Robert Fisk misrepresents Stephen Harper’s views on antisemitism (Part 2)

In our previous post, we refuted Robert Fisk’s claim, in his latest column at The Independent, that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper argued that mere criticism of Israel can be a form of anti-Semitism.

Now, we’ll look at another allegation in his piece, a charge levelled in the headline.

fisk graphic

Fisk explains:

But in Canada – and I had to literally rub my eyes when I read this – the totally pro-Israeli Conservative government of Stephen Harper intends to list the boycotting of Israel as a “hate crime”.

This is preposterous. If I decline to buy Israeli-produced oranges at a British supermarket, this doesn’t make me a Nazi murderer. To criticise Israel doesn’t turn Canadians into Jew-haters. A number of liberal Jewish groups have protested against Harper’s proposed new law – far too many Jewish organisations have praised it – on the grounds that it assumes that all Jews support Israel or approve of its actions. And since Jews are also members of boycott-Israel groups, Harper’s Comic Cuts new law would have to put Jews on trial in Canada for anti-Semitism.

The dark little catch in all this is that last year Canada changed its definition of hate speech to include statements made against “national origin”, not just race and religion. Thus statements or speeches critical of Israel – like a number of public lectures I have given in Canada – may now be classed as statements against Jews (even though Jews are often among the organisers of my own speaking engagements in America). And, in due course, editorials in papers such as the Toronto Star can be deemed anti-Semitic and thus worthy of being denounced as a “hate-crime”.

So, is Fisk correct? Does Harper’s government intend to list the boycotting of Israel as a “hate crime”.

No, it doesn’t, according to Canadian news reports published a week before Fisk’s column.

CBC News, in an article titled “Tories deny plan to use hate crime laws against Israel boycotters“, cited Canadian government officials’ flatly denying charges leveled in an earlier CBC News report

The federal Conservatives are denying there’s any basis to a CBC News story saying the government is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.

Asked Tuesday whether the government planned to use hate crime laws against Israel boycotters, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said “No,” adding there are provisions in the Criminal Code to deal with hate speech and propaganda “and we trust in our justice system to enforce those regulations.”

Following the publication of the story on Monday, Jeremy Laurin, a spokesman for Blaney, said that “this story is inaccurate and ridiculous. These laws have been on the books for many years and have not changed.”​

Blaney’s office further dismissed the CBC story by noting that they “won’t dignify [their] bizarre conspiracy theory with further comment.”

So, while Fisk likely based his column on the original CBC report, published on May 11th, he evidently didn’t notice the CBC’s follow-up story (and subsequent news articles elsewhere), published later in the day, contradicting their original report. 

It seems reasonable to expect a professional journalist with decades of experience to engage in some basic fact-checking before making such a allegation.  We encourage editors at The Independent to revise Fisk’s column accordingly. 

20 replies »

  1. Fisks distorts news associated with Jews and Israel, and splutters with venomous faux moral outrage?
    That’s a tautology.

  2. ” If I decline to buy Israeli-produced oranges at a British supermarket, this doesn’t make me a Nazi murderer. ” – Robert Fisk

    No, Mr. Fisk. Confusing a personal purchasing choice with an organized boycott makes you stupid.

    • P.S. Maybe it’s time to rub your eyes again, just the way “award winning” journalist do these days.

  3. Fisk’s article is so childish, it borders on moronic. If this is the intellectual level of all Israel haters we have nothing to worry about.

    • @kleinery –

      “Fisk’s article is so childish, it borders on moronic. If this is the intellectual level of all Israel haters we have nothing to worry about.”

      You have EVERYTHING to worry about. The moronic intellectual level of certain Israeli government ministers really is impossible to match….

      From today’s Jerusalem Post, for example, we learn that Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel sent this infantile tweet to the US president: “Welcome! Happy Jerusalem Day! in case u didn׳t hear PM Netanyahu: “Jerusalem won’t be divided again, we build all over the city.” (See ‘Israeli right-wing minister taunts Obama on Twitter over Jerusalem construction’.)

      As one angry Israeli Twitter user wrote in response to Ariel: “You remind me of a pyromaniac who lights things on fire and then rushes to tell his friends so that they don’t miss the blaze.”

  4. Fisk has become an apologist for this mass murderer Assad.
    Fisk tries to give the impression that Assad didn’t gas anyone.
    Look what he wrote here.
    27 August 2013

    In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and con men. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback

    My comments.
    Assad’s forces have killed between 60.000 to 70,000 Syrian civilians in the last 2 years. Assad is levelling Syrian towns and he don’t care how many Syrian civilians he murders. .
    Why doesn’t Fisk tell us in detail how these civilians were murdered by Assad.
    If one Arab is killed by Israel, Fisk will go into detail how this Arab was killed.

  5. How Robert Fisk promoted the Jenin massacre hoax

    Of course, corrections and clarifications have never been a feature of Fisk’s reporting on Israel. Most notoriously, he has never properly repudiated the false claims made in his April 2002 articles on the Battle of Jenin in which, despite being in California at the time, he described the “stench of death wafting out from the Palestinian city” and accused “Israel’s undisciplined soldiery” of “running amok,” massacring “hundreds” and concealing the evidence from the world.

    Fisk, at first, defended himself by claiming that he never actually described Jenin as a ‘massacre’ and, to be fair to him, this was true. But in writing of “the evidence of mass killings,” the “hundreds of corpses — some of which disappeared, some of which appear to have been secretly buried” and of an Israeli army “that has not yet finished filling the mass graves of Jenin,” he left no room for doubt as to the impression of events that he wanted to leave. He then attempted to shift to blame for the ‘massacre’ rumour onto Israel, asserting that it was IDF officer, Ron Kitrey, who first spoke of “apparently hundreds” of dead, conveniently ignoring the fact that Kitrey quickly clarified that he was referring to “casualties – those killed or wounded” rather than solely to the number of dead. Today, Fisk defends his second-hand story by arguing that the 52 Palestinian deaths (38 of them terrorist combatants) actually constituted a massacre.

    Fisk’s unwillingness to acknowledge his errors is unfortunate given the frequency with which what he calls the “old Fisk prediction machine” gets things so wrong.

    • The man is insane. He must be. He is trying to emulate that other insane bigot, Chomsky.