This week’s Australian Jewish News (AJN) selects a story of world-shattering importance for its page one yarn:
The ABC is facing a major Jewish community backlash on two fronts after featuring outspoken Israel critic Antony Loewenstein in a program on Islam that screened on first-night Pesach (Monday).
With the national broadcaster already under fire from the community’s antisemitism watchdog over a segment on its Religion Report radio show last month, Jewish MP Michael Danby said the decision to include Loewenstein on a television panel this week was “culturally insensitive” and offensive to most Australian Jews.
While the majority of Australia’s 100,000-plus Jews were attending seders on Monday night, Loewenstein, author of a controversial book on Israel and the co-founder of the Independent Australian Jewish Voices group, was the sole Jew on a four-person multi-faith panel on the ABC TV’s Difference of Opinion.
Addressing the topic “Australia and Islam: a collision course?” the show, which featured an Islamic feminist as its Muslim representative, examined tensions between the Muslim and general communities and discussed the controversial call by visiting Israeli academic Professor Raphael Israeli to cap Muslim immigration to Australia.
But in a draft letter to ABC managing director Mark Scott and head of television Kim Dalton, Danby said he had been inundated with complaints over the use of Loewenstein, who he described as an “unrepresentative extremist”.
“I can assure you that tens of thousands of your fellow Australians will consider it a particular insult that you had this ratbag masquerading as representing us, particularly on that night,” Danby wrote.
“Surely you or your producers have enough experience to know that Mr Loewenstein’s views represent an infinitesimal group. It would be totally laughable for the vast bulk of the Australian Jewish community that you picked this Loewenstein to speak on behalf of the Jewish community.
“I am writing … to publicly record what at the very least seems to be a culturally insensitive insolence, which offends and antagonises the overwhelming bulk of the 120,000 Australian Jews, that seems to permeate many programs at the taxpayer-funded broadcaster.”
The parochialism of Danby’s “complaint” is laughable. But a few points for anybody, including Melbourne clowns, who want clarification.
I was invited onto Difference of Opinion as an alternative perspective on a complex issue, and I was not speaking on behalf of the Jewish community. Appearing on Passover (that most holy of nights!) is surely a matter of personal choice, for both the ABC and myself. It was simply co-incidence that the program was filmed and screened on that evening. In fact, Israel and Jews was barely mentioned during the program. As usual, Danby claims to speak on behalf of all Jews, when in fact his belligerence, arrogance and cluelessness actually contribute to anti-Semitism. The far-right, welcome to your best friend.
Finally, if he wants to describe me as a “ratbag” and “unrepresentative extremist” – does that mean that I’m worse than a terrorist, or simply more guilty than the average IDF general? – he has to expect public ridicule, at the very least. I claim to speak solely on behalf of myself, and as a spokesperson for Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV). No more and no less. It’s becoming terribly clear that the Zionist establishment, of which Danby is one of its “leaders”, believes that the tried and true method of bullying the national broadcaster or the media in general is the best way to ensure “fair” coverage of Israel. In fact, the opposite is achieved.
I hope these figures continue pursuing this line of action, because Israel has never been more internationally isolated and hated. Mission accomplished, lads.