Source: Fightback

As Malcolm X once said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Since Oct. 7, the Canadian media has been a mouthpiece for the imperialist line on Israel’s war on Gaza: attacking pro-Palestine organizers and whitewashing Israel’s history.

At bottom, this shows the need for a workers’ press: one genuinely accountable to ordinary people and not to the ruling class.

Mass opposition in the streets to Israel’s siege

Israel is carrying out a hideous campaign of ethnic cleansing, and increasingly, workers and youth around the world are taking to the streets—opposing Israel’s siege and demanding freedom for Palestine. Despite arrests, slander campaigns, terminations, and a torrent of abuse, protests, walk-outs, and other actions in solidarity with Palestine are continuing across Canada. 

Beyond these protests, moreover, ordinary people are turning against Israeli imperialism. One  poll, for example, found that more Canadians oppose than approve Canada’s supporting Israel, and another poll found that only 38 per cent of Canadians aged 18-34 think Israel is even somewhat justified in using its military force.

This shift in public opinion, however, has not been reflected in Canada’s media coverage. The press has slandered pro-Palestine protests, calling them “pro-Hamas,” “public cheering of terrorism,” and “hate rallies,” and has faithfully repeated Israel Defence Forces (IDF) propaganda.

While this is certainly not the first time that pro-Palestine protests have been slandered by the media, the divide has perhaps never been more striking. 

A mouthpiece for imperialist hypocrisy 

Since Oct. 7, Israel has killed more than 14,800 Palestinians—at least 40 per cent of whom are children.

Yet Canada’s media has framed Israel’s campaign as a battle between “good and evil“—between “good” Israel and “evil” Hamas. But even framing Israel’s campaign against Palestine as an “Israel-Hamas war” distorts what’s really happening. This is a one-sided campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people—a people that has no army—and this process has been ongoing for the past 75 years. There is an attempt to make this “war” seem symmetrical, when more than 12 times as many Palestinians as Israelis had been killed since Oct. 7th at the time this article was written, with the number of Palestinian deaths only set to rise.

More striking is the contrast between how Israel’s siege on Gaza has been covered as compared to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

While the Canadian press has constantly amplified charges of war crimes against Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine, there has been virtually no coverage of Israel’s use of white phosphorus, which, as Amnesty International pointed out, can cause anyone exposed to “suffer respiratory damage, organ failure and other horrific and life-changing injuries, including burns that are extremely difficult to treat and cannot be put out with water, with burns affecting only 10 percent of the body…often fatal.” This use contravenes international law, as does Israel’s blockade of medicine, food, water, electricity, and fuel into Gaza. 

When Putin alluded to the use of nuclear bombs, there was hysteria in the press. But when an Israeli minister did the same, coverage was limited to a calm report on how China, Iran, and Arab nations condemned the statement.

The difference is that while Israel is an ally to the Canadian state and Canadian imperialism, Russia is a rival.

Accordingly, Canada’s mainstream media has devoted hours to covering the most minute details of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, punctuated with regular denunciations. But the same outlets somehow seem to miss Israel’s crimes. Instead, these outlets have dedicated more of their time to scrutinizing Israel’s victims.

Demonizing Palestinians 

In order to defend Israel’s siege, the media has whipped up public hysteria.

As Leon Trotsky once pointed out, “The yellow press lies as a matter of course, without hesitating or looking back. Newspapers like The Times or Le Temps speak the truth on all unimportant and inconsequential occasions, so that they can deceive the public with all the requisite authority when necessary.”

After Israel’s declaration of war on Gaza on Oct. 7, the Canadian media repeated the IDF’s story of “40 beheaded babies,” a tale which was subsequently shown to be a lie

A National Post article described in brutal detail footage of the Hamas attack that the author viewed at a showing at the Israeli consulate in Toronto. 

The “liberal” press has been no different. The supposedly left-leaning Toronto Star ran an article calling for footage of Hamas’s attack to be “publicly shown on giant screens in every city, every town, around the world, at Nathan Philips [sic] Square and at the corner of University and Dundas, where tens of thousands demonstrated against Israel on the weekend.”

Opponents of Israel are regularly accused of “condoning violence.” But that is precisely what the media is doing every day when they publish lies to help bang Israel’s war drum. The difference, in this case, is that their campaign backs the oppressor—Israeli imperialism—as it beats down an oppressed people.

Slandering Palestine solidarity

Beyond their slanted coverage of Hamas, Canada’s newspapers have devoted column after column to denouncing Palestine solidarity

The National Post published an article calling for pro-Palestine rallies to be banned. The Globe and Mail similarly called for police action against pro-Palestine demonstrations. 

And the state has followed through on these calls. 

In Calgary, police arrested a pro-Palestine supporter for alleged antisemitism—though the charges were later dropped due to the dubious chance of conviction. 

After posters accusing Indigo CEO Heather Reisman of funding genocide were put up at an Indigo location in Toronto, the media claimed, “Kristallnacht has come to Toronto,” invoking a comparison with the infamous Nazi pogrom of 1938! 

The media coverage stated that Indigo’s CEO was being targeted for her Jewish heritage, rather than the fact that she and her partner fund a scholarship that provides millions of dollars annually for soldiers to serve in the IDF. The police have followed the media’s line of argument in charging the alleged perpetrators with a hate-motivated offense.

Arch-reactionary and former media baron Conrad Black has also accused pro-Palestine protesters of  “extolling” actions “even more wicked and more inexcusable than the heinous crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators.”

“The Palestinians have no right to claim anything more than what Israel has already offered them,” Black said. From this position, he further wrote: “No attempt to represent these demonstrations as simply manifestations of sympathy for the stateless Palestinians can be allowed to become conventional wisdom.”

All this hysteria echoes the claim put forth in the German paper Der Spiegel, that “We are currently seeing antisemitism as we have never seen it before”—an astounding claim to put forth, especially considering that magazine’s country of origin!

Among more serious outlets, The Breach published an article in which journalists at Bell Media (which owns CTV, CP24, and BNN Bloomberg) spoke out against the conglomerate’s anti-Palestinian line. According to the article, “Palestinians who are highly critical of Israel are not invited back and clips of their interviews aren’t published on the network’s news websites.”

The article further says Bell Media’s owners have “disparaged Palestinian guests” and  “told employees that protests calling for a ceasefire should not be reported on.”

The article calls this mandate “‘a huge disservice’” to the public. 

While these outfits claim that their mandate is to inform, what we see is that in reality their purpose is to delude.

Media cover for attacks on the left

The media campaign is not just an attempt to whip up support for Israel’s war; it is also used domestically to attack the left, and provide justification for repression. 

After Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, put out a statement in support of Palestine, the Post used it as an opportunity to attack workers’ right to organize. These cases, the Post claimed, showed the need for restrictions to block unions’ “political activism.”

The media has also slandered student unions that opposed Israel’s siege. The National Post put out a diatribe against student unions in general. Now three student unions at York University in Toronto are facing being decertified. So much for the right wing’s supposed defence of free speech on campus!

In Ontario, three educators have been suspended for speaking out in support of the oppressed.

Our own comrades in Calgary have been threatened and harassed by campus security for our Palestinian solidarity action.

The Star similarly attacked Ontario MPP Sarah Jama for pro-Palestine comments, supposedly for calling Israel “apartheid.” The former NDP MPP was removed from caucus in the furor that ensued. And the Star welcomed her expulsion—saying it “brought peace” to Ontario politics.

Common to all these reprisals are whisper campaigns about the “antisemitism” behind any and all acts of Palestine solidarity. We’ve seen this used before to attack the left, in the slander campaigns against Jeremy Corbyn, Niki Ashton, and others. 

Merely shouting “antisemitism” loud enough, with or without specific allegations, is enough to smear any supporter of Palestine in the eyes of the capitalist press and the capitalist state.  

Here too, the media is out of step with ordinary people. Even before the current propaganda campaign, polls showed that most Canadians reject the fast and loose use of the term antisemitism. A survey conducted in 2020 by the non-profit organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, for example, found that a “strong majority of Canadians believe that most forms of criticism and protest of Israel are not in principle antisemitic.”

All of this is having an effect. As of November, according to Statistics Canada, only 11 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 34 report a high level of trust in the media.

Rather than discrediting protesters with their attacks, the media are just discrediting themselves. 

Corporate media supports Israel while Israel murders their journalists

Most egregiously, the Israeli state has targeted and deliberately killed journalists who expose their actions. 

As the mother of one journalist said, “My son died because he was trying to deliver the voice of the truth to the world.” 

Before said journalist was killed, he tragically predicted such an outcome, writing on Instagram, “Journalists and medical teams are subject to assassination, most of our colleagues martyred. As journalists in Gaza, we are subject to be targeted.”

Tim Dawson, deputy general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, described Israel’s actions as ”the most shocking and awful slaughter of journalists that I am aware of ever.” 

Danny Danon, a member of Israel’s Likud party, even openly talked about “needing to eliminate journalists.”

While Israel is murdering their journalists, corporate media supports Israel’s war. When journalists are not actively murdered for their work, as in Gaza, they are silenced or forced out of their positions.

Journalists speak out

There has been a growing pushback by journalists and writers themselves against the imperialist line. 

More than 1,514 journalists at the time of writing have signed another letter protesting the media’s coverage of Israel. This letter states that newsrooms are “accountable for dehumanizing rhetoric that has served to justify ethnic cleansing of Palestinians”, and argues that journalists should be able to use the words “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing”, and “genocide” to describe the actions of the Israeli state.

This letter concludes, “This is our job: to hold power to account. Otherwise we risk becoming accessories to genocide.” 

The American magazine Artforum fired their top editor after he allowed a letter to be published signed by thousands of artists and academics in support of Palestine. 

Jazmine Hughes, a former New York Times writer, was forced out of her job under pressure from management after signing an open letter critiquing the newsroom’s stance. Another signer of that same letter, Jamie Lauren Keiles, also left the Times, saying it was “a personal decision about what kind of work I want to be able to do.”

The same applies to Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, where journalists are prohibited from using the word “Palestine”. The broadcaster has loyally spouted the IDF’s messages, and has been criticized in the past for suppressing news critical of Israel. This reflects the Canadian state’s imperialist interests in supporting Israel.

While the aim of journalists who signed the open letter may be commendable, an open letter is not enough. What we see is that you are not free to speak “truth to power” under capitalism. Under capitalism, journalism is reduced to toeing the capitalist line.

Many journalists think their craft is “above” society or that they operate with “editorial independence”—but that independence ends where the needs of imperialism begin.

The media is highly monopolized in Canada, primarily owned by a small number of companies. A report by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project found that 72.5 per cent of network media revenue in 2020 went to five companies (four, now that Rogers and Shaw have merged). As the saying goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Canadian imperialism is tied by 1,000 threads to its American counterpart. Accordingly, they share imperialist interests in the Middle East, and support Israel.

Israel is Western imperialism’s bulwark in the region. For example, when Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, Israel was one of the countries, along with Britain and France, that invaded Egypt in 1956.

When Israel declared war on Gaza, there was a conscious campaign to “get ahead of the narrative” financed by billionaires. 

Build the workers’ press!

The media under capitalism is not neutral. The capitalist class uses their media to defend their rule. Through its ownership of the media, the capitalist class gets its views out to everyone. 

Social media is often cited as an alternative to the mainstream media. However, Facebook has already banned news in Canada, with Google promising to follow suit. Furthermore, posts by activists on social media platforms, also owned by corporate giants, are being shadowbanned (i.e., suppressed by the algorithm without users’ knowledge).

An independent report commissioned by Meta concluded that the social media company behind Facebook had had a negative impact on “the human rights of Palestinian users in areas such as ‘freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political participation, and non-discrimination.’”

As communists, we stand wholeheartedly on the side of the oppressed, and we say so openly and clearly. In order for the working class to fight back and win, however, we need to arm ourselves with our best weapon: the ideas of Marxism, ideas which we defend in Fightback/La Riposte socialiste. 
If you agree with us, help us build the workers’ press by taking out a solidarity subscription—or, better yet, by joining the communists in our fight for a world where we can speak the truth, and where the truth can and will win.