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Press Release – 20 January 2009

Age’s apology for antisemitic article does not redress the harm it caused

The Age has today apologised for publishing a blatantly antisemitic article in last Saturday’s edition. This followed a call for it to do so by John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), and Dr Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV).

Searle and Lamm stated:

“In publishing a piece by business columnist Michael Backman last Saturday, Melbourne’s The Age crossed a line hitherto not crossed by a reputable newspaper in modern Australia. It was not only factually incorrect, but in our opinion amounted to hate speech against Jews. It has caused widespread outrage and distress in the Jewish community, not only in Victoria, but Australia-wide. We have made this clear to The Age in no uncertain terms.

Today The Age published an apology. While we accept that the sentiments are appropriate, we contend that the lack of prominence given to it does not redress the harm caused by Backman’s vile piece.

Our community has been concerned for many years about The Age’s perceived favouritism in its reportage and opinion pieces towards the Palestinian position in its ongoing war against Israel. The JCCV and the SZC have expressed these concerns to The Age’s management on numerous occasions.

Since the commencement of the Gaza war, matters have come to a head with our organisations again making representations to The Age about what we consider its bias. Our concerns have pertained not only to the vilification of Israel per se, but the potential for that to result in local antisemitism. It is clear to us, particularly given the publication of this latest article, that The Age’s consequent assurances of even-handedness have yet to materialise.

JCCV and ZCV representatives are meeting The Age’s editor later this week and Backman’s article is one of the matters for discussion. We also reserve our right to take other action as we consider appropriate. As we noted in our media release of 18 January, Australia is not Nazi Germany. Our community will not accept such hatred.”

Media enquiries should be directed to:
John Searle 0412 251344
Dr Danny Lamm 0408 408929
Geoffrey Zygier 0413 731545