Mainstream Media is Still Anti-Palestinian: News Coverage Surrounding Electoral Victory of Sarah Jama

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Canadian politician Sarah Jama. (photo: Joey Coleman, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Paul Salvatori

Last week, Sarah Yama she won the seat for her provincial riding in Canada, as a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP). However, as a result of her victory, the mainstream news coverage of her was both unfair and anti-Palestinian.

Interestingly, the coverage was only coming from the conservative media, which routinely attacks Palestinian solidarity efforts as “irrational” or “dangerous” leftism. It was also coming from the liberal media, for example Toronto Star.

Like theirs conservative colleaguesIsraeli ideologues were supported by the liberal media attacking Jama as “anti-Semitism” for, predictably, support Palestinian justice. And, as was clear with Toronto Star (additional examples can be found here and here), they did so by consistently presenting the views of ideologues without any substantive criticism of them, much less revealing the plain truth that supporting Palestinian justice is not anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, after his victory, Jama effectively apologize for being pro-Palestinereminding another member of the NDP Joel Harden who did the same thing last year. This is of course disappointing to see.

One should, if anything, be proud to be pro-Palestine. To be so is to reject Israeli ethnic cleansing, which unnecessarily destroys the lives of Palestinians, as well as to oppose the horrors and brutality of settler colonialism.

It is not surprising at this time that Israeli ideologies attack individuals, groups, etc. often for being “anti-semitic” if they engage in anything even remotely considered Palestinian. Mainstream news reporting, accountable to the public, should prioritize telling the truth and therefore by all means refuse to do the same. In Jama’s case, however, by siding with the ideologues, they helped normalize the myth or lie that being pro-Palestinian is antisemitic and vice versa.

This was reinforced when the mainstream news media published numerous articles on Jama with an uncritical focus on B’nai Brith—a well-known pro-Israel organization hostile to Palestinian solidarity efforts—a complaint against it, which that she took advantage of. active language, like calling for the liberation of Palestine “from the river to the sea”, she makes it anti-Semitic. For B’nai Brith this was reason enough for the leader of Ontario (Jama’s riding province) of the NDP, Marit Stiles, to remove her from the election which she eventually won.

Of his B’nai Brith’s press release regarding the states of Jama:

“We understand that, with the by-election imminent and planned for March 16, the ONDP would mean that Ms. Jama withdraw. [Ontario New Democratic Party] he would probably lose the seat,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “However, Ms. Stiles the principle thing to do. There should be no room in the [Ontario] Legislation for a member that will not only result in demonizing the Jewish state but more hatred directed at Jews in Ontario.”

Not a single article within mainstream news coverage protested or questioned B’nai Brith’s complaint. Indeed that was deserved at least. The bottom line is this: if you are rightly criticizing Israel for its criminal and inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people, you somehow hate Jews. The responsible media does not allow such a preposterous claim to slip. Doing so gives some “legitimacy” to the claim when it has no merit.

The reason is simple – Israel is a state. It is not a community, Jewish or otherwise. And like all states, especially those like Israel that routinely employ violence against innocent people, they should not be immune to criticism.

Furthermore, the above statement from B’nai Brith was not covered by any mainstream news coverage. This should be cause for concern because, in spirit, it is similar to extortion. The “principled thing”, according to the statement, is to prevent Jama from running in the election she could win. Judging from B’nai Brith’s record of regularly smearing pro-Palestinian voices, as well as the fact that the statement does not provide any substantive proof that Jama was really antisemitic, it is reasonable to understand that the “principle thing” to grant it B’nai. Say what he wants, lest he campaigns to undermine Styles or the ONDP as being hateful to Jews.

It is repugnant. There is absolutely nothing moral or “principled” about threatening to label someone as “anti-Semitic” when the ultimate goal is to advance Israel’s interests, not to protect or protect Jewish people from real discrimination.

When will the mainstream new media, whether in Canada or elsewhere, begin to take such dishonesty seriously? For the most part, they remain silent about it. Likewise and far from being “balanced” in their reporting, which they regularly claim to be, this closely aligns them with Israeli ideologies that – to hide their craft – wish to maintain silence.

This is a disadvantage to the public that it should not have to face. Rather he is entitled to know the truth: Israeli ideologues oppose pro-Palestinian voices not because they are “anti-Semitism” but because they want justice for Palestine and ultimately for everyone.

That’s where the real hate is. And if the mainstream media is really concerned about making the world fairer, it won’t shy away from addressing it.

– Paul Salvatori is a journalist, community worker and artist based in Toronto. Much of his work on Palestine relates to public education, for example through his recently created interview series, “Palestine in Perspective” (The Dark Room Podcast), where he talks to writers, scholars and activists. He contributed this article to the Palestine Chronicle.

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