On the evening of Thursday May 24th, “Silencing Israel's Critics”, a panel discussion hosted by Canadians, Arabs, and Jews for a Just Peace (CAJJP) took place at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. Now, one week later, we are marking the anniversary of the 2010 attack in international waters on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, and remembering the lives of 9 activists killed by Israeli forces.
Media reporting of this story over the years has moved from controversy to controversy with conflicting reports, questionable video releases, false characterizations and political pressure on an international commission. Sorting out the facts can be a daunting task; determining the truth and its meaning is difficult indeed. “Silencing Israel's Critics” panellists addressed the imbalance and falsehoods found in the media and academia by giving voice to slandered and silenced perspectives, and examining the structures which encourage imbalance in the news and public dialogue.
Researcher and CAJJP member Jim Guild started the evening by presenting his recent survey of Nova Scotia daily newspaper coverage of Palestine and Israel, and then introduced panel members. Dr. Jon Thompson, Bruce Wark, Miles Howe, and Jane MacMillan.
Dr. Thompson is a retired University of New Brunswick professor and the author of the book, “No Debate: The Israel Lobby and Free Speech at Canadian Universities” and also wrote the Olivieri report as Chair of an independent investigation at Sick Children's Hospital, Toronto. In his talk, he relates successful struggles against opponents of free speech.
Bruce Wark, with years of experience as a professor of journalism and years of work in both mainstream and independent media, discussed the pressures facing journalists and reporters, and described the structures in media and society which encourage bias, whether intentional or not, in the media.
Freelance journalist and activist Miles Howe described his experience being interviewed by the CBC following his participation in the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza. His humorous talk illuminated how racism and ethnocentrism can play a role in shaping the meaning of the news.
Canadians, Arabs, and Jews for a Just Peace member Jane MacMillan highlighted the experience of Halifax's CAJJP with the media and academia related to its co-sponsoring of the 2010 George Galloway visit to Halifax. She discussed two local trips to Israel; one by a Nova Scotia trade mission to Israel, and the other by a King's College journalism group. With a video clip from a recent CBS “60 Minutes”, she illustrated just how far the discourse can stray from reality, and concluded her talk by noting how Canadian policy has affected its reputation and position in the world. Following the panel's presentations, Jim Guild spoke briefly about the influence of lobbyists on journalists, and then invited questions and comments from the audience.
Download or stream the entire panel as well as the question and answer period by following the link above. Individual segments for each speaker and the Q&A are also posted for your convenience at: http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/60399
Along with his articles on the Halifax Media-Co-op website, Scott Barber's pottery is in Palestine thanks to Miles Howe's trade mission to Gaza, and he has participated in several events sponsored by Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace.