We had a pretty good election at Crikey but in pumping out 12,000 words a day to subscribers, the odd unfair attack slips through and the worst stitch up we fell for was an anonymous attack on David Patch, Labor’s candidate in Wentworth, who we now owe an apology too. Read on for all the details.

On October 4 we sent a piece to our 5,300 subscribers which suggested David Patch had voted in favour of a resolution to abolish the state of Israel way back in 1974 at a student conference.

Given the high Jewish vote in Wentworth this had the potential to cost David plenty of votes – if it was true. It was not. We corrected this three times before polling day and David Patch eventually fell about 3000 primary votes short of the mark so it was academic in the end but we owe him an apology and regret the publication nonethless.

David has asked that we publish the following three items:

By David Patch

The reason why I didn’t respond to the initial anonymous posting on Crikey alleging (falsely) that I was in the past, and am now, anti-Semitic and opposed to the state of Israel etc, was because I was rather hoping that the story would die, and go away of its own accord. This is, to those who are half aware of how politics works, a normal and rational response. If you react, you just perpetuate the smear.

Crikey’s (more accurately, and for the sake of personally skewering the individuals responsible, those fools who decide what to allow onto the website) sanctimonious posturing along the lines of “it took me a while to respond to the posting” should be disregarded by the astute Crikey reader as the defensive posturing of an organisation that has realised, too late, that it has stupidly allowed itself be become part of a nasty defamatory smear campaign in the heat of a closely fought election.

Why alarm bells didn’t ring in the Crikey organisation escapes me – the only explanation is to examine the inadequate mental capacities and political naivety of people who try hard to give the impression that they are, in fact, political aware and astute – that is, after all, necessary if they are to remain in business.

By Peter Wertheim, a Sydney solicitor, and much-respected former President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Executive
Council of Australian Jewry.

This as a personal message. I believe in robust politics, but ad hominem attacks against candidates are utterly condemnable.

I too was a student at the University of Sydney between 1972 and 1976. I was never active in AUS politics, and so I was not present when the anti-Israel motions of the AUS were debated by the AUS Conference. But I was politically active in a broader sense and knew David Patch.

I never heard David Patch say anything to suggest that he was opposed to Israel’s right to exist. On the contrary, he consistently expressed support for a two-State solution based on UN Security Council resolution 242. That was a pretty left-wing position to hold in those days from the Jewish community’s point of view, but it has since become mainstream. As I understand it, Patch has adhered to
that position for the last 30 years.

I have never heard Patch say anything even remotely anti-semitic. Ironically, Patch himself was subjected to anti-semitic comments from time to time by his political opponents, even though he is not Jewish. For a long while, I also thought he was Jewish, which is why one of the reasons I felt comfortable talking to him about the Arab-Israel conflict.

It would not be appropriate for me to publicly endorse any candidate for the Federal Election. I am on friendly terms with both David Patch and Malcolm Turnbull. But I feel strongly that the attempts that have been made to smear either candidate are to be thoroughly condemned.

Peter Wertheim

By Irving Wallach, who knew David Patch at University and was National Secretary of the National Union of Jewish Students

I received the email about David Patch just after a friend asked me what I knew about this. My reply was this:

I was in the same chambers (Denman Chambers) as David Patch for several years from about 1996 to 2003 and mixed with him and his wife socially. We discussed Israel, the Palestinians and the “current situation” many times. I also knew him from uni politics in the mid seventies when I was AUJS National Secretary and an Executive member.

A few weeks ago I specifically talked to him about Israel because of the elections. Like many people I first knew in student politics, his views have mellowed significantly since uni days. I have no doubts that he genuinely supports Israel’s right to exist, and a two state solution (ie a Palestinian state). He openly condemns suicide bombings and terrorism against Israeli civilians. A few days ago I also received an email from the Jewish Labor Forum which had a statement from him in these terms.

As far as I’m concerned this is even more important because, unlike others, his condemnation of suicide bombings shows that he doesn’t use a standard formula as a cover. I think his public statements are not just lip service for the election.

I publicly stated all this at the September Board of Deputies meeting when this issue was raised by someone during discussion on the ECAJ report.

I have no Israel related worries about voting for him.

Regards,

Irving Wallach