MELBOURNE – “Zionist scum” daubed on the wall of a Jewish school in Perth. A Jewish man in Melbourne beaten up in the street while wearing a T-shirt with Hebrew writing.
As shocking as these incidents are, they have been the only “attacks” on the Jewish community in Australia since the launch of Operation Protective Edge.
Yes, there have been the pro-Palestinian rallies through our major cities where thousands march decrying Israel, while brandishing banners and placards that equate the Jewish State’s actions with those of the Nazis.
But while the community remains on high alert and fearful of the worst, Australia so far has been spared the anti-Semitic violence and vandalism witnessed on the streets of Europe.
That said, there is a considerable air of disquiet and unease, resulting from relentless assaults on Israel in the media.
What many consider the worst examples emerged last weekend with a segment on Channel Nine’s current affairs program Sixty Minutes titled “Unholy War” presented by Allison Langdon, and a column by veteran journalist Mike Carlton published in The Sydney Morning Herald and on the website of its fellow Fairfax newspaper in Melbourne The Age.
To say they were unbalanced in their coverage of the conflict is an understatement.
To use a word such pundits are so fond of using in the context of condemning Israel, they were downright disproportionate, laying blame solely at the feet of Israel.
Did either Langdon or Carlton mention Hamas’s stated commitment to the destruction of Israel or the terrorist atrocities and rocket attacks that predate this current conflict and have precipitated every conflict in recent years including this one? No
Did either of them mention the disengagement from Gaza and the various offers of West Bank land for peace that could and should have laid the foundations for a Palestinian State? No
Did they mention Israel’s documented attempts to minimize civilian casualties as opposed to Hamas’s documented use of human shields, its policy of firing from residential areas and storing armaments in schools? No
Did Langdon, when musing on the security barrier, care to inform viewers that it had been built to prevent the suicide bombings that had claimed hundreds of lives – and that it had succeeded? No.
In fact, her broadcast was textbook Israel bashing right from the get-go. She interviewed relatives of murdered Palestinian teen Muhammed Khdeir. But rather than interview the relatives of any of the three murdered Israeli teens Gil-ad Sha’ar, Naftali Fraenkel or Eyal Yifrah – or indeed the relatives of any victims of Palestinian terror – she interviewed two right-wing settlers, from the “All this land is ours” extreme.
For good measure, Langdon also interviewed a left-winger to confirm how rotten the Israeli state is in its treatment of the Palestinians.
Any interviews with extremist Palestinians who call for Israel’s destruction? Of course not. Because then it might seem Israelis genuinely have something to worry about, and that the victims of Israel’s aggression might not all be quite the innocents that the program is seeking to make out?
Throw in words like “apartheid” and some highly dubious historical comment about Israel being “carved out” between two Palestinian territories, and this shoddy piece of journalism hit its target.
Carlton’s column, however, was altogether more insidious. Vitriolic in its condemnation of Israel, not only were words such as “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing” and “fascism” used, but the author went on to say these “atrocities” were being “committed by a people with a proud liberal tradition of scholarship and culture, who hold the Warsaw Ghetto and the six million dead of the Holocaust at the centre of their race memory.”
This was no longer just a venomous swipe at Israel in a mainstream newspaper, this was about “a people” and “a race” – a people and a race who should know better because of what they themselves went through. In short, they should know better, and they are no better … than the Nazis.
Throw in a cartoon of a big-nosed, bespectacled man wearing a kippah and sitting in an armchair with a Star of David on the back – pressing a remote control that detonates an explosion in Gaza – and in a country which hosts the highest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel, it’s little wonder that many in the community were reminded of the caricatures of Jews they’d seen in Der Sturmer.
Responding to the TV broadcast and the column, this week The Australian Jewish News took the unprecedented step of publishing its editorial column on the front page of the paper. Under the headline “Media Disgrace,” The AJN called on its readers to cancel their subscriptions to Fairfax.
“Shame on those Australian journalists who are fanning the flames of hatred against Jews and Israel,” the paper declared. “Shame on 60 Minutes. Even greater shame on Fairfax.
And noting the alarming rise of anti-Semitism overseas and the incidents that have occurred on these shores, the paper reflected, “In these troubled times it behoves our media to act both responsibly and with integrity, not to stir the pot.”
The pot though has been stirred. And our front page is now itself making the news with various media outlets reporting on our call to action
Does Carlton have any remorse for fanning the flames?
His Tweet on it says it all: “read it, and thought it the usual febrile froth from the Likkud lobby. Ho hum. Didn’t mind at all.”
Let’s just pray that those who read his column think it’s just “febrile froth” from a ranting columnist. Otherwise the vandalism at the Jewish school in Perth and the attack on the Jewish man in Melbourne may simply be the precursors to far more and far worse acts of anti-Semitism in the days and weeks to come.
The writer is the national editor of The Australian Jewish News.