and Enright who has travelled to the region extensively and who tries to balance his liberalism with his support for the basic Zionist idea of a Jewish State.

HRC’s first response to the Erakat interview came in a blog post entitled “The Sunday Edition airs 30 minute anti-Israel invective”, followed up by an angry letter to CBC executives, complaining about both Erakat and about Enright himself. 

“CBC Anchor Michael Enright did not adequately challenge many false and highly misleading statements that Ms. Erakat made, and didn’t seem informed enough about the issues at hand, or at least willing, to ask hard and informed questions”, argued HRC.

When the response from the CBC was deemed insufficient, HRC went further and launched a formal complaint to the CBC Ombudsperson against Enright himself, accusing him of “lobbing softball questions.”

What was it that Erakat said, or that Enright did not say, that so upset Honest Reporting Canada? Why are they attacking a prominent CBC journalist who is normally a supporter of the State of Israel (even if not all of its actions.)

HRC seems to have been really frustrated by Enright’s inability or unwillingness to put up an effective opposition to  Erakat’s critique of Zionism or her support for the right of Palestinian refugees of return.

Zionism – can it be discussed openly?

Enright himself led the conversation onto tricky territory when he challenged Erakat’s repeated use of the word “Zionist” in her book, noting that “Zionism has become a toxic word”.

This incensed HRC. “Mr. Enright even claimed that the term Zionists has become “a toxic word,” HRC said in its submission to the CBC ombudsman.

Notwithstanding HRC anger, few would contest that “Zionism” has become a loaded word, in part because the Israel lobby itself has tried to equate opposition to Zionism to anti-Semitism. (See note below about Monk debate on this very topic.)

But that is not a reason why we should avoid discussing Zionism, Professor Erakat insisted. “Zionism is a political movement that claims the right to establish a “Jewish State” at the expense of Palestinians,” she argued, noting that “Opposition to Zionism is NOT about the removal of Jewish Israelis, but about equality.”

She went on to refer to official Palestinian documents including Yasser Arafat’s 1974 speech at the UN in which he called for “one democratic State where Christian, Jew and Muslim live in justice, equality and fraternity.”

The Palestinian right of return – a “dream” or a “nightmare”?

But what really seems to have exercised HRC was Enright’s apparent reluctance to challenge Erakat’s unflinching and principled support for the Palestinian right of return, a right enshrined in multiple UN resolutions, including UNGA 194. 

“You have not offered even one example where you claim that he (i.e. Enright) strongly challenged Ms. Erakat’s arguments,” wrote Mike Fegelman, Executive Director of HRC to the CBC Ombudsman.

“Ms. Erakat advocated for the ‘right of return’ of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants into Israel, akin to a demographic ticking bomb that would see the Jewish character of the state of Israel and Jewish majority, eliminated,” argued Fegelman.

It’s hard to interpret Mr. Fegelman’s “demographic ticking time bomb” as other than as a race based argument which aims to maintain the superiority of one racial/religious/ethnic group over others. Israel could only become a “Jewish majority” state in the first place by the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of non-Jews in 1947/48 and ongoing denial of their right to repatriation.

The “right of return” is a dream and a dear objective for over 5 million Palestinian refugees – many of whom have been living in refugee camps for over 70 years. But at the same time, it is a nightmare for people like Mr. Fegelman who want to maintain the Zionist dream of a state in which Jews dominate over others.

monk debate

Monk Debates recently featured a discussion on whether opposition to Zionism is anti-semitism. Curiously, only Zionists were invited to participate.

Monk Debates

Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitism? – two leading Zionist speakers disagree

Notwithstanding HRC’s desire to keep the discussion of Zionism off the table, other pressures are bringing it forward.

Recently Monk Debates held a discussion on “Be it resolved that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism”, featuring two prominent American Zionists. NYT columnist Bret Stephens (a conservative) argues “yes, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism”, while Atlantic Magazine contributor Peter Beinart (a liberal Zionist) argues the contrary.

The 38 minute Monk Debate podcast is interesting (click here to listen). Unfortunately, Monk Debates thought it appropriate that the debate be held between two people who share the Zionist idea. It might have been a lot more interesting (and informative) if they had invited a non-Zionist or even an anti-Zionist (like Ms. Erakat) to participate.

Conclusion

HRC and the Israel lobby are fighting hard to ensure that scrutiny of these two ideas – Zionism and the Palestinian right of return are “not on the table”. So far, they have been rather successful. It’s not clear how long they will be able to avoid serious public discussion about both issues.

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Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. If you support our educational mission, why not join? Or make a donation? Or learn more about what we do?  Contact us at: membership.ctip@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

18 comments

  1. Anyone who hurls stones of vindictiveness while hiding inside a Trojan horse with a saddle like Honest Reporting Canada ought to be encouraged to apply for a posting with comedy central.

  2. If you have built your whole life on an assumption, you cannot accept even the suggestion that that assumption might be false. You will feel that your whole life is falling apart and you will deny that possibility in every way possible.

    Most supporters of Israeli policy have built their lives on the assumption that it is natural and right to have a state that discriminates between Jews and non-Jews and grants Jews greater rights. They cannot accept that that belief might be wrong, One day they will discover that they have built on sand and the tides are undermining that sand.

    1. Arthur, you flatter me!! I have a tremendous amount of respect for Peter Beinart, including his knowledge and intellect, even while disagreeing with his support of Zionism. Frankly, I think he would roll over me. Erakat would be a much better discussant.

  3. Following Trump and Netanyahu, if Israel continues on its present path toward an explicit, in-your-face, apartheid state, it foolishly will have brought about global support for what it fears most:BDS!

  4. Rather think that the Israel lobby prefers to focus the debate on Zionism and the “right of return.” These issues help to make its propaganda points that anti Zionism is anti semitism and that Palestinians want to destroy Jewish Israel.

    What the Israel lobby does not want to talk about and cannot as easily counter with propaganda is the UN and international standard of a a 2 state solution of Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine. In this scenario Zionism is fulfilled but so is the right of Palestinian sovereignty including the right of return.

    Israel nonetheless resists a 2 state solution as detrimental to Israel security and the lobby insists that any 2 state soln must be acceptable to Israel.
    This creates an impossible situation of blockage where every Israeli action illegal settlements wall occupation blockade makes a 2 state solution less likely in practical terms to detriment of both entities.

    Only solution to get beyond unacceptable status quo is for the international community to establish a 2 state solution of Israel and Palestine along the 1948 lines with capitals in West and East Jerusalem and some internationalization of the holy sites.

    This would meet the ideal of the original partition resolution and allow both the realization of the Zionist dream as well as fulfillment of Palestine’s right of return. Otherwise while there is no Palestine, there is also no Jewish democratic human rights respecting non occupying state of Israel.

    1. Oh dear George, thank for your comment, but as i review the history, I don’t think Israel ever really wanted a 2 state solution. A few thought that that was the best way to protect Israel, but the overwhelming consensus was that they wanted the whole thing. That’s the logic of Zionism, as i see it. I can’t see how Palestinian “quasi sovereignty” on only 22% of their original country (minus all the good agricultural areas) could have ever been acceptable to the huge majority of people, even if their leadership had tried to agree.

      1. Agree. One only has to look at the original 1947 UN boundaries and compare them with what Israel “took”.(1948-pre1967). (The original boundaries were unequal enough based on population.)

  5. I think that the discussion about the behaviour of the Jewish lobby here, got strayed into the bigger discussion about Israel’s policies/intentions and about one state two state and the legitimacy of Zionism.

    So if we talk about Jewish lobby in Canada, it is simple and obvious.They got into a place of no return. With time the more Israel did atrocities and injustices, the more they feel to justify the unjustifiable, no matter who they are attacking or what is the content of debate. They automatically attack anyone who even appear to utter one non supportive word about Israel or one word that may appear to be supportive of Palestinian rights.
    They basically became like rabid animals. No rhyme or reason, just attack, attack and attack.
    So far they are successful, although some cracks are developing.

  6. Contrary to what you may believe, even when a couple of Jews adopt a three letter acronym and start being vocal, it doesn’t grant them the right to represent anyone else but themselves.
    This is equally true to IJV JVP JDL and HRC

    HRC doesn’t represent neither Israel nor the Jewish community, I don’t understand why you choose the title “ISRAEL LOBBY LAUNCHES FIERCE ATTACK”

    Personally as a Zionist with a capital Z I find the discussion between Erakat and Enright intelligent, informative and to the point, I sympathize with Erakat, she has some good points, and she is fair with her use of facts. But she is also wrong on much of her conclusions.

    HRC, about whom I’ve never heard before, certainly don’t speak on my behalf when they protest about that interview

  7. Severing Zionism from Judaism. Well I’ve heard that one a few times before.You obviously have very little grasp of our culture or history and are simply re- parroting hopeless tropes.
    2 state solution? There have been several really great offers that even included land exchange over the last 100 years, all of which which not only were rejected without a counter offer, but seen as a weakness to be exploited. The Unilateral gesture of ethnically cleansing Jews from Gaza and leaving behind a fully functional international greenhouse industry was met not just with derision, but destruction and resulted in several wars and many thousands of missile, incendiary and terror tunnel attacks. So that ship has sailed.

    The only hope that today’s so-called Palestinians have of anything resembling sovereignty will be if they get rid of Abbas’ Fatah, and rebel against the Hamas and other lunatic factions controlling Gaza. Meanwhile Israel is on a fast track to annexing Samaria and Shomron. The ruling Pallywoodians have no apparent intention of negotiating anyway, and seem to be concentrating their efforts on overseas brainwashing of childlike leftists and anarchists for whatever they can get. Also all this war stuff is producing an Israeli government that is going to be even more right wing that anything that happened under Bibi. Changes are coming. The assassinations of terrorist leaders will soon be redoubled. And high speed machine guns will replace the snipers that have merely wounded a relative handful of rioters and avoided killing the Human shields” that Hamas sends to burn tires. Meanwhile, the latest is that the warlords of Gaza are interested in effecting some kind of cold peace with Israel. I’ll believe that when they stop shooting at the place for good.

  8. I listened to this interview and find it rather bizarre that the ironically named “Honest Reporting” consider Mr. Enright’s interview questions to be ‘soft’. I guess it’s too be expected when one is firmly of the 19th to early 20th century belief that human rights can be denied based on race and religion.

  9. Advice to Honest Reporting Canada: Don’t judge others without first making sure you’re perfect. Michael Enright has a long history of carefully balanced interviewing and programming, and has shown himself an honest seeker of truth in difficult issues. Your comments as reported are inflammatory, unbalanced and prejudiced and even your name is obfuscating and misleading. You do poor service for the pursuit of justice and equality which is crucial to making the middle east – and the world – a sustainable place for humans to live.

    1. Hey Doug,
      Thanks for your comment.

      I have a high regard for Michael Enright. He is a liberal man who does very good interviews on a wide range of issues – from climate change to indigenous rights. However, on Israel, I do find that he is a Zionist. A liberal one, to be sure, but he still defends (and no doubt earnestly believes in) Zionism – i.e. the importance of protecting Israel as a Jewish State.

      I am sure that he thinks that a Jewish State is the best way to protect Jews. I don’t agree. In my view, Jews need and deserve protection, but I don’t think that this can be done by creating a “Jewish State” by expelling 3/4 million non-Jews. I don’t think that it has worked, or can work.

  10. The Israeli lobby is simply angered by the fact that the truth about the Palestinian situation, a direct result of Zionism is put out there for the world to see. What they fail to know is that people of conscience everywhere are well aware of everything that has been going on for the past 70 years. Palestinians deserve a voice.

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