PCAAN Statement on CBC’s Coverage of Palestine

Going back to 2020, the Palestinian Canadian Academics and Artists Network (PCAAN) has communicated with CBC editorial management on several occasions.  The aim was to provide CBC factual and lexical information about Palestine, Palestinians in Canada, and the nature of the coverage we had observed with respect to such issues as Israeli threats to forcibly evict Palestinians living in their own homes in Sheikh Jarrah (2021) and Israeli military assaults on Gaza (2021 among others). These communications were at our instigation, but CBC ignored the advice, evidence, and expert research we provided. This may have been the tip of the iceberg on CBC’s “Palestine exception” and silencing.

Given the revelation of a secret blocklist the CBC maintains as reported in an article in The Breach (16 May 2024), we must now ask whether we, Palestinian experts in Canada, have not been featured on CBC News as a result of being thus blocklisted. We recall journalists signing an open letter in recent years exposing poor practices that management engaged around Palestine issues, some of whom faced reprisals for simply signing a letter that called for more objective and fair coverage of Palestine and Israel. In December 2023 The Review of Journalism reported that the public broadcaster “barred employees from sharing outside journalism about Gaza, contradicting CBC’s general policy.” In June 2022, The Review of Journalism reported that “behind-the-scene accounts from current and former CBC staff raise concerns about transparency, bias, and fear when pitching about the region.” More details of the travesty of proper reporting and coverage from a tax-payer funded and major news source for Canadians emerged in the Review’s report around CBC’s removing journalists from covering Jerusalem and Gaza during extreme violence on Palestinian civilians including aerial bombardment causing thousands of casualties. 

The CBC continues to deny that it has a problem in its coverage. Unfortunately, CBC’s response to allegations against it exhibits the identifiable features of anti-Palestinian racism. CBC continuously erases Palestine, the Palestinian experience of Israeli settler colonialism and genocide, and, crucially, Palestinian explanatory paradigms. The alleged secret blocklist targets Palestinians who are articulate in explaining the reasons for Palestinian suffering and the Palestinian aspirations for freedom and liberation. Why does the CBC not want Canadian audiences to hear from articulate Palestinians? What is it about Palestinian explanatory paradigms, such as settler colonialism, genocide, and apartheid, that warrants blocklisting as far as the CBC is concerned? Does the CBC believe that Palestinians cannot think and explain their own suffering and aspirations? Or does it believe that Palestinian thinking is inherently hateful and violent?      

These, among other questions, lead us to conclude that the CBC’s poor coverage or refusal to cover Israeli crimes, its passive language or omissions, and its outright rejections – including use of the word ‘Palestine’– reveal deeply rooted anti-Palestinian racism. Given the role of national broadcasting in Canada, we as Palestinian Canadian academics and artists  are hard pressed to see how CBC lives up to its ideal of helping Canadians understand each other and the broader world. 

We call for a robust and independent investigation of CBC practices and policies and the creation of a list of recommendations detailing how the CBC will address anti-Palestinian racism in its coverage of Palestine and Israel.