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Israel is proving to be Canadian journalism's Achilles heel

Journalists inspect building after it was burned by the Israeli military. Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr

Stupid, stupid Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. It dared to stand up for journalists shot by Israeli snipers at the Gaza border. Didn't the CJFE know that criticizing Israel is off-limits?

Now the statement expressing concern has been deep-sixed, the CJFE Communications Director, Kevin Metcalf, has been thrown under the bus, and the organization itself, thoroughly cowed at this point, is reportedly on the rocks. (You can find the censored statement at the second-last link, by scrolling down.)

If you think Canadian journalists are upset by this ironic turn of events, guess again. They have been leaping to condemn CJFE and Metcalf (a journalist in his own right, who has taken his lumps for covering Canada's alt-right) in particular.

The hypocrisy is monumental; it is staggering. Jonathan Kay, who has been wittering on for months about an alleged threat to free speech on Canadian university campuses, was first on board to mock Metcalf. He considers it "hijacking" the CJFE to condemn the deliberate targeting of journalists by the Israel Defence Forces, and the shooting of unarmed demonstrators in general.

Doug Saunders, the Globe and Mail's foreign affairs correspondent, complains that the impartiality for which journalism is supposedly known (permit a mild eye-roll here) has been compromised by calling upon the Canadian government to act. He called the statement disturbing, and accused CJFE of "politicking." He must have missed this. And this. And this. And this. Certainly we have heard no complaints from Saunders about any of that.

Self-styled media critic Jesse Brown called the CJFE's statement a "mistake." Robyn Urback, opinions editor for the CBC, extended her claws. And Chris Selley of Postmedia evidently thinks that standing up for his dead and wounded colleagues in Palestine is plain foolish.

The CJFE's remit, let us remind ourselves, is this:

CJFE monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, we promote a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free expression rights of all people, and encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others' free expression rights.

It has done just that. Perhaps to avoid further opprobrium, it could add "except for Israel" to its mission statement.

Other international watchdogs have, thank goodness, stepped up to decry the targeting of their fellow journalists. More generally, you can find stark condemnation of the Gaza violence in Israeli media, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague has found it necessary to issue a direct warning.

Here at home, political party leaders, other than Jagmeet Singh,* have remained silent. Criticism of the assault on unarmed protesters has been muted, as casualties continue to mount. And an organization dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and the protection of journalists, daring to apply those principles to the killing and wounding of Palestinian journalists in Gaza, has been drop-kicked by journalists themselves. Israel, once again, has proven to be Canadian journalism's Achilles heel.

*UPDATE: Green Party leader Elizabeth May has now spoken out.

Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr

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