On average we each tend to use around 16,000 words a day to communicate with one another, but there is one word which appears to be banned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Palestine. The censors at the publicly-funded broadcaster ignore the fact that Palestine is recognised as a sovereign nation by at least 140 countries, and in doing so they basically wipe the historic land off the map.
The P-word ban emerged after an interview with well-known cartoonist Joe Sacco who has worked in some of the world's most notorious conflict zones and hostile environments, including Palestine. Sacco and CBC radio host Duncan McCue were chatting on air about his latest novel, and when he introduced Sacco's work, McCue also referred to some of those conflict zones, such as Bosnia and Iraq. Give him his due, McCue also mentioned Palestine but this was edited out of the transcript and cut from repeat broadcasts of the show.
The matter might have passed unnoticed if, in the next edition of McCue's show "The Current", he had not been forced to make a full apology. "Before we get to the podcast," said the host, "I've got a correction to make. Yesterday in my interview with Joe Sacco I referred to the Palestinian territories as 'Palestine'; we apologise."
The apology triggered a wave of protests from listeners and the outrage spread across North America after CBC National Audience Services spokesperson Naill Cameron tried to justify the censorship by claiming that "…there is no modern country of Palestine." He insisted that this was "established CBC language policy" and said that supporters of the Palestinians are referred to as "pro-Palestinian" rather than "pro-Palestine".
As news of the P-word ban spread, the women-led US pressure group Codepink rallied its tens of thousands of pro-Palestine and anti-war supporters to condemn the CBC censorship. Now the Canadian Government is being urged to step in after letters were sent to more than 50 Members of Parliament describing CBC's action as "a disgrace".
Codepink's national co-director and Middle East analyst Ariel Gold also fired off a letter directly to Jack Nagler, the CBC ombudsman. "For decades, supporters of Israeli apartheid have tried to make Palestine disappear from maps, international politics, history books — and now, even the airwaves," explained Gold. "As your principles include 'encourag[ing] citizens to participate in our free and democratic society' …we are reaching out to you requesting that you address this issue immediately and publicly."
Nagler responded immediately by saying that a review was underway to "determine whether CBC adhered to the appropriate journalistic standards in this instance." When complete, he promised, it will be published on the CBC ombudsman website.
Codepink has now escalated the matter further and is urging CBC to apologise to McCue, Sacco and the station's listeners. Moreover, the group is urging CBC to release a statement recognising the legitimacy of Palestine and the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality. The group is asking supporters to sign this open letter to Nagler to illustrate the strength of the anger caused by CBC's censorship of "Palestine".
Next month marks the anniversary of Palestine's 1988 Declaration of Independence. Since then it has been recognised as a sovereign state by 140 countries around the world, with the United Nations granting it the status of a "non-member observer state".
Given everything else that they have to cope with under Israel's brutal military occupation, it is unlikely that ordinary Palestinians engaged in their daily struggle for existence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank will lose sleep over a few heavy-handed censors at a Canadian radio station bending to Zionist pressure to wipe Palestine off the map. However, we who live in relative freedom around the world should be concerned at such censorship, which is increasing in North America and parts of Europe. Nearly 2,000 similar incidents have been recorded in the US recently.
Aggressive bullying from Tel Aviv and pressure from millions of Donald Trump's Zionist supporters in the US will make neither Palestine nor the Palestinians go away. Their land has been around since the 5th century BC according to the writings of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. The bureaucrats at CBC might not recognise the word Palestine, and try their best to keep it off the airwaves, but it is in the DNA and soul of every Palestinian. Grubby censorship will never change that. Whether Israel and its lobbyists like it or not, the Palestinians will continue in their struggle for justice, freedom and their legitimate return to the land of Palestine.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.