The Australian Jewish News has called on its readers to cancel their subscriptions to Fairfax Media after a column by Mike Carlton and its illustrating cartoon were slammed in the paper’s August 1 edition as antisemitic.

Carlton’s column, published last Saturday, quotes Israeli journalist Gideon Levy accusing the Jewish state of fascism. Carlton writes:

“It is a breathtaking irony that these atrocities can be committed by a people with a proud liberal tradition of scholarship and culture, who hold the Warsaw Ghetto and the six million dead of the Holocaust at the centre of their race memory. But this is a new and brutal Israel dominated by the hardline, right-wing Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition.”

That was the line that most offended AJN, whose editors quote it in their editorial and say the column was “no longer about a country, this was about a people and a race — a people and a race who should know better because of what they themselves went through”.

The AJN also slammed the cartoon that illustrated the piece, which featured an old man “with a hook nose” sitting in a chair emblazoned with the Star of David on the back, pressing a remote to blow up a Palestinian area. The cartoon was labelled “clearly anti-Semitic” by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, who sent a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald claiming it could lead to the “inciting of hatred against Jew”. The ECAJ said the cartoon had been slammed by Holocaust survivors, who “compared the cartoon to those which regularly appeared in Nazi newspapers in occupied Europe”.

The piece carries a response from SMH editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir, who says he “deeply regret[s]” the offense the cartoon has caused. “I take a very dim view of any racist behaviour – as do all members of the Herald — newsroom.” The ECAJ told AJN that Goodsir did not address the substance of their complaint, and that they were considering lodging a formal complaint against Fairfax Media with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board. The cartoon still illustrates Carlton’s article online.

Also coming under fire was a 60 Minutes segment on the war in Gaza, which the AJN slammed for its “false equivalence of a conflict perpetrated by extremists on both sides”. An analysis by Allon Lee of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council slams the segment for focusing on Jewish settlements and the separation wall, while not mentioning Palestinian refusals to accept Israeli peace offers. “To condense in three words,” Lee writes,” [60 Minutes‘] explanation for this war … would be ‘occupation, occupation occupation'”.

Reporting on claimed media bias takes up many pages of the edition and is also discussed in the paper’s editorials. In one, AJN publisher Robert Magid calls the media war the “second front” in Israel’s Gaza war. He criticises the media for totally ignoring events in Syria, Iraq and other war zones even though they have led to great loss of life, and says the media ignores Muslims killing Muslims.

“The question of why there’s this obsession with the Jews is too complex to deal with here. At its source, it is for European society to expiate its guilt for centuries of anti-Semitic persecution by showing that the Jews are just as brutal as they were, if not more so.”

Later on, he notes that Hamas does not have a powerful military, but knows how to play the media far more effectively:

“The power of the media is such that it will extract unreasonable concessions from from Israel, forcing it to terminate its mission before it adequately downgrades Hamas’ offensive capacity, which can only lead to an early future resumption of hostilities.”‘

Correction: This article originally stated the AJN had also asked its readers to cancel advertising with Fairfax. This is not the case.

Peter Fray

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