Is the Aussie Zionist lobby in trouble?

One of Australia’s foremost academics, Scott Burchill, senses a change in Australian public opinion over Israel. The Zionist lobby will have noticed. As will the lobby’s closest backers (such support is always helped by regular free trips to Israel and a constant stream of press releases). Over to Burchill in an online exclusive:

Sometimes government spin doctors don’t need to work very hard to earn the allegiance and pro-active support of “opinion makers” in the media. News Limited’s Andrew Bolt and Greg Sheridan, for example, will offer uncritical support for Israel’s crimes without being prompted. However, a little positive reinforcement never hurts.

Andrew Bolt’s Israel junket in June last year (led by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard) has paid off handsomely, especially given the recent need to defend Mossad’s identity theft of Australian passports and Israel’s crimes off the coast of Gaza. A case of money well spent, even if it was unnecessary. Bolt… is arguably Israel’s most vocal apologist in the Australian media even if his knowledge of the subject is limited to Israeli media releases. A quick glance of the comments left on his blog… after each apologia, however, suggests even he is struggling to mobilise the right behind his extreme Zionism. Things have now reached the point where Bolt is complaining about his own readers. Still he is repaying his sponsors in spades. Those of us who have been subject to Zionist hate mail for years can only smile at the irony of this.

Greg Sheridan also joined the 2009 guided tour. In 2007 The Australian’s Foreign Editor received the Jerusalem… Prize. Sponsored jointly by the Israeli Government and the local Jewish community (Zionist Federation of Australia), Sheridan boasts that the prize is awarded to “people who have supported Israel conspicuously,” a charge he proudly accepts. Of course no self-respecting journalist with even the barest understanding of the word “independence” would ever accept an award from a state or its domestic lobbyists, but Sheridan clearly cannot understand the concept ‘conflict of interest’, let alone avoid it.

Interestingly, he is facing a similar reader revolt to his stablemate. Below his exculpation of Israel’s passport fraud and identity theft against innocent Australians, over 95% of commentators opposed his apologetics.… There was similar level of opposition following his support for Israeli state terror off the coast of Gaza.

Are there any lessons to be drawn from these developments? I think there are two. The first is that Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008 fundamentally changed world opinion about the Israel-Palestine conflict – probably the worst diplomatic “own goal” in Israel’s short history. The second is that, thanks largely to alternative, accessible media sources, and the increasingly arrogant recklessness of the dysfunctional Netanyahu Government, the Israel lobby in Australia (and the US) is finding life much more difficult than they have been accustomed to. If readers of The Australian and the Herald-Sun are no longer buying the message, the tide has indeed turned.