David Katz: I didn't bushwhack Libby Davies with Israel occupation question

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.



Elise Thorburn

Jun 16, 2010 at 10:47am

Dear Mr. Katz,

Four words into this article you undermine your own argument and align yourself with a staunchly pro-Zionist ideology, which makes me hesitant to believe your claims of neutrality in reporting and unintended "bushwhacking" of an honourable MP, wioth more courage in her little finger than you have in your whole blog.

The rally that was outside your apartment was not an ANTI-ISRAEL rally but rather a Palestine Solidarity rally, and further, a rally in solidarity with the Freedom Flotilla.

So much for your journalistic ethics Mr. "citizen journalist". Hope that's not too "downright mean" for ya.

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Frank De Scuisson

Jun 16, 2010 at 10:57am

Katz comes across here as hypocritical, narcissistic and insincere. I suggest he focuses his 'citizen journalism' efforts on where he is actually a citizen - the United States.

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W Travies

Jun 16, 2010 at 11:27am

The embarrassment received by MP Davies is appropriate.

Once again we see a politician or other public figure whose enthusiasm fat outstrips her understanding of history, economics, religion, psychology, and international politics.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
Abraham Lincoln.

It is sad that she and others do not understand that were MP Davies and her partner to travel to the Middle East, Israel would be the only place they could count on not being arrested or stoned.

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David Katz

Jun 16, 2010 at 11:46am

With Respect to Elise Thurburn, it was an anti Israel rally. Any rally that chant's long live the intifada moves from being pro-Palestinian to anti-Israel

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Earl Krieger

Jun 16, 2010 at 11:59am

Mr. Katz, if anyone had listened to the interview, was relatively silent, allowing for the "Honourable" Mrs. Davies to speak her mind, which she did.
To chastise Mr. Katz for the ignorant and blatantly false information which our elected Canadian MP recited ad nauseum, is to distort the facts, and paint a false portrayal of the events, which is almost to be expected with the misaligned progessive cosmopolitans who neither understand the ideals they stand for, nor care to have their beliefs accord with history.

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Jun 16, 2010 at 12:05pm

@David Katz,

From the Wikipedia entry for <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intifada">"Intifada" (disambiguous)</a>: "Intifada is an Arabic word which literally means "shaking off," though it is usually translated into English as "uprising" or "resistance" or "rebellion". It is often used as a term for popular resistance to oppression."

So wouldn't chants of "long live the intifada" be more accurately described as pro-resistance, and specifically, the resistance of the occupation?

To describe pro-Intifada chants as anti- everything Israel is, in my opinion, editorializing the news. Though I suppose this piece is posted as commentary.

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Jun 16, 2010 at 1:34pm

If David Katz had any decency he would have warned Davies that he was not necessarily agreeing with her, and of his intention to release the interview to the public, to give her a chance to express a different opinion modified for the general public.

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John Madden

Jun 16, 2010 at 2:43pm

David Katz is presenting arguments that can only be des-BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

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Jun 16, 2010 at 7:40pm

the jews have gone from being victims of nazi's to nazi's themselfs.

decades of bullying and war crimes and the world is finally waking up

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Jun 16, 2010 at 8:03pm

The heated debate caused by Ms. Davies' statement proves what she said is the truth. Any criticism of Israeli foreign policy is instantly met with cries of Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitism. As always, anything that is Pro-Palestinian is instantly defined as being Anti-Israeli. Those who create this connection are the real obstacles to any peace by creating a mutual exclusivity between the two movements. This driving of a wedge between opinions and polarizing the people into one of two camps will never lead to any progress. Moreover, recontextualizing Pro-Palestinian sentiments into being Anti-Israeli is also a sneaky way of shifting the focus away from its true place. Bravo for Ms. Davies for having the courage and moral fibre to speak her mind in a balanced and even way. Israel has a right to exist, but so too does Palestine, and as long as Israel is present in Palestinian lands, as defined by the 1967 boundaries, whether by military presence, by the building of illegal settlements, or by the blockade of its borders, then there can be no hope for any peace.

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