July/August 2000

CAMERA vs CBC: Distortion and Inaccuracy

By Tamar Sternthal, Senior Research Analyst with CAMERA,
April 19, 2000,
Canadian Jewish News

More than six months after CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) contacted CBC about serious errors in a May 1999 report by the Newsworld Program, Schlesinger, the network's ombudsman responded with a lengthy report which is itself marred by distortion and inaccuracy.

The broadcast included a 15-minute segment asserting that the Palestinians "are still largely controlled and subjugated. The Jewish state has frozen or stalled many of its commitments…"

CAMERA pointed out that with Israel's ceding of territory in the West Bank and Gaza, more than 95 percent of Palestinians live under Palestinian administration. The PA controls virtually every aspect of daily life, including schools, hospitals, and civic and political establishments. Palestinians now have passports, a flag, an international airport and a seaport under way. But the CBC ombudsman, David Bazay, ignored without comment this evidence against correspondent Neil Macdonald's charge.

Macdonald also reported that Israel had "decided to rip up thousands of trees [in the West Bank Arab village of Kal-a-Dik] to build a road for the convenience of nearby Jewish settlements."

Israeli officials told CAMERA the number of uprooted trees was 354 – "not thousands – and many trees were replanted elsewhere for property owners. In addition, Israel offered compensation for losses suffered. CBC omitted all this information, yet Bazay defended Macdonald without reservation.

Bazay similarly shielded Macdonald regarding the purpose of the road, which was in fact constructed for security needs: a young woman had been killed not far away in a drive-by shooting the year before.

When CAMERA challenges the use of "convenience" and its pejorative implication of a frivolous amenity, Bazay was deceptive even about the word's definition.

He claimed the Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines "convenience" as "freedom from difficulty or trouble." But this is a secondary definition; the primary and obvious definition, the one viewers certainly understood, was… "well-suited with respect to facility or ease in use; favourable, easy, or comfortable to use."

Nor was Bazay troubled by CBC's alleged source for its "convenience" claim Moshe Shimoni, variously identified as a "spokesperson" for the nearby Jewish community of Alci Zalav. But when CAMERA contacted residents of the small community, including the actual secretary, no one had ever heard of Shimoni. The ombudsman ignored this issue entirely.

The May 1999 CBC segment is hardly the only one to warrant concern. A December 29, 1999 report on Israeli water use falsely asserted that "Israelis continue to consume their water… as though they live in Europe." According to the World Resources Institute, Israelis consume 292 cubic metres of water per capita, less than half the European average of 660.

Bazay's response to a CAMERA complaint on this issue (caused) more obfuscation. For example, he wrote, as for "domestic use of water in Israel and Europe, Israelis would rank among Europeans who use the least amount of water… When it comes to domestic use, the relatively water-poor Israelis are right up there, in per capita terms" with the Germans, Dutch, Belgians, and others (emphasis added).

How can this be? Israelis are simultaneously the most moderate and most profligate users of water?

Unfortunately, the only consistency in Bazay's review of CBC coverage is his unwavering defence of the network, regardless of material distortions and inexcusable omissions. The bottom line: if you can't trust the CBC to honestly relate what's in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, when can you trust them?


By Paul Lungen, The Canadian Jewish News, March 30, 2000

CBC ombudsman David Bazay has rejected one of two complaints by an American media-monitoring group that criticized reports by the broadcaster's Middle East correspondent, Neil Macdonald. Bazay has not yet responded to the second complaint.

In a letter to CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Bazay states that an episode of the CBC Newsworld program, Schlesinger, which included a report by Macdonald, did not violate CBC's journalism policies. The 15-minute segment aired in May 1999 and was part of a longer report, Peace Deals that Don't Bring Peace.

In its complaint to the ombudsman, CAMERA contended that "the segment dealing with Israel and the Palestinians omits critical facts and context, blames Israel for failures in the peace process and completely neglects serious Palestinian violations of the agreements." CAMERA also complained that Macdonald's piece lacked credibility and that he cannot substantiate his claim that Israeli authorities up-rooted "thousands" of trees to build a bypass road the "convenience" of settlers.

Bazay dismissed CAMERA's complaint in a five-page letter. He pointed out that Joe Schlesinger's introduction to Macdonald's piece laid the groundwork for the report and broadened its context.

Schlesinger, a veteran CBC reporter, stated that "more than 200 Israelis have did in Palestinian terror attacks" and that Macdonald's report would focus on the affect of the Oslo peace process on the Palestinians, Bazay pointed out.

Bazay said Macdonald documented his claim that Palestinians are still largely "controlled and subjugated" – including by their own government. Bazay also found Macdonald backed up his statement that the "Jewish state has stalled or frozen many of its commitments while the putative Palestinian state has been reduced to an unconnected archipelago of cities on a small fraction of the land."

"I found that there was no violation of the CBC's journalism policy and that CAMERA ignored many of the things that the CBC actually said. They were complaining about things, [saying] they weren't in the report when they were," Bazay told The CJN.

Bazay also addressed Macdonald's report about Israel's creation of a bypass road. Macdonald quoted an Israeli source that the road had been built for the "convenience" of Jewish settlers.

Tamar Sternthal, senior research analyst with CAMERA, said the Oslo accords give Israel the right to build new access roads and that the bypass road mentioned in Macdonald's piece was built after an Israeli woman was killed in 1998 while driving near an Arab village.

CAMERA also questioned Macdonald's report that "thousands" of trees had been up-rooted to build the road.

Bazay said he consulted the Canadian Oxford Dictionary to determine that "convenience" is defined as freedom from difficulty or trouble, and so Macdonald's use of the word in the context of the bypass road was accurate.

In his finding, Bazay defended Macdonald's estimate that thousands of trees were uprooted – CAMERA consulted an Israeli government official who put the number at 354, dozens of which were replanted -–saying "Macdonald was there, you were not. The reporter was there and saw it with his own eyes."

CAMERA was stinging in its response to Bazay's findings. Sternthal characterized Bazay's response to CAMERA's complaint as "evasive." The media monitoring organization plans to launch a publicity campaign that "we hope will expose CBC's refusal to confront the misinformation in its broadcast and to offer fair and balanced reports," she said.

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