There is one foreign
affairs issue that remains virtually taboo in public debate. The close relationship
between Israel and the US is almost
universally avoided in the mainstream, Western press. When attempts are made to
analyse one of Washington’s
key strategic relationships (see my recent Australian article about this
debate),
allegations of anti-Semitism are never far away. It should not be so.

The partial cause of
this silence is the pro-Israel Lobby, a loose affiliation of journalists,
politicians and lobbyists who believe that the only language understood by
Arabs and Palestinians is force. In Australia, the Australia/Israel &
Public Affairs Council (AIJAC) is the prime instigator of slander and
intimidation against anyone who dares challenge the hawkish Zionist agenda in the US,
Australia or Israel.

Although the lobby is not solely
responsible for this unbalanced equation – Western sympathy for Israel’s fight
against Islamic “terror” is also central, especially since September 11 – our
media outlets are failing to present the Arab world in all its diversity.

Why,
for example, has no Australian broadsheet published a leading article by a
Palestinian since the Hamas win in the Palestinian territories in late January?
While the group’s past actions warrant close scrutiny, Hamas took power in a
democratic process allegedly supported by George W Bush’s push for
democratisation across the Middle East.
Instead, we suffer innumerable Western, pro-Israeli commentators pontificating
against “terrorist” Hamas versus “peace-loving” Israel.

Furthermore, as the war
in Iraq
moves towards its inevitable conclusion – US defeat and withdrawal – the
absence of Iraqi voices in our media is striking. Ever since the “Coalition”
invasion in early 2003, the Australian mainstream has routinely avoided
presenting Iraqis voices either for or against the war. The British and
European media regularly publish Iraqi bloggers and academics discussing life
in war-torn Iraq.
Our media prefer to present the conflict through Western eyes and interests.

US academic Tony Judt
writes in the New York Times that the close US relationship with Israel is drawing to a close, “thus it will
not be self-evident to future generations of Americans why the imperial might
and international reputation of the United States are so closely aligned with
one small, controversial Mediterranean client state.” It is therefore
imperative that our media fearlessly engages with the complexities and shifting
grounds in the Middle East, and not be swayed
by lobby pressure or ideological diversions.

Peter Fray

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