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Friday, January 27, 2017

Rogers TV Cancels Arabic-Language Program Following Complaints of Anti-Semitic Content

Nazih Khatatba. Photo: CIJnews
Ilana Shneider

Following a complaint from B’nai Brith Canada, on January 24, 2017 Rogers TV pulled the plug on AskMirna, an Arabic-language program which “gives members of the Arab community of Toronto a platform to express their opinions and showcase their cultural activities”.

One particular episode which drew B’nai Brith’s attention was dedicated to “Nakba Day” (meaning the day of “Catastrophe” in Arabic). For the Palestinians, Nakba Day is an annual day of commemoration of the displacement that preceded an attempted genocide of Jews by five invading Arab armies, whose explicit aim was to destroy the nascent state of Israel which declared its independence in 1948. It is also a day on which Palestinians and their supporters mourn the creation of the State of Israel and call for its elimination.

The episode which led to Rogers TV cancelling the show was filmed on May 15, 2016 at Mississauga’s Celebration Square during a Nakba Day rally organized by the “National Committee to commemorate the Nakba 68 – Toronto”. The highlight of the event was a display of a giant wooden “return key” and a large Palestinian flag, a gift from the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, to convey a strong message of interdependence among Palestinians in the diaspora and the demand of the descendants of the original 1948 refugees to return to what is now the State of Israel.

At the rally, Mirna Serreddine, host of AskMirna, interviewed Nazih Khatatba, then a board member of Palestine House. Palestine House was previously de-funded by the Canadian government for its “pattern of support for extremism” and which, according to former Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney “has aligned itself with terrorist causes, including celebrating the release of terrorists and honouring the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of the groups that formed the Palestine Liberation Organization which in the 1960s and ’70s was responsible for numerous armed attacks and aircraft hijackings.”

When asked what Khatatba wants the Canadian society to learn from the Nakba Day gathering, he explained that he wants Canadians to know that “Palestinians are an oppressed people” and they shouldn’t believe the “fairy tales claiming that Jews have suffered oppression”.

He then claimed that the Jewish groups which suffered massacres in Europe “came to the Middle East, to Palestine, and committed the same, and even worse massacres, against the Palestinian people”.

According to B’nai Brith, to compare the systematic murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazis and their accomplices during the Holocaust to the displacement of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs during Israel’s defensive war against five Arab armies is an “absurd distortion of historical facts”.

Khatatba, who also edits the Mississauga-based Arabic-language Meshwar newspaper, is an open supporter of the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel and has a long and well-document history of extreme anti-Israel sentiment and support for terrorism. In March 2016, he was paid a visit by two CSIS officers who came “without notice” to his office at the Palestine House to discuss his “pro Hamas” articles and online postings.

In a November 30, 2012 op-ed, Khatatba expressed his support for Hamas and other Palestinian organizations that took part in a war with Israel during which thousands of rockets and mortar shells were launched from the Gaza strip toward Israeli communities.

In November 2014, Khatatba portrayed the massacre by Palestinian terrorists of 4 unarmed rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue while they were praying as a “courageous and qualitative” operation. One of the victims was Howie Rothman, an Israeli Canadian, who died of his wounds a year after he was struck on the head and neck with a meat cleaver.

In 2015, Khatatba praised Lebanese terrorist Samir Quntar for his “bold offensive operation”, referring to a 1979 attack during which Quntar murdered an Israeli civilian and smashed the head of a 4 year-old Israeli girl on beach rocks and crushed her skull with the butt of his rifle.

Following a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on June 8, 2016 during which two Palestinians terrorists opened random fire in a restaurant, killing 4 Israeli civilians and injuring 20, Khatatba called the attack a “military” and “guerrilla” operation.

In his editorial “What will happen after the Palestinian guerrilla in Tel Aviv” Khatatba wrote among other things the following: The vast majority of the Palestinian people, except the leadership of the [Palestinian] Authority, expressed their support of the operation even though Israeli civilians were targeted… These operations are a result of [Israel’s] continuing occupation and [building of] settlements without any regional or international deterrence to bring it to an end… The leaders of the Israeli occupation, headed by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Minister of Defence Avigdor Lieberman are responsible for the bloodshed in the Holy Land and the evolution of the popular struggle and the stabbing operations into military operations inside the heart of the cities of the state of the Israeli occupation.”

On May 15, 2016, Khatatba described Israel as the “first enemy of the Arab nation.” He also slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for continuing the security coordination with Israel.

In 2014, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) submitted to Peel Region Police several complaints of possible hate crimes allegedly committed by Khatatba’s newspaper Meshwar. The complaints documented several instances of anti Jewish rhetoric including sympathizing with a terrorist attack, posting an article questioning the veracity of the Holocaust and a cartoon that depicted the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drinking the blood of Palestinian children. No charges have been laid against the Palestine House at that time.

There might be an 'h' on the end of Khatatba's first name, but it seems a thin disguise.

Following the cancellation of AskMirna show, Colette Watson, Senior Vice-President of Television and Broadcast Operations for Rogers Communications, told B’nai Brith that “…there is no room on Rogers TV, community television or anywhere in Canadian media for hate of any kind.”

For over 30 years, B’nai Brith Canada’s Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents has shown that anti-Israel sentiment, as exemplified by events such as Nakba Day, lead to manifestations of anti-Semitism Canada.