The following is an unedited response to Murray Dobbin’s June 15 commentary, "Libby Davies remarks on Israel a leadership test for Jack Layton”.
By David Katz
Ten days ago, an anti Israel rally was taking place outside of my apartment in downtown Vancouver. It happened I was becoming the editor of the blog Comments from Left Field the next week, so I grabbed my camcorder hoping to get some footage. I was fortunate to have a short interview with MP Libby Davies, and 10 days later it has become a national story. Today I read an article on the Straight where some questionable statements were made about me by Murray Dobbins, and I would like to defend myself. He wrote:
In this case Vancouver East MP Libby Davies got bushwacked by a pro-Israel activist posing as a neutral - if not pro-Palestinian - blogger. After a rally for the Palestinians criticizing Israel's deadly assault on the aid flotilla, a man approached Libby asking for an interview. As she always does, because she never hides her views, she complied. He immediately set her up with what he called a "background question." He asked when the occupation began, 1948 or 1967.
Libby hesitated then said 1948. She made the point that the date was not important - that whatever the date the occupation was the longest in the world - and far too long.
The next day, the interview appeared on YouTube. But in 24 hours it had gone nowhere - just 28 views. Then the most vociferous supporter of Israel in the NDP caucus, Thomas Mulcair, got wind of it and it escalated out of control
First off, I bushwacked her? I went up to her and introduced myself. I told her I was writing for a center left blog that focused mainly on American politics, and asked if I could interview her. If that is bushwacking, what is a legitimate interview?
Second, what does it mean to be a pro Israel activist pretending to be neutral? While yes some would describe my views as pro Israel, there are also a lot that would describe my views as anti-Israel. The fact is, it is a complex issue and unless you are a far right Jewish settler, or an Islamic militant, there will always be someone who will think you are not extreme enough. Isn't the goal of being a good journalist attempting to be neutral regardless of one's views? I did not challenge any of her answers with counter facts, or suggest in any way that I agreed or disagreed with her. Even looking at the YouTube title "MP Libby Davies interviewed on Israel" should be a sign that I honestly was attempting to remain neutral throughout the entire production process.
Third, with regards to the background question, I really thought I was throwing her a lob so I could establish a baseline on her views. If Mr. Dobbins were to actually have read what I wrote about the interview, he would have seen that I did not seriously criticize her statement that the occupation started in 1948. But instead focused on her lack of understanding of material on a subject she has been championing for years. In the very same article, I chastised a pro-Israel, right wing commentator for spreading hearsay. I did not know about the Helen Thomas incident at the time, and did not expect the reaction that has happened since.
Finally, with regards to the YouTube time line, I call bull. Yes one could spin conspiracy theories, but the way the traffic grew is how the internet works. The video first spread slowly because I just posted it to my facebook wall, then a friend of mine put it on his, and it eventually reached a prominent conservative blog, Small Dead Animals, and the moment she posted it, the traffic exploded. I do not know where his speculation regarding a conspiracy involving Thomas Mulcair comes from, but I would be interested to know his sourcing, or if it was simply a theory.
I really never imagined that this would become the story that it has become, but I am proud of what I have done. I did not try to bushwack anyone, and tried to be as civil as I possibly could, and even apologized at one time during the interview as a point of civility. I understand it must hurt Mr. Dobbins to see a leader he cares for and respects come under attack, but lashing out against a citizen-journalist who did his very best to keep his opinions out of the interview is downright mean.
David Katz is a Vancouver resident and the editor of a blog called Comments from Left Field.