The following lead letter appears in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:
Your editorial “With friends like these” (March 13) refers to the decision of the Australian Jewish News to refuse an advertisement promoting the speaking tour of an Israeli academic, Jeff Halper.
It says I pulled the ad because I didn’t like the promoters. This suggests an impulsive decision, which was not the case – and not the way it was presented to your correspondent during a long interview.
Do publishers have the right to pull an advertisement they find objectionable? This is easily answered. Would the Herald advertise a symposium of racists, a homophobic convention or a lecture promoting female genital mutilation? How about apologists for the Bali bombing?
So what was so offensive about the ad in question? A leading promoter of Halper’s tour, Antony Loewenstein, spoke at a demonstration in Sydney on January 18. The audience included people carrying Israeli flags with swastikas replacing the star of David. Anyone willing to speak before a crowd that is carrying swastikas is, as far as I’m concerned, beyond the pale. That this person is Jewish is unforgivable.
Some in the crowd carried the flags of terrorist organisations. Others chanted: “Look out Jews, the armies of Muhammad will seek their revenge.” We are no longer talking about Israel or Palestine; we are talking about threatening violence against Jews. Should a Jewish paper offer its pages to someone welcomed by such a crowd?
I am unaware whether terrorist-supporting crowds have favourably received Professor Halper, but I know he has repeatedly called for Israel to be dissolved as a Jewish state. Why the Australian Jewish News is considered obliged to promote such a speaker is beyond me, especially since Australian Jews solidly support the maintenance of Israel’s Jewish nature.
This has nothing to do with suppressing debate. Professor Halper is speaking in Australian universities, town halls and even Parliament. The AJN is not trying to stop him, but nor does it feel compelled to promote him.
As you state, Israel “contains many political parties with a wide spectrum of views”. The Australian Jewish community is equally healthy and those interested in rational, honest reports and opinions of every hue will find them in the Australian Jewish News.
Robert Magid publisher, Australian Jewish News, Surry Hills
So, dear readers, is that clear? I spoke at a rally, a handful of anti-Israel slogans were shouted, I’m therefore a Jew hater, Jeff Halper is obviously equally disgusting and the Jewish News could hardly be expected to advertise his visit. Like at any rally, some racist slogans at an event with 6000 people were hardly representative. It’s the typical way to smear all by the actions of a few. Anti-Semitic rantings are as unacceptable as anti-Arab ones, as seen at pro-Israel rallies during the recent Gaza war. But I don’t see Magid complaining about that.
And what does any of this have to do with Halper’s visit?
By the way, I wasn’t the main organiser of Halper’s tour, so why I’m mentioned in this letter is hilarious. What this Zionist publisher doesn’t understand is that he’s happy to keep his head buried in the sand as the actions of Israel are increasingly demonised across the world. And for good reason. For him, the Jewish state is a beautiful example of humanity. For millions of Palestinians, it’s apartheid. Magid’s letter totally ignores anything about the occupation, Gaza, the West Bank or Israeli racism.
And readers of the Sydney Morning Herald know it.