Ombudsman upholds reporting complaints

Ahmed Jabari

MONTREAL — The Radio-Canada ombudsman has upheld two complaints of anti-Israel bias in its reporting from a Jewish advocacy group.

Pierre Tourangeau ruled that a Nov.16 report attributing the escalation of the recent Israel-Gaza conflict to the killing of Hamas’ military chief did not conform to the broadcaster’s standards.

HonestReporting Canada (HRC) felt the report was an unfair portrayal of Israel as the aggressor and ignored the fact the Netanyahu government was warning of a military action in response to the more than 120 rockets fired into Israel against its civilian population by Hamas from Gaza.

HRC, a pro-Israel media watchdog, filed a series of complaints with Radio-Canada related to its coverage of the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.

Tourangeau also upheld its objection to a Nov. 11 report on the broadcaster’s website that was headlined “Israel Threatens the Palestinians.”

Tourangeau commented: “The headline suggests that the threat proffered by the Israeli leaders was aimed not only at Hamas and the other armed groups in Gaza, as indicated in the article, but at Palestinians… The headline, being imprecise, does not respect [Radio-Canada’s] norms and practices regarding accuracy. “

After the complaint, the headline was changed to “Israel Threatens Hamas.”

The Nov. 16 report that HRC objected to attributed Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari as the event that “set off” the escalation.

“This version of events inverted the cause of the escalation, which started with the escalation of Hamas rocket fire and the targeting of an Israeli army Jeep patrol,” said HRC Quebec director Michelle Whiteman.

Tourangeau wrote: “On the face of it, one cannot affirm, as does the Nov. 16 article, that the ‘assassination of the military chief, Jabari, set things off’ since he was killed in retaliation for Hamas’ shelling campaign of Israel.”

HRC said it’s disappointed that the ombudsman didn’t rule in favour of its other complaints.

These included a Nov. 23 report by Radio-Canada’s Jean-François Bélanger on clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinians on the Israel-Gaza border after the ceasefire came into effect.

Bélanger reported that Palestinian farmers who wanted to return to their land were fired upon by soldiers, and “it is impossible for [the farmers] to [return], since these lands are now in a buffer zone declared by Israel.”

HRC noted that IDF spokespeople and the Associated Press reported that the people who were shot at were among hundreds trying to storm the border with the intent of breaching it.

In his decision, Tourangeau cited a New York Times article by Jerusalem bureau chief Judy Rudoren who described confusion among Palestinians as to who could enter the buffer zone.

He stated that HRC wanted Radio-Canada to put more weight on the Israeli army’s position that the Palestinians were attempting to enter Israel.

HRC denies this. “In reporting that these were ‘farmers trying to get to their land,’ Mr. Bélanger did not give a full picture of events that day, which included the fact that many were not farmers, as reported by the Associated Press and the Israeli spokesperson, but provocateurs attempting to infiltrate the border,” said Whiteman.