CBC Apologizes for saying “Palestine”; Joe Sacco Responds

by BK Munn

U.S. cartoonist Joe Sacco is at the heart of a controversial decision by the CBC to force Anishinaabe reporter Duncan McCue to apologize on-air for using the word Palestine. Sacco was being interviewed about his new book on colonialism and the Dene people of the Northwest Territories (Sacco’s first major book is titled Palestine). Sacco responded to the forced apology, stating:

“It’s ironic that the CBC would apologize for the use of the word “Palestine” for a segment about my book, whose subject is at least partly the attempted obliteration of the cultural identity of indigenous people of the Northwest Territories, particularly through the notorious residential school system. Imagine today if the First Nations people I talked to, the Dene, would be made to apologize for using their word “Denendeh”, which means “The Land of the People,” for describing where they live. To whom, exactly, was the CBC apologizing for using the word “Palestine”? If anything, this storm over a proper noun brings into relief a similar way the adherents of colonial-settler projects seek to suppress native peoples and then laud their dominance. I’m sure none of this is lost on either Canada’s indigenous people or Canadian-Palestinians.”

The full affair is reported on here by Mondoweiss.

The CBC offered it’s own response to the controversy over the apology with a clarification:

To be clear, there was no pressure from anyone. 

We did it because it is CBC policy to not refer to Palestine as a country or entity. 

Here is our internal language guidance on this issue: 

Palestine vs. Palestinian territories — There is no modern country of Palestine, although there’s a movement to establish one as part of a two-state peace agreement with Israel. So do not refer to Palestine or show a map with Palestine as a country. Use the term “pro-Palestinian” instead of “pro-Palestine” when referring in generic ways to Palestinian supporters. Areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority are considered Palestinian territories: Fatah-run West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

I understand that Palestine is recognized as a state by the UN, as well as more than a hundred countries and other organizations.

However Canada, the U.S, Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand among others do not.