I know this won’t make me very popular in some circles. But when it comes to combating racism and sectarian prejudice in broadcasting, could we have some consistency please?

The Age has reported here and here about attempts by ACMA to stop the broadcast of the al-Manar TV channel apparently linked to the Lebanese political party Hezbollah, whose military arm has been designated a terrorist organisation.

Some are unhappy because “Al-Manar’s political talk shows feature guests from terrorist organisations”. Well, so do many mainstream Western TV stations. Is it wrong for us to understand the rhetoric of those we are fighting?

It’s also a problem that al-Manar is “fiercely anti-Israel and anti-US… and often broadcasts the final messages of suicide bombers”. Well there are plenty of Israeli media outlets that could be deemed anti-Israel. And how often do we see Western media outlets also broadcasting excerpts from the televised wills of suicide bombers?

Australia-Israel Review editor Tzvi Fleischer complains that al-Manar “is very anti-Semitic, with some very nasty stuff”. That may well be true. But some of the speakers the Review publishes host also engage in quite extreme diatribe against other semitic groups and faiths. Speakers like Daniel “don’t-vote-for-Obama-because-he’s-Muslim” Pipes and the rather nutty Melanie Phillips.

Then there are the good folk from the Anti-Defamation Commission whose chair quite legitimately complains of al-Manar “inciting violence and hatred”. Unfortunately, their former CEO has been inciting some unfortunate attitudes here, as well as attempting to defend a rather nasty Israeli professor.

And some of Roland Jabbour’s soundbites on behalf of the Australian Arabic Council aren’t too helpful. The Age reports Jabbour as arguing that:

“… he would not call Jews the offspring of apes and pigs, but that in the context of “the crimes of the state of Israel” it was reasonable for al-Manar to do so and to portray Israeli rabbis as killing Christian children to use their blood in Passover meals.”

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter what Israel does to Palestinians or Lebanese of various faiths. Repeating this kind of racist trash is never acceptable discourse because it offends even Jews that have about as much support for Israel as Robert Fisk. It is also deeply offensive to many Muslims, including ones that certain people at The Australian love painting as extremist.

Finally, I hope ACMA isn’t bullied and threatened by Hezbollah supporters in the same manner as it was by certain bigoted broadcasters and their often equally bigoted parliamentary patrons.

Peter Fray

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