My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:
Is a debate about the Israel-Palestine conflict too hot for The Australian to handle?
In his recent controversial book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, former US president Jimmy Carter describes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank as worse than apartheid South Africa.
I was commissioned in December by The Australian’s opinion editor, Tom Switzer, to write an article about the book and the associated controversy (he had published three Israel/Palestine-related articles of mine in 2006.) The piece was due to run in the days after Christmas when the paper was to be overseen by fill-in editor Nick Cater (replacing holidaying editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell.)
I was soon informed that Cater refused to print the article, although he gave no reason to Switzer’s summer replacement, Sian Powell. When Switzer returned from holidays he told me he hoped to prevail over Cater’s intransigence and publish my article. I’ve now been informed that the paper will not do so. The latest Cater excuse is that my recent Sydney Morning Herald essay on blogging criticised the mainstream media (though not The Australian) and therefore I clearly didn’t respect the Murdoch organ. Really.
Switzer is appalled at the level of censorship displayed in this case (and cannot recall another incident where similar moves have occurred). He had even commissioned an opposing piece by Muslim dissident Irshad Manji to counter my article.
My article simply explained the controversy surrounding Carter’s book, the hysterical response by the Zionist lobby in the US (the latest example is here) and that whenever Israel faces its greatest criticism the usual suspects in the media try and shut down debate.
Carter’s observations are remarkably similar to comments by any number of mainstream Israelis. For anybody who has spent time in the West Bank, as I have, Carter’s analysis is both obvious and long overdue. The Australian media has virtually ignored the firestorm created around the book (except for a shallow article in last weekend’s Australian).
If The Australian is serious about “keeping the nation informed”, this latest example of suppression reeks of desperation, intellectual laziness and arrogance. Its readers deserve better.