Presenting a viewpoint - Not taking sides.

The complainant, Mike Fegelman, wanted a correction to a reference to the Israeli security barrier as a “permanent structure.” He said that is the Palestinian view and the Israeli position should have been presented. This was not in the context of officials but was presenting the perspective of the Palestinians who are affected by it. There is no violation of policy.

COMPLAINT

You are the Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada. You objected to a line in a story by CBC reporter Susan Ormiston published on the CBC News website on May 21st, 2017, in advance of the United States’ President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel. The line at issue for you was this:

The separation barriers were constructed by Israel 14 years ago to stop attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers. They've become permanent demarcation lines and a source of deep tensions.

You said that the report is biased because by accepting the barrier as permanent, Ms. Ormiston was siding with the Palestinian view, and did not supply the Israeli perspective:

CBC has adopted the Palestinian position by tacitly claiming that the barrier serves the purpose of land grabs from the Palestinians. Instead, Israel views the barrier only as a temporary security measure that is designed to prevent and deter Palestinian terror. In Israel’s mind, once the Palestinians disavow and stop terror and stop inciting its populace towards murdering Jews, perhaps the barrier can come down when ironclad security guarantees are put in place.

You raised similar concerns about a broadcast version of the story which aired on The National.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

Lianne Elliott, the Executive Producer of cbcnews.ca, responded to your concerns. She did not agree with your conclusion about the inference of the paragraph regarding the separation barrier and the phrase “they have become permanent demarcation lines.”

I've re-read the article several times, and I see nothing that suggests Ms. Ormiston accepts the position of either side. She was simply stating something obvious: that these barriers have been around for 14 years. So for those living around them, they have become a permanent fixture rather than a temporary presence.

She did not address your concern about the version of this story which appeared on The National, as you made reference to it in correspondence in reply to her communication with you.

REVIEW

The context of both the online article Muted Enthusiasm for Trump in Israel on eve of visit and the report on The National, is to convey the view of various segments of the population. In the case of the barrier, it is clearly in the context of the views and concerns of Palestinians. Under the subheading “No love for the wall among Palestinians,” Ms. Ormiston wrote:

On a whirlwind 26-hour trip to Israel and the West Bank beginning Monday, Trump will go to Bethlehem, which is separated from Jerusalem by a wall and checkpoints.

Palestinian artist Fares Eslini has no time for Trump's fascination with walls.

"For sure, they don't work. No," he says standing next to part of the Bethlehem wall covered in street art.

"Look around you, it's like a jail. It's like a big stone on your chest, you can't breathe."

The separation barriers were constructed by Israel 14 years ago to stop attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers. They've become permanent demarcation lines and a source of deep tensions.

The context of the piece on The National is similar.

SUSAN ORMISTON (REPORTER):

For a U.S. president who champions walls...

DONALD TRUMP (PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES):

Walls work. Just ask Israel.

SUSAN ORMISTON (REPORTER):

Donald Trump will try to straddle them. Even while on the other side of the walls, in Bethlehem, his words are mocked. (Interview): The art on the wall, why is it here?

FARES ESLINI (ARTIST):

The question is, why are the walls here?

SUSAN ORMISTON (REPORTER):

Fares Eslini is a Palestinian artist who has worked close to the separation wall for years. (Interview): When you saw the wall in front of you, every morning, just from over here, how did it make you feel?

FARES ESLINI (ARTIST):

It feels like a big stone in your chest.

SUSAN ORMISTON (REPORTER):

Like a pressure.

FARES ESLINI (ARTIST):

For sure. You can't breathe. You can't think.

SUSAN ORMISTON (REPORTER):

He calls it a big jail. The walls were built 14 years ago by Israelis to prevent attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers. But they have become permanent barriers. Eslini’s protest is Mohammed Ali standing on top of the wall fighting back.

This was not a complex or an in-depth look at the issues to be solved in any potential peace agreement or borders between Israel and an independent Palestine. It is in the context of a Palestinian man and his experience. There is no violation of policy.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman