Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Al-Jazeera north

Earlier versions of this article appeared in the 17 June 2008 Jewish Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/c2tlyy), a community paper published weekly by B'nai Brith Canada, and on the Engage website (http://tinyurl.com/anbvnw).

To the great surprise of no one, Tony Burman, former editor-in-chief of the CBC has accepted a senior position at Al-Jazeera’s English language news service.

Burman was always a fan of Al-J. In November 2007 while still in charge of all CBC news and current affairs, Burman published an essay applauding Al-J and arguing that Canadians should get to watch its new English language service (http://tinyurl.com/2bntd6).

Millions of people around the world already watch Al-J in English, and cable companies could make it available in Canada, too. But they don’t because the Canadian Radio and Television Commission ruled that cable companies must insure Al-J conforms to broadcasting regulations that forbid “abusive comment.”

Al-J’s Arabic service features guests who are open Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers – material that might constitute a criminal offence in Canada, never mind a mere breach of broadcasting regulations.

In his essay published on CBC’s website, Burman remarked that Al-J “had been accused by some Canadian groups of ‘anti-Semitism.’” Apparently Burman couldn’t see the antisemitism or didn’t have a problem with it, because having noted the accusation, he ignored it.

What’s more, after watching the first few days of Al-J’s English language service, Burman wrote: “I couldn’t detect any pattern of overt ‘bias’ in its handling of the key issues.”

The rest of the world sees Al-J’s anti-Israel and anti-Western bias. But not Burman. Apparently Al-Jazeera tells it the way Tony Burman sees it.

Burman isn’t the first CBC journalist to join Al-J. Talking bubblehead Avi Lewis announced his move to Al-J months ago. At the CBC, Lewis hosted a string of failed talk shows with a distinct loony left bias. Al-J had no problem with his track record of cancelled shows. I wonder why.

For his new employer, Lewis heads up a program called “Frontline USA,” which is following the U.S. elections. One of Front Line’s first programs looked at the so-called Israel lobby, which Front Line implied, has American politics and media pretty much under its thumb (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aitqHMmIjFs).

By way of proof, Front Line examined media reaction to Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of Barak Obama. Farrakhan leads the Nation of Islam and is infamous for saying that Jews have a “gutter religion” and similar charming remarks.

An endorsement from a notorious bigot – no matter how unwelcome – was news, and the media pursued Obama for his response. But Front Line suggested there was something extraordinary about the media’s reaction. Front Line’s apparent message: look how Obama is forced to fall all over himself to appease the Jews.

The program had a certain stink about it, but that can’t be – Lewis is Jewish himself, right? No wonder Al-J loves him.

Some other CBC journalists write as if they’re auditioning for Al-J. Perhaps they are. Neil McDonald, for example, who for now, still works for the CBC, keeping track of the Jews on our dime.

A recent article of McDonald’s, “Is Obama anti-Israel?” concerned anti-Obama emails circulating on the internet. These emails allege that Obama asked to be sworn into the U.S. Senate on the Quran, that he refuses to recite the American pledge of allegiance, and similar nonsense (http://tinyurl.com/bmkzk7).

McDonald writes: “The messages are aimed principally at American evangelical Christians and American Jews.” McDonald seems to have simply invented this claim. Certainly, he cites no proof, and in fact, emails like this aren’t “aimed” at anyone. They spread virally: people who like the email forward it to everyone in their address books.

Who forwards anti-Obama emails? People who dislike Obama of course, and mostly that’s not Jews. According to polls at least 60% of American Jews support Obama – compared to 45% of all Americans.

But McDonald wants to pretend that, if Obama has been tainted as anti-Israel, it’s because of reactionary Jews and conservative Christians.

He notes that usually closer to 80% of Jews support the Democrats, not just 60%. “A shift of 20 percentage points can matter a great deal in places like Pennsylvania and Florida,” McDonald claims.

Hardly. Florida’s population is 4% Jewish. Twenty percent of that is less than 1 percentage point. Pennsylvania is just 2% Jewish – as is the United States overall.

Jews never decide American elections. However it’s true that Obama’s attitude toward Israel does affect his chances of winning, but that’s because in America, close to 80% of everybody subscribes to basic Zionism. Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, atheist, Christian or Hindu – support for Israel is part of the American national consensus. That’s a fact McDonald just doesn’t want to report.

But hopefully McDonald is burnishing his resume. I’m sure Al-J would snap him up, and the CBC’s loss would be our gain. Go, man. Go!

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