Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Anti-Semitism in The Age

From The Australian, January 20, 2009, by Angus Hohenboken [this post updated 22/1/09, to include a link to a copy of the original, offensive article, which has been removed from The Age Online, but can still be found here in the Malaysian Insider]:

THE Jewish community is considering legal action against The [Melbourne] Age newspaper over "poisonous" anti-Semitic commentary published over the weekend.

The article, headed "Israelis are living high on US expense account" and written by Michael Backman, blames the 9/11 attacks and the London and Bali bombings on Israel's inability to "transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends".

Backman, a business writer for the Melbourne newspaper, wrote: "It is not true that these outrages have occurred because certain Islamic fundamentalists don't like Western lifestyles and so plant bombs in response. Rather, it is Israel or more correctly the treatment of the Palestinians that is at the nub of these events."

John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, said his community was considering legal action against the publication and predicted individuals would take action by boycotting the paper.

A joint statement from Mr Searle and Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Council of Victoria, condemned the article, saying it encapsulated "centuries of hate speech against Jews in a few hundred words".

The article stated that the historical persecution of Jews constituted punishment for the death of Jesus and suggested Israelis and Jews were uninterested in the welfare of others and did not invest financially or socially in the broader community.

"It is inexplicable why The Age would publish such a pernicious article," the statement said.
"The Victorian Jewish community's experience is that such commentary rouses violence and hatred against local Jews."

Jewish MP Michael Danby, federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports, yesterday called on Backman to apologise for using "the blood of 80 Australians for his bigoted theories".
Mr Danby said stereotypes in the article about young Israelis not paying bills in Nepal fed into primitive prejudice about "penny-pinching" Jews.

"Backman's poisonous article in Saturday's business Age has no place in serious commentary, I call on Backman to apologise," Mr Danby said.

Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said while legitimate criticism of Israel was acceptable, the article reflected "the bigotry of rank anti-Semitism" and promoted appalling stereotypes.

The Age did not return The Australian's calls yesterday.

The following "APOLOGY" is published in today's edition of The Age, obscurely located under "Contacts" on Page 2 (I couldn't find the "apology"anywhere on Fairfax Digital):

A column by Michael Backman, headlined "Israelis living high on US expense account" (BusinessDay 17.1.09) was published in error. The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community, and regrets publication of the column.

The original, offensive article has been removed from The Age Online, but can still be found here in the Malaysian Insider.
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