I won’t be writing about Israel for a while. At least not at home in Québec, where the time-honoured pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel bias in the media is now so strong that columnists like me who strive to offer a more balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are symbolically marched out of town. Sometimes with a yellow star on their sleeve.
“You’re Jewish, you can’t be neutral,” said one of my critics. My response: “You can’t be serious.”
When I blog about Israel, to avoid insults, I remind readers that I support the two-state solution (though not optimistically) and that I am against the West Bank settlements. I often quote Israeli thinker Yeshayahou Leibowitz, who feared, after the Six-Day War in 1967, that Israel would lose its soul in the disputed territories.
I’m no fan of Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s standing on the shoulders of giants, but a giant he isn’t. No one knows his vision for Israel. But he’s all we have now to face Hamas, an organization motivated by the insane dream of throwing the Jews into the sea. This decades-old aspiration represents the dirtiest, sickest trick ever played on the Palestinian people.
I don’t think total objectivity is possible. Plus, as a columnist, I get paid to share my views. But as a journalist, I know that opinions must rest on facts, not on a desire to obfuscate the truth to serve a pre-set narrative. Everything is on the table for me, except one issue on which I shall never waver: Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland.
While I do not believe that the media in Québec is maliciously pro-Hamas, some have a knack for being a mouthpiece for those who long to see Israel disappear. La Presse’s reporter in Gaza, Janie Gosselin, published a series of articles last Saturday that could have been written by Hamas’s PR department.
Everyone she interviewed supported Hamas’ actions, despite a recent poll commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that showed that 70% of Gazans want a cease-fire. In her quotes, victims use expressions such as “freedom fighters.” Ordinary Palestinians don’t speak that way. That is the language of Hamas handlers.
She did not see what CTV correspondent Janice Mackey Freyer recently reported: Hamas gunmen dressed as women, with guns poking from under their clothes. No word about the weapons found in a school run by the UN. Nothing about a Hamas headquarters located inside a hospital. Rocket launchers squeezed between homes.
Photos published in the French media show Palestinians victims and Israeli soldiers — important images, yes, but rarely Israelis running for shelter, Israeli relief trucks entering Gaza or the field hospital at the Erez border crossing for injured Palestinians. Few explain human-shield tactics. No references are made to the Arab leadership, and media, losing patience with Hamas. Nothing about Mahmoud Abbas’ plea to Hamas to stop firing on Israel. No outrage when Hamas broke two humanitarian truces.
In Monday’s edition of La Presse Laura-Julie Perreault even downplayed violent anti-Jewish, anti-Israel demonstrations in France, comparing the kaffiyeh-clad men chanting “death to the Jews” to the Quebec students protesting against university fee increases in 2012: both groups being angry because their right to demonstrate was curtailed by the authorities. Please.
Is it ignorance? Too many people who comment on Israel have never set foot there. Never mind Gaza. Laziness? Sometimes. Or plain hostility? You tell me what to make of the host of an open-line radio show on Radio-Canada who recently hung up, live on the air, on a man who called to ask why people making anti-Semitic comments weren’t reined in?
What about the newspaper Le Devoir, which manages to publish anti-Israel stories in which words such as “genocide” and “slaughter” are used — plus a cartoon that suggests “extermination,” on the same day?
There are exceptions: My own newspaper publishes a variety of views, and Radio X’s popular host Dominic Maurais, despite pushback from listeners, airs credible, academic pro-Israel voices heard nowhere else. But in Québec, such voices are very much in the beleaguered minority.