I received this letter today from Rena Cohen from Canada, prompted by a viewing of my new video, Everyone Agrees. Given its substance, and its historical interest, I put it up as its own post. It not only confirms for Canada what Zev Chafets documents for the USA in Double Vision, but also the idea that in the 1980s, Pallywood took a great step forward. I intersperse some comments in italics.
Today I received a link to your video ‘Everyone Agrees’ from a friend in Boston. I have just watched it and forwarded it and wanted to send you the attached letter. My letter will show you that media bias didn’t just begin recently. It’s been on the books for a very long time. Much longer than we think. And because of this, the Jewish world has accepted these distorted Arab facts and has grown away from Israel which is so hard for people to believe. But knowing how many of them think that CNN only tells the truth, they have been completely taken in.
When I returned from my visit to South Lebanon in August 1982, I tried to show my photos to the leaders of the Calgary Jewish community – of which I was one, being very actively involved in Soviet Jewry and Canadian Hadassah WIZO, as well as many other organizations. But they refused to see them, stating that they already knew what had happened there, from what they saw in the media. No idea that what they had been shown was fake news. But their minds were closed to any other ‘truths.’
This is quite remarkable. I often wonder why Jews are so determined to believe nasty stories about Israelis even when there’s good evidence those stories are not true. Some of it may come from a certain masochism. I had an aunt, a good liberal, who told me she loved Ha-aretz because it hurt doubly – because it was so bad, because it was so true. Some may be from sheer embarrassment. But i think that at some level, it’s also because who wants to take on the MSNM? You sound like a conspiracy theorist. So given a choice between believing terrible accusations against Israel and risking one’s public reputation, I think many Jewish leaders feel compelled to accept the media’s account for the sake of their own institutions’ effectiveness.
Terry Milavsky worked at CBC in Calgary. The CBC sent him to Lebanon to cover the ‘war.’ But, before he left for Lebanon he used to cover our Soviet Jewry rallies for the CBC station. I was indeed very surprised that they sent him to Lebanon as from speaking with him several times, I didn’t think that he was at all familiar with the situation which became very evident from his lack of accurate reporting.
Here’s where one gets pack journalism: someone with little background, sent to a faraway place – and why? no one’s sending journalists to Syria or Southern Sudan, or Peru, or for that matter, the much larger Iran-Iraq war between two petrol giants. Knowing little he takes cues from his peer group on how to tell the story and how to stay safe – you can trash the Israelis with impunity, you better mind your step in reporting negatively about the Palestinians.
When I returned from Lebanon I called the CBC and wanted to do an interview about what I had seen. As Terry had also just returned the station decided to do an interview with both of us. I was at the station and Terry joined us by phone. What he said during our interview proved to me that he had very little if any knowledge of what the situation in that area was. However, because of what I said and the questions that I had asked him, the interviewer, a woman accused me of being biased because I am Jewish.
Note the curious asymmetry here. How often do journalists dismiss the testimony of Palestinians because they’re prejudiced. But somehow, doing it to Jews is just fine.
I told her that I was born in Calgary and had received a very good education from our public school system: it had taught me to examine all sides of a situation before making a decision. I was sad that she didn’t have the same objective rationale behind her reporting of the news but only gave her opinions as she saw them. But what Terry said and the reaction of the CBC after the war, as I have outlined in the attached article, will show you their biases even in 1982.
Note that this letter comes right after the Jenin “Massacre” which actually occupies a chapter in my currently composing book, They’re so Smart cause We’re so Stupid, one of the most extraordinary displays of pack, lethal journalism in the history of modern media.
20 Years of Anti-Israel Bias at the CBC
by Rena Dvorkin Cohen – April 29, 2002
To: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
I have just received several letters from friends of mine in Canada. They are in a state of shock at the current CBC coverage of the events that have been taking place during the last 20 years in the Middle East. After reading of their concerns at the rewriting of history, I felt that I had to write and share my own personal experiences with you. I am a native Calgarian who 12 years ago moved to northern Israel.
In 1982, I was working for a Jewish newspaper in Calgary. For several months from June to August I was appalled by the media’s coverage of Israel’s right to defend herself from PLO bombs. So, not believing the media, I went to south Lebanon to see for myself just what was happening. The scenes that I witnessed, and the people to whom I spoke gave over a very different picture than the one you are broadcasting today.
In 1982 the media had been portraying stories of the tragic plight of the Arab refugees. We heard of food shortages, and that Israel had destroyed the infrastructure of south Lebanon as well as that the highways and all vegetation were in ruin. My trip showed me just the opposite – none of this was true.
Yes, there were refugees but they were Lebanese people who the PLO had chased out of south Lebanon during the six or more years that they lived there and had taken over the entire infrastructure of the country. At that time there had been no schools for Lebanese children, no banks, no postal service, no businesses etc. The only way one could exist was to pay extortion money to the PLO. And this was the very group that King Hussein of Jordan expelled from his country after killing many thousands of them for trying to ruin Jordan.
These refugees were not fleeing north to get away from the Israeli army; they were in fact fleeing south – right into the hands of the advancing Israeli army. They welcomed the IDF with open arms trusting that now they could have their own lands and homes back – back from a group of terrorists who had stolen everything from them, from the PLO.
When both Terry Milavski and I returned from Lebanon (he had covered Beirut for the CBC and I wanted to talk to him as I was appalled at his portrayal of the events) he told me that he was not able to present the entire truth of the story. The PLO did not allow him to leave his hotel in Beirut and therefore he didn’t know what was really happening in the rest of the country.
It is sufficient to say that one night the CBC televised footage that had been filmed in 1976 but showed it as if it had happened that very day. That this was a lie was never acknowledged by CBC. And then Terry said something very interesting. If CBC still has a record of our interview this can be verified – Terry told me that there are only twenty- two minutes each night to present the news and the name of the game is ratings. That is what this is all about – attracting viewers who will then attract advertisers. History and accuracy don’t do it.
So were there food shortages? No. In fact the Israeli army brought truck loads of food into the country. They did not destroy the population which the PLO had by killing hundreds if not thousands of Christian civilians in Damour. This was blamed as usual on Israel who was also accused of destroying the buildings in the town. When I was there vines and trees and bushes were growing over destroyed buildings. This doesn’t happen over night and led me to believe that the destruction had in fact taken place many years earlier. I have the photos to prove it.
My hairdresser at that time in Calgary was a young Lebanese fellow. He had come to Calgary, actually had been sent by his father who didn’t want him to be stolen by the PLO who were stealing children to fight for them. (The opposing Arab army actually faced by the Israeli forces was made up of 12 year old children – known as the RPG children – who had been trained by the PLO to be in the front lines. How does this differ from what we see today when Arab children are exploited by their elders to again riot and go out to get killed?) When I returned home from Lebanon I showed him my photos. As he viewed them he said, oh no, the Israelis didn’t do that. That building was already destroyed by the PLO before he left in 1976. So much for more lies about wanton Israeli destruction.
I remember hearing from another group of women who were also on a fact finding mission. They had been talking to a young Lebanese woman. She and her family lived on perhaps the fourth or fifth floor in an apartment building. One day there was a knock at her door. She opened it to find a group of PLO terrorists. She knew that they were terrorists when they asked her to leave her apartment. When she refused, they picked up her baby who was crawling across the floor and threw him out the window. They said that they would treat the rest of the family in the same manner if they didn’t leave. She got the message, took the rest of her children, and left. Their apartment was used to fire on the approaching Israeli army.
We were shown building after building in city after city that had the wall of one apartment damaged while the rest of the building was untouched. In fact there was only one street in all south Lebanon – in Tyre – that was called television alley. It was the only street in which eleven consecutive buildings were destroyed. But the media came out and continued to portray this as having happened all over south Lebanon. When I pointed this out in many newspaper articles, it was interesting to note how the journalists almost always left out the word consecutive which of course changed the entire meaning of the story. This very small fact demonstrated to me just how selective editing can change the entire meaning of a story.
Four US generals who were also in Lebanon at that time stated that they would never have fought a war in the way Israel did by just firing on one apartment from which they were being shelled. The US would have flattened the entire building. That the PLO also put ammunition dumps in the middle of refugee camps just to be able to blame Israel for killing innocent civilians – that too didn’t make the media.
So what is the end result of all of this? Anti-Semitism may no longer be fashionable now that we have a western world that was developed with a Judeo-Christian sense of morality. However, we still have Jew hatred as seen by this current exhibit of distorted facts on the CBC. Are you also doing this to get more viewers to attract more advertisers or are you really afraid that the Arab terrorists are already on Canadian soil and you have to be seen to be fair (?) in your portrayal of world events. I pity you and those who will see these distortions because they will only fan the flames of hatred that are currently being spewed forth by the re-emergence of the age old blood libels from the Arab world. If only you would have some real people and not politicians who could tell an honest story I would be able to believe that you really thought that you were doing a public service.
My main question regarding this entire period is not whether Prime Minister Sharon had anything to do with the massacres of innocent civilians in south Lebanon but rather, where was the media during this time?
With all the journalists who were in Lebanon covering the story of the war that had begun in June of 1982, why is it that none of them thought that such a massacre could have been possible? Perhaps the media is just as culpable as the rest of society when believing that the Moslem world will act with Christian charity or vice versa.
We have seen in many eastern European countries the hatred of Moslem to Christian and now that the Philippines is also experiencing this tragic manifestation first hand as Moslems blow up more innocent civilians in their claims for an independent Moslem state somewhere in the Philippines.
I wish you well and I truly hope that someday you will all begin to have some understanding of the tragedy that you are continuing to ferment by not presenting an honest and accurate picture of the world shaking events currently taking place in the Middle East. Having been in Calgary for seven months – from August 2001 to March of 2002, I was appalled at the continuing anti-Semitism in the media especially on CBC. You do know of course that the bill presented to the CBC in 1982 by the hotel in which the CBC staff stayed had a 17% surcharge that was given directly to the PLO for services rendered to the CBC. I doubt that any of this will make your broadcasts.
May you all be forgiven for your part in helping to spread lies and terror.
Mrs. Rena Dvorkin Cohen
Weizman Street 38 /1
13217 Tsfat, Israel
Or, as one might be tempted to paraphrase the journalists themselves: for your part in bearing false witness to your times.