Media Opinion

The Israel lobby and media independence

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017 (image by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Wikimedia Commons)

The media skews towards affording pro-Israel voices a substantial amount of exposure, largely excluding Palestinian perspectives, Dr Evan Jones contends.

NINE ENTERTAINMENT owns the three pre-eminent newspapers in Australia, including the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH). Its masthead is ‘Independent. Always’. This is a lie.

I outlined the heady "fake news" component of the SMH’s ‘World’ section on Pearls & Irritations in November 2019. That section is essentially a subordinate arm of Anglo-American establishment propaganda against its designated enemies. This must be an embarrassment to those SMH journalists who write ably on domestic issues.

The fake news continues unabated.

There was the late June news bonanza (from "informed sources") that the evil Russians are paying bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers bringing freedom and democracy to the Afghanis.

On cue, Peter Hartcher jumped on the bandwagon before putting his brain in motion. Meanwhile, ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi and ex-Middle East weapons of mass destruction inspector and seasoned analyst Scott Ritter have to use the "alt-media" to provide background on the rumours presented as fact — background that the SMH should have been seeking to provide.

It is unseemly to note that, initiated by the Russophobic Zbigniew Brzezinski, the U.S. spent USD$20 billion in building mujahideen forces to kill some 15,000 Soviet forces. Bounties anyone?

Here is a summary of the SMH's recent reporting:

On 17 July — courtesy of the ever-reliable five-eyes intel network, we have Russian hackers launching "despicable" attacks on western medical companies and research labs. Ex-ambassador Craig Murray’s alt-media blog analyses the story that the mainstream media (MSM) failed to provide. Alt-media’s Australian-born gonzo journalist Caitlin Johnstone provides complementary context.

On 15 July — a puff piece on someone called Bari Weiss who has resigned from her plum job out of "principle". This woman, reputedly rabidly anti-free speech for those objecting to the Israeli boot on the collective Palestinian neck, is of no consequence for Australian readers.

Alt-media heavies Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton provided much-needed perspective on the storm in the U.S. MSM teacup. 

Very fake news — father and daughter Skripal, resuscitated from certain death from Russian Novichok poisoning by peerless British medicos, are to find new life in far off New Zealand (published 6 June). Rather, the hapless Skripals are held incommunicado in Britain, courtesy of the official story itself being deadly poisonous.

Do the SMH World editors reflect on the efficacy of their work? Contemplating this conundrum, I read of the crisis at the SMH’s step-sibling, The Age, in the Saturday Paper, 27 June. One reads that Michelle Griffin has been World editor at The Age and SMH. More, Griffin has been elevated as acting editor of The Age with the overnight departure of the incumbent.

It turns out that Griffin has been the "beneficiary" of a trip to Israel in late 2019 — Jwire (6 September) and Australian Jewish News (17 September) oblige. Joining Griffin was a gaggle of Murdoch hacks.

It is reported that:

'They said the program had expanded their first-hand knowledge of the region and given them a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the issues that affect Israelis and Palestinians that are not as black and white as they are sometimes reported in Australia.'

Rather, the story is straightforward. Israel was conceived, created and is maintained on the singular motif of ethnic cleansing. The latest troupe of journalists on whom we depend to be well-informed return from their junket as mental and moral zombies.

I have written articles for I(most recently, 3 March 2019 and 26 January 2020) detailing the dimensions of the fake news edifice due to the influence of the Zionist lobby on the Australian media.

This school for unenlightened journalists has been active for decades. Claudia Wright was approached by the gang to go on a brainwashing jaunt in the mid-1970s. Wright was then the most prominent voice in Melbourne media. She was sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, as for others suffering oppression — as such a prime target for seduction.

Wright declined the offer and was placed in the gang’s bad books thereafter. When the carrot is refused, the stick is applied.

That was 45 years ago. In that time, how many journalists on relevant desks have not been bought off? Miracle, given the pressure, some Australian media journalists posted to the crucial role of Middle East correspondent (Jason Koutsoukis, Ruth Pollard, Sophie McNeill, John Lyons) have resisted the carrot, resulting in endless complaints of "bias" to their respective employers.

The issue of buying support from influential decision-makers and opinion-makers received atypical attention in 2009. The then-Defense Minister, Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, acknowledged that he had earlier taken two sponsored trips to China without registration of that fact. The apparent influence-peddling by foreign governments amongst parliamentarians had been widespread and without meaningful official concern.

Alleged large scale influence-peddling by China has since become the Government’s top priority. Journalist Eryk Bagshaw trumpets:

'After years of cyber warfare, intellectual property theft, subversive foreign interference and human rights transgressions at home.'

This multi-faceted condemnation applies equally to Israel.

In 2009, Israel was listed as second behind China in attempted influence-peddling through financing MPs’ junkets. Ross Burns, sometime ambassador to several Middle Eastern countries including Israel, noted:

'The heavy reliance on subsidised visits to Israel has taken its toll in terms of Australia's wider interests. Most MPs and ministers who visited until recently followed programs that gave a heavily sanitised view of the Israel/Palestine situation.'

The NSW Board of Deputies’ Vic Alhadeff claims that the pro-Israel lobby is just like 'a farmers’ lobby or a teachers’ lobby, it’s part of democracy'.

No, it isn’t. It is transparently an undermining of Australian democracy, in the interests of a foreign power. The well-populated parliamentary "Friends of Israel" is effectively a fifth column and Australia’s abominable record with respect to perennial United Nations votes regarding Israeli perfidy is Exhibit A for the prosecution.

Israel and its Australian Zionist backers have long been a protected domain in Australia’s MSM. Different standards apply, not least regarding access and denial of same to detractors. John Lyons’ 2017 Balcony Over Jerusalem provides substance.

Lyons notes:

'[A senior Israeli Army officer] painted an extraordinary picture of the Israeli lobby in Australia. "The Israel lobby in Australia … is the most powerful lobby in the world in terms of impact it has within its own country".'

After the 12 December 2019 British General Election in which Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party was trounced, the SMH published a piece by Alhadeff (17 December) claiming: 'Whoever replaces Corbyn must immediately treat Labour's festering wound'. Alhadeff has converted a monstrous propaganda fiction into a fact.

There was no "festering wound" (of anti-Semitism) to treat (compare that to Media Lens' article, 12 September 2018). The real festering wound is a now derelict Labour Party infested by reactionary Blairite and Zionist interests.

On 3 January 2020, a U.S. drone assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and others. Who appears in the SMH as expert commentators? Colin Rubenstein and Ahron Shapiro — Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council apparatchiks. For Rubenstein, Soleimani’s death is 'militarily and morally justified'.

Agnes Callamard, United Nations Special Rapporteur on "extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions", begs to differ. Rubenstein claims that this assassination will inhibit regional Iranian "destabilisation". Rather it serves to enhance Israeli, U.S., Turkish, Saudi & UAE regional destabilisation.

Complementing Rubenstein, Shapiro waxes hysterical about Iran’s purported nuclear weapons threat, ignoring that Iran was fulfilling its obligations under the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which the Americans destroyed. Shapiro was given space a year earlier to laud Jared Kushner’s oxymoronic "Peace Plan".

On 25 June, international law academic Ben Saul appeared in the SMH as a rare critical voice on Israel. Saul noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed annexation of a good chunk of the West Bank 'has provoked near-universal condemnation' and 'would be a violent, predatory, lawless act'

For "balance", 26 June,  law academic Gregory Rose responded. Rose has the annexation (classed a misnomer) as a means to 'ultimately enable Palestinian Arab self-determination'. Tell that to the Palestinians who have not been consulted on their ongoing dehumanisation and displacement.

Rose also claims:

'Yet the Palestinians have rejected repeated Israel offers since 1967 … of full self-determination in the majority of this land.'

This is egregious rubbish and straight out of the hasbara playbook. Rose vilifies Saul’s prior article as “incandescent” — a gratuitous slur. Rather, Saul’s article is a paradigm of legal conservatism.

On 13 July and 19 July there appeared articles in the SMH implicitly critical of Israel’s leadership and its mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis. Such published criticism is unheard of, but the real story in these accounts is the seeming robustness of Israeli civil society. Missing from these accounts is what is happening in the Occupied Territories. We find there a strategic intent not to ameliorate but to enhance the destructive impact of COVID-19 (here are some articles published by Mondoweiss on 16 July and 23 July). 

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On 24 July, Alhadeff claimed there has been an alarming spike in anti-Semitism in Australia. Alhadeff claims that part of this "spike" involves 'accusing Israel – with zero basis in reality — of teaching American police officers to kill black citizens'. That US "forces of order" have been advised by their Israeli counterparts on means of brutal repression is a fact — see Amnesty International and Max Blumenthal at Grayzone. And what does a reference to a particular country’s well-known, institutionalised brutality have to do with anti-Semitism?

Alhadeff’s article is oriented to recounting a "heartfelt cry" from a 15-year old. Alhadeff reports as part of her message:

'One of my history teachers … also compared Palestinian terrorism to Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.'

Is "Palestinian terrorism" the teacher’s phrase? Is this a 15-year old speaking? Who is socialising who? This vignette strains credibility.

Alhadeff could play a key role in combatting "hateful racism" by employing his stature to disentangle Jewish faith schools from their "love of Israel" (see representative mission statements) and thus from that country’s structured racialist character.

With his confreres, he could extricate Australia’s official Jewish organisations from their dogged endorsement of Israeli criminality, liberate Australia’s Jewish community from the stain and subsequently combat the genuine anti-Semitism that remains.

Nine Entertainment is not merely cowardly with respect to the pro-Israel lobby, it (with the Murdoch media) is an integral part of that lobby, debasing its privileged and crucial medium and sacrificing its integrity — this in tolerating the systematic attempted buying off of its journalists and in opening its pages readily to racist apologists. In short, it’s an ongoing obscenity.

Dr Evan Jones is a retired political economist.

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