Politics Opinion

Freedom of speech helping to fade the Israeli narrative

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Journalist Emily Wilder was fired after voicing her opinion on biased reporting (Image by Dan Jensen)

Journalistic integrity is helping to diminish support for Israel and encourage a global human rights movement, writes Bilal Cleland.

IN 1967, I was sitting in the staff room of a high school in Auckland, New Zealand, when news of the war between Egypt and Israel was broadcast.

The unanimous opinion amongst those well-educated New Zealanders, with one very quiet exception, was outspoken support for Israel.

The system of apartheid, of religious bigotry designed as a political weapon to smite the Palestinians, had not been exposed.

Since then, every few years the ethnic cleansing of the non-Jews advances a step, with illegal Jewish colonial enclaves being set up under Israeli Defence Force (IDF) protection on Palestinian land.

The Israeli narrative, dominant for decades, has faded.

This year in Ramadan, the IDF attacked worshippers in Al-Aqsa in response to Palestinian rejection of the expropriation of housing in Jerusalem by Israeli colonists.

In Gaza, 248 were killed and over 1,900 wounded, many of them children, by Israeli aggression.

Once again, the USA, under its new “enlightened” administration, vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

It did call for a ceasefire later, but the damage had been done.

It is 2021, when social media is present wherever there is wifi and we have smartphones.

America has shot itself in the foot.

Here in Australia, the news monopoly of Murdoch, Stokes, Costello and a dying ABC – hampered by a stacked ABC Board and starved of funds – is no longer in total control of the message.

An open letter objecting to the biased media reporting on Palestine, released by 675 Australian journalists, media workers, writers and commentators, was started by former Crikey journalist Jennine Khalik

SBS journalists later removed their names, apparently under boss pressure:

‘But the organisation’s crackdown on journalists has raised questions about double standards: SBS staff have previously gone on trips organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and supported by the JCA Haberman Kulawicz Wolanski Fund.’

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), concerned that some journalists had been pressured to remove their names from the open letter, ‘advised SBS that any disciplinary action resulting from this expression of journalistic freedom will be strongly resisted by the MEAA’.

These most recent Israeli atrocities have brought into action a huge human rights movement and increased demands for real freedom of speech.

The outcry over the sacking of Emily Wilder by the Associated Press, herself Jewish, for tweets exposing biased reporting on Palestine has frightened the Israeli Lobby.

Her great sin was tweeting on 16 May:

‘Using “Israel” but never “Palestine,” or “war” but not “siege and occupation” are political choices — yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.’

American Jews are experiencing something of an epiphany. 

According to Arielle Angel:

‘I felt alone as a Jew attending a Palestine solidarity rally in 2014. I don’t feel alone any more.


The Black Lives Matter movement can claim credit for helping masses of people understand the mechanisms of structural racism and oppression, and for consistently linking the Black struggle to the Palestinian one.’

No longer do accusations of anti-Semitism serve to stifle criticisms of Israel.

It cannot implement policies of Lebensraum and ethnic cleansing with claims that it represents a persecuted minority, with the best equipped and most brutal military force in the region.

Bilal Cleland is a retired secondary teacher and was Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Chairman of the Muslim Welfare Board Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. You can follow Bilal on Twitter @BilalCleland.

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