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November 1, 2012

Can You Believe What You Read in the Citizen?

Reuel S. Amdur

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On September 2, a piece by the Ottawa Citizen's Heavy Thinker Robert Sibley appeared in that paper. "Digging up hatred" was the headline. Beginning with a discussion of a Peruvian neo-Nazi Jew-hater, it continued by examining anti-Semitism in other places. The existence of the problem in Canada was illustrated by the case of Klibanov and Bergamini, Carleton University students and Israel supporters, allegedly pursued from a bar in Hull, Quebec, by Muslim students from that same university.

The Charger carried an article by me back in 2010 disputing the reality of the incident, pointing to inconsistencies in the stories related by the two.  The bouncer at the bar knew nothing about the alleged incident, and police were never able to find the supposed attackers.  Klibanov had had his candidacy for student office at Carleton cancelled because of fraudulent behavior, raising question about his credibility.

I forwarded a copy of that article to Sibley.  There was no response.  Because this ignoring of evidence constitutes journalism that is at best sloppy, I then sent my article along with an explanation to Gerry Nott, Citizen publisher and editor-in-chief.  Again no response.  It appears that false information is acceptable if it satisfies editorial preferences.  In this instance, a narrative of Klibanov, an Israeli Jew, attacked by Muslims, is the preferred narrative. 

The Citizen previously published another article in which Sibley referred to Imam Dr. Zijad Delic as a dangerous Muslim extremist.  He also repeated Tarek Fatah’s allegation that all Canadian political parties were honeycombed at the top by Muslim jihadists.  Shades of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy and his list of Communists in the State Department.  My letter to the editor defending Delic against the outlandish accusations and expressing astonishment about Fatah’s wild claim was published.

In spite of the fact that a rejoinder was published in that case, the Citizen’s continued toleration of Sibley’s irresponsible performance is in accord with its ongoing bias against Muslims and for Israel.  Whenever a prominent—or even not-so-prominent-- Israeli or pro-Israeli spokesman comes to town, he is welcomed into the Citizen offices for an interview.  On the other hand, the Citizen looks askance at Israeli Apartheid Week and ignores prominent Palestinian political figures that come to speak at the week.  Jamal Zahalka, leader of the Israeli party Balad, spoke at Carleton during that week.  The party advocates that Israel be a democracy for all its citizens equally.  That was not something that Citizen readers needed to hear about.  When distinguished Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy spoke in Ottawa, the Citizen was not interested in hearing what he had to say about the mistreatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. 

And when Rabbi Marc Ellis came to Ottawa at the invitation of Independent Jewish Voices, the Citizen was not interested in hearing his viewpoint that Judaism does not equal Israel and that prophetic Judaism stands in opposition to Empire Judaism.

In short, the Citizen has its agenda.  Pro-Israel, uncertain about Muslims, uninterested in acquainting readers with anything that differs from this.  Even if “facts” are not facts.

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