Dr. David Kattenburg (r) has been waging a protracted battle with CBC for over a year over its poor reporting on the Israel/Palestine issue. His most recent issue has been over the fact that CBC has accepted an argument put forward by Mike Fegelman (l), Executive Director of Honest Reporting Canada (HRC) that Israel has NO RESPONSIBILITY for providing Covid 19 vaccination to the Palestinians which it holds under military occupation. Kattenburg has repeatedly presented CBC with official legal arguments to the contrary, which CBC has stubbornly ignored. CTIP interviewed Dr. Kattenburg about his determined struggle. Listen and read more….
David Kattenburg is a regular listener of Canada’s national public broadcaster, the CBC. He likes its coverage of domestic news, literature, science and medecine. But he is deeply disenchanted by an apparent pro-Israel bias in its international news reporting.
According to Kattenburg, CBC misses the mark that an objective news media should aim for in at least 3 ways:
- It rarely reports on the Middle East even when important events occur, and virtually never on the lives of Palestinians
- When it does so, it tends to favour Israeli voices on any given issue
- It appears to be extremely sensitive to criticisms from pro-Israel groups in Canada, and even willing to ignore or overlook established facts that are awkward for the pro-Israel lobby.
The vaccination of Palestinians – is Israel responsible?
The most recent example, according to Kattenburg, is CBC’s reporting on the anti-COVID vaccinations currently being carried out in Israel. CBC has accurately reported that Israel has had astounding success in vaccinating its population.
At the same time, CBC also reported as had many other media around the world, that so far almost NONE of the 5 million Palestinians who live under complete Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza have received vaccinations. (Latest figures report that Israel has shared 5000 doses, a drop in the bucket to the West Bank and NONE for Gaza.)
But when Israel started to notice it was being criticized internationally for what was increasingly being termed “vaccination apartheid”, the Israel lobby in Canada began claiming that Israel had no obligation to provide the vaccines to Palestinians. Michael Fegelman, Executive Director of Honest Reporting Canada, a pro-Israel lobby group, immediately brought pressure on CBC, arguing that Israel has no responsibility because “under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for health issues.” HRC crowed about how succesful it had been in getting the CBC to print a correction.
Kattenburg disagreed strongly. He knew that under the 4th Geneva Convention, (and Canada’s own Geneva Convention Act) the occupying power (i.e. Israel) remains responsible for the health and welfare of those under its occupation. This international obligation “trumps” any deal between the occupying authority and bodies it has established under it. This was corroborated by ISRAELI doctors and lawyers in a recent webinar organized by the New Israel Fund.
Kattenburg entered into a long, polite but determined email exchange with various CBC brass trying to get them to stop reflecting the Honest Reporting Canada version as if it were CBC’s own assessment.
Here is an extract of an email Kattenburg sent to Paul Hambleton (CBC Director of Journalistic Standards), and Brodie Fenlon CBC Editor in Chief.
This evening, February 1, once again, the CBC has misinformed its listeners, ignoring the facts that have been presented to you — including by one of the international community’s most informed experts on legal matters.
In a companion segment to Iris Makler’s dispatch about Covid and Israel’s orthodox Jewish community, host Susan Bonner stated:
“The Palestinian Authority is responsible for health care of the more than two and a half (million) Palestinians who live in the West Bank.”
In fact — as you have been repeatedly told and surely know, because it is a categorical fact — under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is ultimately responsible for ensuring health care for Palestinians living under occupation, including vaccination, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Hambleton’s answer was surprising, claiming that CBC needs to “offer the audience an understanding of that other point of view.”
Offering two points of view is consistent with CBC’s mandate. And had CBC said something like “Israel claims that responsibility lies with the Palestinian Authority”, that would have been consistent with presenting “the other point of view”. But that was not how CBC presented the issue to its audience. On air, it presented an apology and “correction”, clearly adopting the position of Israel and Honest Reporting Canada.
CTIP interviewed Dr. Kattenburg about his ongoing fight with CBC to improve the fairness and objectivity of its Middle East reporting.
It is isn’t clear why CBC has taken this tack. Is it afraid of the Israel lobby? Is it concerned that the lobby might bring pressure on the Government of Canada, which of course holds CBC’s purse strings? Or is it really just lack of resources at CBC to thoroughly check out a story?
Kattenburg’s ongoing struggle with the CBC has so far been carried on in private email exchanges. However, more Canadians are becoming become seized of CBC’s apparent lack of depth and balance in reporting on the Israel/Palestine file. A petition has been launched by a group called “The Action Network” calling on Canadians to write directly to CBC demanding it have the courage to openly identify Israel’s discriminatory approach to the distribution of vital vaccines “medical apartheid”. Where private complaints have failed, perhaps public pressure may have an effect.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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