Editorial: Mainstream media failed Palestinian students

Photo Andrae Louis

On Nov. 8, confrontations broke out at the mezzanine of the Hall building between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students. Since the incident, Quebec mainstream media has portrayed Palestinians like animals. 

When the confrontation between SPHR and StartUp Nation occurred, rather than send reporters to cover the altercation with on-the-ground reporting, papers like the Montreal Gazette published statements by organizations that weren’t eye-witnesses to the events on campus. While the newspaper updated their original articles since Nov. 8, the damage had already been done.

Despite hundreds of students being on the scene of the incident, the Gazette relied on sources such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and far-right Honest Reporting Canada (HRC) as primary sources. 

Canadian journalists love to boast themselves as impartial, objective and ethical reporters with the highest standards. Yet, when reporting on an ongoing genocide, legacy papers like the Gazette decided to embed tweets from Zionist organizations in their article. We would like to remind our audience that HRC is the same institution that denies the Israeli Defence Force murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh almost two years ago. 

By not adequately giving Concordia students proper voices in their coverage, media outlets excluded an essential element of the story. They failed to adhere to the most basic of reporting principles like verifying the identities and backgrounds of their sources and seeking documentation to support their reliability.

Additionally, the leading image the Gazette decided to run for the article plays into racist stereotypes of Arabs. They used a single image of a Palestinian activist yelling at Zionist students, playing into the angry, barbaric Arab trope. Running the story with a leading image of an angry pro-Israeli student yelling would have been unthinkable. This is a double standard, and an othering of Arab students on campus. 

The Gazette failed to show images of Zionists provoking the other side, the security guards on the scene and the SPVM shoving students around. The entire article was based on second-hand statements and information. Was the Gazette scared to talk to students about what happened? Better yet, they could have reached out to SPHR Concordia on social media or any of the student groups on the scene. 

The original voices in the Gazette’s article also used defamatory statements by CIJA when talking about the pro-Palestinian students. Not only that, but most news organizations repudiated the CIJA’s allegation that a pro-Palestine student said an anti-semitic slur. This supposed fact ended up being fact-checked and misconstrued. Based on accounts from The Link, the student in the viral video never used any antisemitic slur during the altercations.

CIJA ended up deleting these statements on X without ever acknowledging their mistake or issuing an apology. CIJA is Canada’s foremost pro-Israel lobbying organization. The Link believes the use of this source is extremely questionable and frames the entire story in bad faith. CIJA pushes continued support of Israel’s media narrative on Gaza, ignoring the fact the state of Israel has murdered over 10,000 Palestinians which can justifiably be considered a genocide. 

Canadian media needs to do better than this apathetic and passive attempt at reporting under the guise of giving both sides an equal voice. The Link is ashamed of papers like the Gazette for their questionable reporting on the events of Nov. 8. This impartiality has no place in our legacy media. The Gazette is either showing its true colours or is too lazy to simply walk down to Concordia University to do basic journalism.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 6, published November 14, 2023.