Reporting the Facts

The complainant, Diane Bederman, objected to a report by Derek Stoffel who was at a protest in Ramallah on the one-hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. She thought that by reporting the Palestinian position, he was implying Israel did not have a right to exist. He attributed the statement to the views of the Palestinians. There was no violation of policy.

COMPLAINT

You complained about a news report by CBC News Middle East Correspondent Derek Stoffel. He was reporting from Ramallah during a Palestinian protest marking the one-hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. You based your criticism on a post from the HonestReporting Canada website. You thought that by conveying the Palestinian position, Mr. Stoffel, in the words of HonestReporting, had “implicitly cast doubt on Israel’s right to exist.” He had done so, the post continued, by “supposedly referencing Palestinian claims stating that the Balfour Declaration ‘led to the military occupation of the Palestinian people by the Israelis.’”(sic) The post contested the statement, as Mr. Stoffel put it, that the Declaration granted political rights to Palestinians. It also said by referencing a claim that Israel has militarily occupying Palestinian territories since 1948, Mr. Stoffel was “tacitly denying Israel’s right to exist.”

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

Jack Nagler, the Director for Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement, replied to your concerns. He provided a broader quote from the segment broadcast on CBC News Network:

Palestinians have gathered in communities across the West Bank including here in Ramallah where this small demonstration is under way to protest against the Balfour Declaration. That was the Declaration a hundred years ago by the British government to express the British government’s support of the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in historic Palestine. It was also supposed to grant rights to the Palestinians, but the Palestinians demonstrating here today say that has not been the case and it has led to the military occupation of the Palestinian people by the Israelis.

He told you that it is “wholly inaccurate to claim that Mr. Stoffel ‘implicitly cast doubt’ on Israel’s right to exist.” He pointed out he explicitly attributed these views to the people who were demonstrating in Ramallah and elsewhere.

REVIEW

The report from Ramallah was a brief one. The programme host set it up this way:

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant political documents in the history of the Middle East. It’s the Balfour declaration. It’s a brief letter by the British foreign secretary expressing Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland. While people are celebrating today in Israel, Palestinians are protesting on the streets of Ramallah. CBC’s Derek Stoffel has the latest:

Palestinians have gathered in communities across the West Bank including here in Ramallah where this small demonstration is underway to protest against the Balfour Declaration. That was the declaration 100 years ago by the British government to express the British government’s support of the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in historic Palestine. It was also supposed to grant rights to the Palestinians but the Palestinians demonstrating here today say that has not been the case, and it has led to the military occupation of the Palestinian people by the Israelis. Now there are demonstrations planned across the West Bank but Israelis are celebrating the Balfour declaration. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has travelled to London where later today. He will meet with his British counterpart, Theresa May. Many Palestinians have called on May to apologize for Britain's role in the Balfour Declaration. Prime Minister May says she will not and in fact she has said Britain is proud of its role in the establishment of the State of Israel.

It is clear from the text, and the context of the piece, that Mr. Stoffel is conveying the perspective of the Palestinian protesters. There is nothing to suggest he is endorsing that view. The piece concludes with information that there are celebrations in Israel, and that the British government, through its Prime Minister, is “proud of its role in the establishment of the state of Israel.”

The focus and the purpose of the report were to acknowledge the date, and to report on Palestinian reaction. It provided more than one perspective marking the anniversary.

I note in the World Report piece which ran that morning, the views of both Palestinians and Israelis were also reported. There is no violation of policy.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman