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An open letter to CNN’s Bianna Golodryga

Omar Badi-uz-Zaman's open letter to CNN's Bianna Golodryga is making the rounds on social media. The letter, first published on the author's Facebook page, asks Ms. Bianna to face some hard facts.

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Dear Bianna,

I saw your interview with Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi. In this interview, the Honorable Foreign Minister of Pakistan was accused of anti-Semitism for his assertion that the state of Israel has ‘deep pockets’ and that it ‘controls media’.

To be clear from the outset, any form of racism, bigotry, or prejudice – be it against ANY people – has no place in the 21st century. But let’s take a moment and take an objective look at his claim – the objective being the operative word here. CNN boasts of having won many awards for iReport – its platform for citizen journalism so before I present the facts, I’d like to begin with a Pakistani citizen’s report.

The year was 2008. I was studying political science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. My friends Fatemah, Leila Abs, Mehran, and I revived the dormant Vancouver chapter of a social justice platform called Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) on a UBC campus 40,000 students strong. What this platform advocated is fairly self-explanatory.

As part of our activism, we organized visits and lectures of notable scholars, journalists, and personalities who had first-hand knowledge of Israel’s illegal, inhumane and tyrannical occupation of the Palestinians.

Read more: Israel’s annexation of West Bank: What tensions it might inflame in the region?

One such talk was delivered by Canadian photojournalist Jon Elmer who had just returned to Canada after having spent a considerable amount of time in occupied Palestine.

Barely 10 minutes into Mr. Elmer’s presentation, 3 drunk gentlemen, reeking of beer, strutted into the hall with glasses full of what was presumably – well – beer (no surprises there). One of these students was the president of the ISA – you guessed it – the Israeli Student’s Association at UBC.

Shortly after taking a seat and much to the horror of the few hundred audience members, he ‘flipped off’ the guest speaker (feel free to google the term), shouted at him, and continued to do so until the presentation was forced to a halt. Because this student wouldn’t relent, he was summarily, duly, and peacefully escorted out of the hall by security. Now though these sorts of happenings might be common across campuses worldwide, what followed suit was not at all usual.

The next day, one of Vancouver’s leading newspapers, The Vancouver Sun, decried rising anti-Semitism at the Academic heart of Vancouver. The paper carried a report claiming: Jewish students forcibly kicked out of an anti-Semitic event at UBC merely for expressing their opinion.

Talk about spin.

Read more: Exposing western media’s biasness towards Israel

Since then, it has been increasingly clear to me that any criticism of Israeli policy and the blind support for it in MOST of what is considered ‘Western media’ leads to unfounded charges of anti-Semitism; charges carefully crafted to malign and silence those who speak truth to power.

The mainstream perception

I wouldn’t fault you for rebutting with the logic that a lone, 13 year old anecdote from a university campus in Vancouver doesn’t prove Mr. Qureshi’s claim that the state of Israel has ‘deep pockets’ and that it ‘controls media’.

But being a journalist, you should know that this is not an isolated incident; that this view is not ‘radical’, but very much mainstream; and that this is the result of a concerted effort spanning decades in a bid to create and solidify the perception that Israel is the victim and the Palestinians, the aggressors.

If you need proof, please start by reviewing the US media’s reaction to ‘The Israel Lobby and the U.S. Foreign policy’ – a book published by your fellow countrymen, John Mearsheimer (Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Professor of International Relations at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) in late August 2007.

For your information, it was a New York Times bestseller.

In their book, they call out the “loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction”.

Read more: Biden: a staunch supporter and steadfast friend of Israel

Their claims are fairly mainstream in Academic circles worldwide but were too ‘radical’ (there’s that word again) for the mainstream American media. Rather than their work being debated, it was dismissed by the media as anti-Semitic.

In 2007, Norman Finkelstein, A Jewish American professor hailing from a family of Holocaust survivors was put on administrative leave and then denied thoroughly deserved tenure at DePaul University in Chicago owing to his vocal support for the rights of the Palestinians. His ouster was made possible by a slanderous media-backed campaign by prominent and influential Zionist Alan Dershowitz who labeled Dr. Finkelstein a ‘self-hating Jew’.

Ask yourself: are Dr. Finkelstein, whose parents survived the Warsaw Ghetto and Majdanek concentration camps, and countless other Jews who oppose militant Zionism, anti-Semitic? Does this characterization make sense?

Read more: Israel’s rampant human rights violations against Palestine

You should remember – and you’re old enough to remember – Helen Amelia Thomas. The fearless journalist who served in the White House Press Corp. from the start of the Kennedy administration all the way through to the second year of the Obama administration; who was the recipient of 30 honorary degrees and numerous awards; who said – and I quote – “Congress, the White House, Hollywood, and Wall Street are owned by Zionists. No question, in my opinion”.

What happened to her illustrious and decades-long career after she said this? Want to take a guess?

She was labeled an anti-Semite, declared a persona-non-grata at the White House, and vilified, ostracized, and relegated to anonymity until her demise

Don’t you see a pattern here?

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Consider AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee ) – one of the many influential pro-Israel lobby groups in Washington D.C. It’s no secret that all US presidents in recent history have seen AIPAC’s endorsement as crucial to attaining or retaining the oval office.

Read more: Israeli aggression and bloodbath in Palestine-the new intifada

So much so that during the Clinton era, a scandalized Jewish NY real estate developer Haim Katz while speaking to The Washington Times said that AIPAC had “a dozen people in [the Clinton] campaign, in the headquarters… in Little Rock, and they’re all going to get big jobs.” He went on to add that “as someone Jewish, I am concerned when a small group has disproportionate power”

Ask yourself, should we have a candid debate and discussion on David Katz’s claims or are we simply going to dismiss him as a self-hating Jew, too?

Facing the bitter truth

If one looks outside of the information bubble created by American media, the evidence is even more damning. For many decades now, about 150 plus member countries of The United Nations’ have consistently been voting – in adherence to numerous UN Security Council resolutions – in favor of Palestine’s right to exist; for an end to Israeli oppression and occupation and blockade; for an end to the illegal settlements; and for a just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as per international law. All root causes of the conflict.

As pointed out repeatedly by Professor Noam Chomsky amongst others, the only countries that consistently oppose these near-unanimous motions are – wait for it – The U.S, Israel, Micronesia, Panama, Marshall Islands, and a few others.

Read more: Virulent anti-Semitism emerges from US white supremacists

Ask yourself: are an overwhelming majority of the world’s countries and their representatives anti-Semitic or is there a chance that maybe, just maybe, you are missing something?

4 days ago, Cyril Ramphosa, the President of South Africa – a country which until recently suffered the tyranny and oppression of apartheid – joined a long list of South African leaders who have called Israel an apartheid state – something which the media – including CNN – REFUSES to do.

Ask yourself: Is there a country more qualified to identify and call out Apartheid than South Africa? Should we debate this on media or simply try to discredit and smear President Ramaphosa and his predecessors – including President Mandela – as anti-Semites?

Read more: Pakistan strongly condemns Israel’s Gaza airstrikes

Bianna, any objective reader would by now be seriously considering that Mr. Qureshi’s assertions have a lot of truth to them. So why are those who highlight these truths – like Mr. Qureshi – slandered and bullied into silence?

Questions that need urgent answers

In 2009, as Israel massacred 1,500 Palestinians, the BBC refused – under pressure from the Israeli government – to air the bank account details for organizations sending emergency humanitarian relief to Gaza. The brave and late cabinet minister Tony Benn had to appear personally on the BBC and appeal for aid for dying women and children and condemn the BBC’s bizarre complicity in spreading the Israeli government’s propaganda (youtube search: Tony Benn & Palestine)

This is the definition of control.

Why, during the current massacre, did CNN feel the need to issue a memo informing its editorial staff to refer to the Gaza Health Ministry as “Hamas-Run”?

This is a textbook example of undue influence.

Why do CNN, BBC, Fox, and countless other channels continue to ‘sanitize’ their coverage of Israeli war crimes – calling what can only be described as ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and historic Palestine ‘evictions’; why does the media refuse to acknowledge Palestine’s right to exist? Why is Palestine’s right to self-defense almost never mentioned? Why does each leg of the conflict started, as per your reporting, from Hamas’ firing of rockets while ignoring completely Israeli barbaric provocations?

Such ‘journalism’ would make Goebbels proud.

Why does the US government continue to provide unconditional aid and ammunition to Israel? Why does it continue to equip one of the most powerful nuclear states in the world to systematically subjugate and slaughter one of the most defenseless and oppressed people in the world with impunity?

It is clear that most of the media have become a mouthpiece for the Israeli narrative.

Read more: How is the western media presenting Israel’s crimes against humanity?

And here is the kicker: How is it that all of the above-stated media organizations failed to unequivocally condemn Israel’s wanton destruction of AP and Al-Jazeera offices in Gaza? What happened to journalists standing up for freedom and protection of the press?

And this is perhaps, the media’s biggest betrayal of its own fraternity in recent times.

To conclude, you should know that, by definition, Arabs are a Semitic people too. This is true. Feel free to google it. And so, my dear sister, if you have read this letter, understood it, but still do not apologize and demand justice for the Palestinians, then please, ask yourself:

Bianna, are you anti-Semitic?

The author is a Co-Founder at Sab Saath and Chief Executive Officer at Zaman Foundation. The article was originally published on the author’s Facebook page. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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