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Update – 30 June 2010

Posted by Emily Chrapot on 30 June 2010 at 4:15pm:

Dear All,

Yesterday’s Age featured what I can only describe as an “all time low” – a front page article, entitled ‘Gillard accused of soft line on Tel Aviv’, using as its basis a letter to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald by Ross Burns, a former ambassador in ‘Tel Aviv’ as a basis for a story about Prime Minister Julia Gillard, her partner Tim Mathieson and the fact that Mr. Mathieson works for Albert Dadon, a Jewish Melbourne property developer. According to Burns, this is problematic because Dadon is a prominent Israel lobbyist, the explicit implication being that Gillard has allowed this relationship cloud her judgement on Israel. The letter attacks the Prime Minister’s stance during Operation Cast Lead while she was acting Prime Minister, and tries to find holes in the government’s current stance on the blockade of Gaza. Burns appears to have some problems with a government that condemns Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group responsible for the deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.  The Age appears to have no issue with Burns and his problems over Hamas.

Burns is clearly no friend of Israel (read his last offering in The Age during the whole Dubai passport affair) and the Age has given him a megaphone with which to air his bigoted slurs through sly references linking wealthy Jews to a particular political position. The problem is there is clearly no basis for the slurs. Ms. Gillard formed her views long before her partner started working for Dadon and she fully disclosed Mathieson’s working arrangements. Neither the Age nor Burns are worried about that getting in the way of a good Israel bashing.  Burns is acting formally or informally as a lobbyist for the Palestinian side who seems to think that there is nothing wrong with what he’s doing while suggesting there is something somehow sinister in lobbying for a long standing democratic ally of our country. This is simply sheer hypocrisy of the highest order.

That the Age runs with this story is emblematic of its own hypocrisy. The Age is developing a knack of publishing baseless stories about Israel and placing them on its front page. Only a few short weeks ago we saw Paul McGeough’s dreadful piece  including a so-called “eye-witness” account of what happened on the Mavi Marmara despite the fact that he was not actually on the Mavi Marmara  and what he described from his dubious “witnesses” was totally at odds with the vision provided by IDF videos and, no doubt much to the Age’s chagrin, photographs posted in the Turkish media taken by activists with terrorist links and published to embarrass Israel. I would suggest that the visual result was more an embarrassment to McGeough and his ilk and their publishers than anyone else.

And what is with The Age’s obsession with constantly referring to Tel Aviv when discussing Israel? Following an editorial back in March where they referred to the Israeli government in ‘distant Tel Aviv’ they published a clarification suggesting that even though the Israeli government sits in Jerusalem, most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv. But when the Age is talking about government relations and continually refers to Tel Aviv, their attempts to play partisan politics is just too obvious to ignore.

The Age is no stranger to the publication of bigoted rants. It has been hard for us to forget Michael Backman’s piece during Operation Cast Lead entitled ‘Israelis are living high on US expense account’.  The apology produced several days later now appears to be an empty one indeed.

The Age did print two letters on the subject today including one letter which exposes Palestinian lobbyists. It provides a good argument about the issue of lobbying, but could have gone much further. I am led to believe that other correspondents tackled the following issues but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their publication. The first issue is that Gillard and Mathieson have made no secret of Mathieson’s employment status, despite attempts by the Age to make it sound like the activity of the Elders of Zion meeting in some dark dungeon and conspiring to control the world, one politician at a time. Surely our new Prime Minister deserves more credit?

The second point is that Ross Burns and his sidekick Peter Rodgers have made no secret of their views on Israel, and the fact that the Age can print an article like this, on the front page no less, just shows how low the paper has sunk. The Age somehow forgot to mention that Burns was once Ambassador to Syria and Lebanon and loves Syria which is instrumental in arming Hezbollah, Hamas and insurgent forces operating against the US and Australia in Iraq.

The Australian has weighed in on the issue today with an article entitled ‘Jewish groups query claims over Gillard’. It quoted former Age Editor Michael Gawenda as labelling the report “bizarre” but I believe there might be stronger words that one could use in this instance. I’ll leave them to your imagination.

Best wishes,
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