On May 11, as Israel unleashed its military machine in occupied Jerusalem and elsewhere, I was put in touch with CBC Radio-Montreal who was looking for someone to interview to discuss the violent events in Sheikh Jarrah. After offering to speak on one of their shows on the requested day of May 12, I was told they would love to book me on the show.
Alas, the person had to be specifically, and I quote, a “Palestinian-Montrealer”. Apparently, it’s their strict policy that all guests on the show had to be Montrealers. In addition, I now had an hour to research this specific subspecies of a Palestinian.
Fine. In 40 minutes, I found not one, but two Palestinian-Montrealers, capable and willing to be interviewed. I even checked with these two people. And they confirmed to me that every day they woke up, they said to themselves: “Wow, isn’t it great to be a Palestinian-Montrealer!” It is only when these two words are combined that they feel complete! Their combination is the defining characteristic of their very existence and the source of all their expertise and knowledge about what was happening in Sheikh Jarrah!
Fantastic, suggested CBC Radio-Montreal. All within the hour too. You can’t believe it. Thank you.
The Palestinians-Montrealers that I found were so nice, they cleared their busy schedules for the time slots that suited CBC Radio-Montreal, not only for the on-air interview, but also for the screening interview. . Calendar deleted. Preparations made. Awesome.
May 12 comes and goes. But it’s not so much that an email or a call from CBC Radio-Montreal tells this Palestinian-Montrealer that he won’t put them on the air or even pre-interview them.
This story is far from being an outlier in the Canadian mainstream media landscape, and even media landscapes in Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere.
For three days, from May 11 to 13, I found for CBC, Palestinians in Palestine, Palestinian-Canadian experts, Palestinians-Montrealers and Palestinians in Palestine who are not a “journalist’s voice” but who are just a “local voice” – whatever that means, but still, I found one. And whenever I found one of these increasingly specific Palestinian subspecies, I was either simply ignored or told no, today we are actually looking for another subspecies. species. And so on.
If not for the fact that this is a structural cover-up of the colonial brutality of the settlers and a form of harassment for people who give up their time to find interviewed Palestinians available, as well as Palestinians who spend hours of their time preparing for interviews for nothing, these stories would only be funny.
In the media landscapes of Canada and beyond, there are of course courageous and conscientious journalists who work very hard to break the wall of silence and tell the story of Palestine to their audiences. They are everywhere. They work in the mainstream media, in CBC News, and some are creating and doing their own media platforms.
We all need to support these journalists, both the freelancers and those working within the mainstream. When they break through, when they put a Palestinian on the air and give them time to speak up and explain the situation, when the journalist’s language in the way he frames events on the ground moves away from the misleading clichés of the “Two sides,” “real estate litigation,” and “Israel’s right to self-defense as a justification for anything and everything,” and whatever government propaganda spreads, this is when we have to support these conscientious and real journalists.
Write to your news stations. Tell them that you appreciated the work of these journalists. Ask them to do more. Help these journalists break the silence. Break the barrier of fear.
Throughout the past two weeks and still ongoing, young Palestinian journalists and activists have been on social media to give a more accurate and complete picture of what is happening on the ground than the entire Euro-American media landscape. combined.
That doesn’t mean censorship doesn’t happen on these digital platforms. It certainly is. Instagram and Twitter accounts and Facebook groups are disabled, blocked and censored. Therefore, these platforms will not serve as a panacea for these serious, structural and fundamental problems of the media landscape. Digital platforms are also a space controlled and built to ultimately serve the powerful.
The CBC and other news organizations may think they are sending us in pursuit of Palestinians-Montrealers for spooky interviews. But we understand their games and their tips. We understand how they will respond to what I am sharing here. They will now point out how they invited two, three, maybe even ten Palestinians to speak on the air in these days and maybe even weeks to come, and attempt to use it as an exemption. of these charges.
But we do know and understand that inviting Palestinians of the different subspecies for a few minutes here and there will not really go beyond hours of daily cementing the narrative of powerful states like Canada, the United States and Israel. (and there is almost no daylight between their positions).
And we also understand that the old guard of Radio-Canada and other media organizations is on the wrong side of history. All the gains that will be made in the coming weeks, all the breakthroughs that are already happening and which will hopefully intensify, will occur despite state interests rooted in mainstream media. These gains are being made by people coming together both inside and outside the mainstream media, pushing these power structures towards much needed changes. But like the Israeli state, the mainstream media will respond to this decline with structural violence.
In an open letter last week, some 500 conscientious, fair and balanced Canadian journalists rightly denounced “the lack of nuanced Canadian media coverage of forced evictions and indiscriminate airstrikes” against Palestinians, making the following simple request: ” That all principles of journalism should apply to Canadian coverage of the occupied Palestinian territories in the future. Fair and balanced coverage should include historical and social context, journalists familiar with the region and, most importantly, Palestinian voices. “
And how is the old guard in the upper echelons of the mainstream media reacting? By prohibiting certain signatories from covering Palestine / Israel.
Let it sink in. A call for more nuanced, fair, balanced and truly legitimate journalism entails the punishment of these journalists.
And so indeed something is urgently needed, and it is not always elusive Palestinian-Montrealer. Lucid, open, honest, participatory and deliberative public discussion across this planet is urgently needed on how structures of oppressive government are built and maintained with and through traditional media institutions.
Never forget this: our story is not just a Palestinian story. It is the story of all the people oppressed, killed, imprisoned, mutilated, enslaved, colonized and erased. It is the story of indigenous struggles across Turtle Island, Bolivia, Mexico, Chile, Australia and beyond. It is the story of black liberation struggles around the world. It is the story of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom. It is the story of the still unfinished struggle to dismantle the structures of economic and social inequalities left by apartheid in South Africa.
It is the story of the struggle for freedom and democracy in Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong and beyond. It is the story of all the people who struggle to overcome the yoke of postcolonial authoritarian states in Guinea, Uganda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Emirates Arab Emirates and beyond. It is the story of the struggles of the working class in Italy, Spain, Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, the UK and beyond. It is the story of the Jewish struggle against the destructive monstrosity of anti-Semitism that Europe has created.
We are all dominated in this world, which was erected in and through colonial modernity. The tactics and strategies that are used to silence and dominate Palestinians are the same that all oppressed people also face or will face, and this includes the structural violence that is practiced by the mainstream media.
Nelson Mandela once said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” True. But let me also add this: Not all of the people caught up in these struggles above are free. The Palestinian struggle for freedom is in fact also the struggle of so many in the world for freedom. Either we all get there together or no one else is.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.