Oz media wimps out on Middle East balance

The following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

Antony Loewenstein, blogger, journalist and author of the forthcoming My Israel Question (MUP), writes:

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 & Jewish 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.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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