Thursday, February 22, 2024

Israel lobby and its media enablers threatening academic freedom on campus


academia education Israel lobby mainstream media freedom threats antisemitism canard yellow journalism slander Canada

Universities must be places where criticisms of official discourses, dominant worldviews can be voiced without fear of reprisal

In a recent article entitled “Federal funding supported academic conference with speakers who celebrated Hamas attack” (National Post, February 15, 2024), reporter Ari Blaff earns his pay by framing the Liberal government as the direct funder of Postmedia’s bête noir, academic programs that teach concepts like “racial capitalism,” and characterizing academics who oppose Zionism as supporters of terrorism. He should probably get a bonus for squeezing so much far-right misinformation into one story. The article has also been disseminated by other far-right media in Canada, including the Western Standard and Rebel Media.

In his story about a conference called “Mediations of Racial Capitalism,” being held at the University of Alberta this month, Blaff first performs the well-used trick of making readers think that the Canadian government decides which grants are approved by federal funding agencies. No doubt, Mr. Blaff knows this is false, but the equation of “federal funding” with the Liberal government serves his purpose (or, at least, the purpose of his bosses and of Pierre Poilievre). As the SSHRC spokesperson explains in a statement carefully positioned far down in the text of Blaff’s story, grant decisions are made by committees of academics who review and rank each application on its academic merits. The Government of Canada has nothing to do with the allocation of funding beyond the creation of envelopes targeting particular themes. It would be gross political interference in the integrity and independence of scholarly research were ministers to involve themselves in such vetting processes.

The second trick is to use the voice of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) to characterize the academics speaking at the conference as antisemitic and as supporters of “terrorism.” Readers are told nothing about the role of CIJA in Canada or its ties to the Israeli government. The antisemitism accusation is supported by the selective use of quotations taken out of their contexts and the omission of any counter-interpretation of the work of these academics. No one would call this journalism, but it is the kind of propaganda regularly churned out by Postmedia.

Blaff scores another point for his team by linking the SSHRC funding for the Mediations of Racial Capitalism conference to the Liberal government’s funding of the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) in 2021 for an anti-racism campaign which, when implemented, included the characterisation of Zionism as colonialism and anti-Arab racism. Statements made by a CMAC advisor (Laith Marouf) were labelled antisemitic by Zionist organizations and politicians who pressured the Canadian government to demand the repayment of the initial funding. Blaff presents these accusations as being factual, despite knowing that they remain strongly contested (for example, he says that Marouf was “found to have made several antisemitic posts online”). Why does he do this? To be able to assert that the Liberal government continues to fund antisemitic groups despite having promised not to do so. And to paint both events with the same brush, thereby further hammering the controversial claim that the Mediations conference platformed antisemitism.  (more...)

Israel lobby and its media enablers threatening academic freedom on campus

No comments:

Post a Comment